Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Preview (PC)

Command & Conquer fans are a dedicated bunch, so needless to say, C&C 3: Tiberium Wars is getting a lot of hype throughout the gaming community. Plenty of fans are skeptical, worrying that this new and improved C&C experience wonít stay true to the experience of the original. I was recently invited out to EA Los Angeles where I was given the opportunity to test the game. While I must admit that the game still has plenty of work to be done, it seems to be shaping up really good and certainly exceeded my expectations.

Keep in mind that all of my impressions are based on an early build of the game, so a lot can change between now and the release date. We were asked to give suggestions and feedback about the game, so ideally a lot of the flaws that we noticed will be fixed.

C&C 3 will chronicle the events of the third Tiberium WarÖ in the words of Kane himself, ďThe war to end all wars.Ē Tiberium Wars will have a single story that will be cannon for the C&C universe. Each of the three campaigns shows a different perspective of an overall story. We were told that this was a very challenging thing to do, but personally Iím excited to see a single story. Not only will it leave gamers with more closure to the story, but a grander, more epic story is always a good thing in my opinion. Despite having a single overall story, C&C 3 promises a unique and in depth story for each campaign with a lot of detail put into the characters.

Most of us out there are familiar with the GDI and NOD, but you can expect to see some differences in this game. Tiberium Wars will be filled with shades of gray, and the concept of ďgoodĒ and ďbadĒ will become a bit cloudy. The game hopes to explain the NOD perspective, pulling in some sympathy for the faction and revealing why it is that the NOD have been able to amass such a great following. We were also told that the Brotherhood of NOD will be less focused on robotics and cyborgs and go back to the idea of being a cult. Players will see a different side of the GDI as well as they try to enforce their power on the people and tackle issues like collateral damage.

The gameís third faction will be extraterrestrial in origin, but very few details have been revealed regarding their history or intentions. What we do know is that these Aliens have been monitoring Earth for many years, and have arrived in order to gather Tiberium. Theyíre extremely surprised to see that mankind is still alive, and expected the Tiberium to have killed them off. They find themselves in the middle of a planet wide conflict, but they wonít show up until the later parts of the campaigns. The Alien campaign will actually have to be unlocked by completing the GDI and NOD campaigns first. Iíve also been told that the Alien campaign will be the most difficult, because you should have learned the basics of the game by that point and wonít need the tutorial experience.

Tiberium Wars features a fairly impressive cast, including Billy Dee Williams, Josh Holloway, Michael Ironside, and of course, Joe Kucan. Fans of the series will be glad to see much improved acting and video quality in this game. From what Iíve seen of the FMVs, they look great, featuring high quality performances and very cool events. Although, I must admit Iím a bit skeptical of Billy Dee Williams. Iím a huge Star Wars fanboy, so I love Billy Dee, but it seemed to me that he was doing a bad Jesse Jackson impression in this game. Hopefully Iím wrong and his overall performance will turn out better.

One thing that the developers have always tried to do with Command & Conquer is allow you to control your base operations while roaming the map. Iím pleased to say that base control works pretty smoothly in this game, with a side bar that allows you to easily create units and structures. The bar includes tabs for each type of unit and structure, so clicking the tabs will move you through your different building options. This way you donít have to waste time scrolling up and down. When a structure is complete, the tab will glow, alerting you that the structure is done and ready to be placed.

This time around you can also build multiples of a structure and train units from both at the same time. You can simply click the troops you want to train on the side bar, or click the specific structure you want to train units from. This should speed up the building process significantly, and will allow you to organize your troops even better. Your army is also equipped with abilities that line the left side of the screen. As you create more structures, youíll acquire even more abilities. These abilities are easily accessed by clicking the icon on the left side of the screen. Each of these abilities has a cost, though, so youíll have to use real strategy rather than simply relying on destroying your enemy with a barrage of nukes.

The gameís camera is fully rotatable, and you can do a fair amount of zooming in and out if you care to see the game from a different perspective. During campaign missions the game offers arrows that point to your mission objectives. If you click the arrow, the camera will instantly be taken to the objective. I was impressed with this addition, which should make it easier to stay focused on the missionís objective. You can assign your army into different formations, and there is a very handy lasso tool that you can use for selection, which proved very useful in organizing your troops. Building is fast and the controls are intuitive, so each battle is action packed and fluid.

