Proof that real time strategy isn’t PC-only territory
May 25, 2007 – As a poor student whose main computer isn’t up to the task of running the latest and greatest, I was excited when I learned the new Command and Conquer game would be coming to the Xbox 360. Otherwise, it would be years before I’d have a rig capable of playing EA’s latest. Though I’m sure the game is a slightly more streamlined experience on the PC with the mouse and keyboard combo, I’m quite pleased with what the game has accomplished on the 360.
Let me put this issue to rest right now: you can control this real time strategy (RTS) almost as well with a controller as you can with a mouse and keyboard, and for the casual RTS player who doesn’t live and die for them, this will serve you just fine. Those of you who take them more seriously will already have the gaming rig to handle this title, and should pick it up on the PC. Those of you who already have a 360 will find the tweaked system to work just fine. Never before have console RTS controls been done so well. No matter where you are on the map you can access all your building queues, create groups of units for fast access, research new abilities, and just about anything else you can think of. This title is about as good as I can imagine an RTS title controlled on a console short of employing a mouse and keyboard. The training mode teaches you the basics, and most players should have a pretty firm grasp of the controls within an hour or so.
As for the gameplay, the title is solid. The factions all seem fairly balanced, though the NOD do seem a bit underpowered. Their tanks just don’t seem to be able to handle the same beatings the other factions can withstand. The title seems to lack a bit in the strategy department however, with more emphasis placed on building the strongest unit’s the quickest, and not enough spent on placing those units correctly and using various units’ strengths and exploiting the opponent’s weaknesses. Part of this problem seems to stem from a lack of available units. It just doesn’t feel like the factions have enough variety; everything feels very limited. I’m left thinking this is going to be another EA gouging attempt with downloadable content arriving on the scene sooner than later.
I did enjoy the variety in the mission objectives, with various missions requiring me to do everything from disable a base’s shield defenses in order to pound them with a powerful blast, to protecting a convoy as they make their way to our base, to using one lone commando to disable the enemies’ operations. The single player campaign has been very enjoyable. My only complaint is certain objectives not being thought through well enough. In one mission, I was given a secondary objective requiring me to wipe out two secondary enemy establishments, after which I was given an objective requiring me to destroy one of their air units with one of mine; the problem was that I didn’t have air units until that point, and once I had destroyed those areas, the enemy no longer had the ability to create air units. As a perfectionist, I was forced to restart the entire mission 40 minutes into things in order to complete all the objectives. A second mission asked me to destroy a particular enemy unit with my Commando, only to find the enemy never built that type of unit during the mission, leaving me unable to complete the objective. Casual players probably won’t care, but the perfectionists out there may find these issues troublesome. Also of note is that even hard RTS veterans may find the single player campaigns a bit on the easy side, I know I was able to breeze through them for the most part. For them, online play will be the major draw here.
Graphically, the game is one of the best looking the 360 has to offer. The RTS genre is one where the move to high-def provides more than just eye candy. It gives you the ability to distinguish between units much more easily, and allows small units not to get lost in the crowd. The buildings and units all have amazing detail for the small size they appear onscreen, and even during heated battles the frame-rate never takes a hit. My only gripe is that some of the environments appear a bit too generic, lacking the detail that would truly bring them to life.
The game’s story is told mostly through video sequences throughout the single-player campaigns. These sequences are plentiful, and look absolutely stunning in HD. The story itself isn’t what this game is about, and as such feels a bit campy throughout. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it still provides an enjoyable backdrop for the player. How can one not love a game with Lando?