Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight

Review

posted 5/31/2010 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
No actors were harmed in the making of this game.  Apparently, no actors were employed in the making of this game.  I mean, the acting credits are presented on page five of the manual (the EULA is right up front – you knew EA was evil, and they do not disappoint) so at least the game is upfront with where its priorities lie.  The cut-scenes are amazingly cheesy.  This doesn't go well with the more serious tone this installment of the C&C epic is trying to establish and sets a bad tone right off the bat.

For, you see, this is the big one.  Finally, we find out what that Tiberium stuff really is and why it keeps getting stuck in-between the cushions.  Who is this Kane guy and what does he really want?  Who would name their side Nod?  Why does Kane look so much like the reviewer's brother?  Of course you don't get very good answers to any of these questions – C&C is not ending any time soon – but at least a few questions are put to bed.


Some story continuity is a good thing, as the gameplay itself has undergone some major changes.  C&C has been around for so many years it could hardly be expected that the series remain unchanged.  Still, the changes are substantial.  There is no more resource gathering – gone are harvesting units and the complications attendant upon building, protecting and waiting upon them.  Your static base has grown some wheels and is now called a Crawler.  It drives around with your other units, blasting away at enemies and squirting out new units on command.

Well, almost on command.  The player is limited by three factors: command points, unit tiers, and unit class (more on this later).  Both command points and unit tiers are, at base, derived from player experience levels in an RPG-like manner.  As the player gains more experience (kills more opposing units, wins more scenarios, etc.) they gain the ability to command more units, and more units become unlocked and available for construction.


This is an interesting, yet frustrating mechanic.  It enables the player to ease into the system by limiting the number and powers of the units at the beginning of the game.  RTS games often become a race to get the the best units, which are then used exclusively through the rest of the game and in multi-player.  C&C4 forces the player to really appreciate those 1st level grunts before moving on to the fancy stuff.  The frustration comes in when you realize that there are all these neat units, but you can't use them because the designer doesn't want you to.  And you paid for the game.  What's up with that?

That's not the biggest issue with who really owns the game.  You must be connected to the internet to play the game.  Must.  If your connection drops, your game is ended.  Even in single-player.  The game keeps track of your experience points and stores them on-line, so the uplink is being used.  Of course, who knows what else EA is watching?

Otherwise, the online experience is well-done.  Single-player and multi-player experience points count the same, so your solo adventures can help you unlock more powerful units for use online and vice versa.  The game blurs the boundaries between solo and multi-player play in an FPS-like way.  For on-line players this is great.  For solo players it means a short, poorly thought-out, haphazardly-balanced campaign.  Par for the course, really.

The aforementioned unit types are what make on-line play excel.  Both sides (GDI and Nod) produce three types of Crawlers – offensive, defensive and support.  The type of Crawler the player builds determines what sorts of units can be built.  Need to assault a base?  Pick an offensive Crawler and build for firepower.  Need to defend a base?  Pick a defensive Crawler and hunker down with tough units.  Need to defend a base you just took?  Lose the old offensive Crawler and have a new defensive one delivered.


How does this help on-line play?  Well, now not only is cooperative play available, but the players can choose different specialties.  Do you like to fiddle with the special powers while your buddy likes to blow things up?  Start a co-op game where you can be Support and he can be Offense.

Of course, this extends to competitive multi-player.  Much like, say, Team Fortress 2, different player styles can be accommodated by the different unit types.  It can be a downer, though, when you come up across a more experienced player who has unlocked more powerful units than you have.  This would be a good thing to fix in the future, so players could arrange matches between sides of equal strength.

Another nod to more FPS-style play is the constant action.  Now that there are no fixed resources that need to be harvested and no unit production buildings to be built there are no barriers to non-stop combat.  And that's what you'll get.  Your Crawler can pump out units as long as it has spare command points and dead units return their command points to the spare pool, so you will never be hamstrung by the loss of a limited resource.  At least until the Crawler itself is destroyed.  And even that can respawn.  There is enough carnage for everybody.


The graphics are good: informative and colorful.  They are busy in an exciting way with missiles and lasers all over.  There is a real sense of urgency to each engagement, with flashes of color and rapid movement drawing the player's attention into the action.  Controls are acceptable.  Nothing to ruin the game here, but nothing to write home about, either.

So how does the whole thing hang together?  Not that well, really.  There are decent gameplay mechanics, acceptable graphics and good multi-player options.  Unfortunately, the cut-scenes were awful, the story shallow, the DRM enraging, the single-player campaign lacking, and the unit lock-out mechanic can rub players the wrong way.

There was once a time where a single RTS could stand astride the entire genre.  Command and Conquer was that game, back in the day.  That time is no more.  C&C4: Tiberium Twilight is an acceptable game.  Nothing is really wrong with it, but nothing makes it stand out compared to the hundreds of other games in the genre.  It is an average game and so gets an average score.




* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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Command and Conquer continues its tradition of existence to its fans.