Graphically, C&C 3 is a colossal step forward. Units are highly detailed, even when zoomed out all of the way. I remember struggling to tell units apart in the old days, but the level of detail in this game makes identifying units a breeze. There are also some beautiful weapon and explosion effects in the game that make each brawl a splendor for the eyes. Unfortunately, the effects go over the top a bit, and make it difficult to tell who is shooting who and where each blast is coming from. The array of explosions and effects is beautiful, but also distracting. Iíve been told that theyíre working on finding a happy medium here, so letís hope for the best.

In a skirmish mode, you have a variety of settings you can choose. Obviously, you can change the map you are using and the color of your team. However, you can also change the difficulty and personality of your AI opponent. The personality will influence the fighting style of your opponent. For example, a defensive opponent should be slow to attack and spend a lot of time building up their base. On the other hand, an optimal personality should be pretty much balanced in their style, taking advantage of all strategies. There are a fair variety of different personalities to choose from, and while it was clear that they still have some bugs to work out in the AI, there should be style that fits everyone. The difficulty is more straightforward, and will simply influence how difficult your opponent is. N00bs can start out on easy, and those with a death wish can move up to the brutal level.

Tiberium Wars features a wide variety of units, including familiar units from C&Cís past, as well as all new units. Fans will be glad to know that many of the classic favorites, like the Flame Tank and GDI Commando, will be returning. Probably the new unit that stood out the most was the NOD Avatar, which is a gigantic mech. This is an extremely powerful and cool looking unit that can really deal out some major damage. The general consensus was that this unit was a bit overpowered, and Avatar swarms were all the rage during our 1 vs. 1 time. However, Iím sure this is something that will be worked on and hopefully changed by release time. Other units you can expect to see are the Mammoth Tank, Stealth Tank, Predator Tank, The Orca, The Juggernaut, Vertigo Bombers, and many more!

Obviously, the addition of the new Alien faction will introduce many new units. Probably my favorite of the Alien units was the Annihilator Tripod, a massive unit very similar to the vehicles in The War of the Worlds movie. Another interesting unit was the Alien Mothership, which is a potential game winner if you can get it over your enemiesí main base. Basically, this ship shoots a giant beam down on the ground below it, obliterating everything in its path. On the downside, though, is that itís extremely expensive and very slow moving. I was attacked by several Motherships during my gameplay time, and managed to take them down without much trouble long before they reached my base. Still, the sight of an enormous Mothership hovering across the screen will surely strike fear in the hearts of your enemies. Controlling the Aliens took a little bit of getting used to, but after a few minutes youíll get the hang of things.

I was extremely excited about the new Alien faction, and had a lot of fun playing them. However, it seemed to me that many of the Alien units werenít particularly original. As I mentioned earlier, the Tripod seemed like it was straight out of War of the Worlds, but the worst example is the Alien Carrier, which obviously taken from Starcraft.

Of course, hardcore RTS fans will be most excited about the online play. One of the most massive additions to the multiplayer will be the ability to broadcast each match just like a sporting event. Gamers wonít even have to own the full game in order to watch a match, because you can download the client separately (however, the full game comes with the client built in) for free!

Giving players the ability to watch your match may leave plenty of room open for cheating, which might scare some gamers. However, EA has taken a few precautions to make sure things are safe. Your first option is to black out the game, making it not viewable until the entire match is over. A second option is to set a time delay on the broadcasting. Third, you can simply not broadcast the game if you donít want to.

The gameís host may even designate a commentator for the match, who has special tools. This commentator will be able to draw on the screen, and announce the match to his listeners. Of course, you donít have to listen to the commentator. Viewers can also choose to turn off the fog, or watch the game from a certain playerís perspective.

Many gamers were worried about advertisements in C&C 3, but itís really not too bad. There will be an unobtrusive ticker at the bottom of the spectator viewing screen that will feature advertisements. You can turn this feature off, though, in the retail version, so itís not really a big deal. will become the official headquarters for online play. It will integrate community management and marketing by featuring news, ladder results, forums, blogs, replays, downloads and pod casts.

After each match the players have the option to rate each other. Ideally, this system will allow for you to find the honest players who are at a skill level that youíre interested in battling. However, Iím worried about the dishonest gamers who rate their opponents down. Hopefully this wonít happen, and it does sound like a great idea in theory. Players will have profiles that will integrate and online play. This will include avatars, ranks, achievements, reputations and clan affiliations.

I had a lot of fun playing Tiberium Wars, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it really does feel like a Command & Conquer experience. Unfortunately, we still have to wait a few months before the release of the game, but it definitely looks like theyíre on the right track to creating something great!

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