Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Hands-On ImpressionsBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Feb 19, 2010
What’s the Status?
The last time we saw EA Los Angeles’ highly anticipated Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight was at GamesCom 2009, and the time, EA was keen on pushing the fact that the game was being designed with all manner of gamers in mind, from the hardcore RTS fiends to the RTS newbies. When I saw the game a few days ago, EA once again made it a deliberate point to stress the accessibility aspect of the game by focusing a good deal on the new class system, the new experience points system and the dynamic AI approach to gameplay.
At the start of a mission, players can choose between Offense, Defense and Support classes, each of which serves a very distinct purpose on the battlefield and consists of unique units, powers and upgrades. One of the intended side-effects of having classes is that it makes the game more approachable for a wider audience. As C&C4 lead designer Sam Bass pointed out, he recently played the entire single player campaign using only the Support class, because, “I’m a turtle, which means I suck at a lot of the games I make, because they don’t really support turtle play. But this one does, which makes me very happy.”
EA LA senior producer Mike Glosecki explains that the classes also add a sense of purpose, especially to multiplayer. “If I play as Offense, I’m the aggressor. If I play as Defense, I’m primarily the guy that’s reinforcing points on the map. If I’m playing as Support, I’m the guy that’s healing and buffing. So I know what to do, versus previous games where I’m just running around trying to clobber everyone.”
The other great addition is the experience system, which gives you points for everything you do in the game (even lose). These points are then used to upgrade/unlock units and abilities, and they can be earned/applied across all of the game modes. Your XP can even be accessed if you’re playing the game on someone else’s computer simply by logging into your EA account. So instead of the game feeling very rigid and defined in terms of when and what abilities/units become available, it feels much more player-driven instead of script-driven.
What Did We See?
My hands-on time with the game consisted of playing through the first five levels of the single-player campaign. The first three levels serve as tutorials for the three combat classes. One of the great new additions to the game is the Crawler, which is basically a mobile base that allows you to build and deploy troops wherever and whenever you want. You can also build units while the Crawler is on the move, giving you a chance to queue up troops while you travel between locations.
Also, you can scrap your current class Crawler at any point during the battle and deploy a new one from a different class. So say you build up a bunch of ground troops, and you feel like giving them a little air support. Then just toss the Offense Crawler and call for a Support one, and you’re good to go. Being able to switch classes and tactics on the fly, combined with the new dynamic AI-driven combat, adds a fantastic sense of fluidity and variation to the battles. Objectives are also clearly marked, since you now earn experience points for everything, you’re much more compelled to seek out and complete secondary objectives.
Speaking of battle, the game is looking good, and sounding even better. The soundtrack is killer too, which is especially appreciated when you’re charging into battle, because there’s nothing like a sweeping score to make you forget about how many troops you’re sending into certain death. The live-action cutscenes are alive and well, only this time, there won’t be any famous faces to draw you out of the experience. The developers say they made it a point to cast unknowns to maintain the believability of the narrative. It’s true too. Nothing shatters a game’s proposed reality like seeing some well-known actor or actress on the screen. I’m still not a huge fan of using live-action cutscenes, and from what I could tell from the first few scenes, the acting is still somewhat melodramatic, but it does feel a bit toned down compared to previous games.
The few missions I had a chance to check out were fairly straightforward so I didn’t really get a chance to test out a lot of different units and tactics, but even so, I very much liked what I saw. I don’t typically gravitate towards RTS games, but EA has implemented some slick features into C&C4 that have definitely caught my attention.