Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight sells itself as the end of Kain and--potentially--humanity. It's something of a reinvention for the series, but is this a going away party worth RSVP'ing for?
- New gameplay dynamics level the playing field for newbs and veterans
- Extensive multiplayer (competitive & co-op) adds plenty of replay
- Stellar graphics and musical score
- Gameplay tweaks will annoy series purists
- Respawning in an RTS just feels wrong
Oh, that Kane: Founder of the Brotherhood of Nod, supposed anti-messiah, and constant thorn in the side of uppity Global Defense Initiative (GDI) commanders since the dawn of Command and Conquer. He’s back again, but this time he’s playing nice, trying to end the spread of noxious Tiberium fields that threaten humanity. But, naturally, nothing is as it seems in Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, which features an unusual amount of reinvention for a franchise as storied as C&C. It’s a lot of fun, but we have a feeling series veterans won’t all be so keen on the changes.
Here Comes the Tiberium
Things have gone, well, downhill, since C&C 3. The spread of Tiberium -- the rare but deadly mineral that has fueled the wars of C&C for several sequels and spin-offs -- has expanded and the element that has for so long powered all the various nasty units in the series is now itself a nasty threat to all of human life. GDI sets down its arms and agrees to work along with Kane and (most of) his Nod cronies. The uneasy peace enables the pair to construct the Tiberium Control Network to keep the noxious green (and, occasionally, blue) crystals at bay.
You start off as a slightly augmented GDI commander who, before the tutorial is through, gets propositioned by Kane. Take his offer and you’ll hop over to the Nod campaign; stay strong and you’ll keep your talon-logo’d fatigues. Play through twice and you’ll get both sides of the story, but this time you’ll have more incentive than ever to hit that campaign hard: persistent experience.
Yes, even C&C can’t ignore the leveling systems seen in recent multiplayer-driven games like Modern Warfare 2; EA LA has created a structure in which you unlock new units and upgrades as you progress. Experience is gained in any gameplay mode, earning you levels and the all-important goodies you need, and those levels are doled out separately for each of the two factions here, meaning you could be a Nod master and a GDI novice if your skirmishing is too one-sided. This adds forced replayability to the title, but doesn’t deliver the same character-building feel of current popular multiplayer games – it’s more like grinding than evolving.
You Got Your FPS in My RTS!
Persistent experience isn’t the only thing C&C4 borrows from the shooter genre: much of the gameplay has been made more dynamic. The biggest change? No more harvesters and, effectively, no traditional resources at all. You now have command points to worry about and, once you hit the ceiling there, you can’t build any more units – at least until your opponent does you the favor of blowing a few up.
Command centers are mobile and can be marched (or hovered) from one spot to the next. You can still queue up unit production whilst on the go and, once your center plunks down again in a cozy spot, out pop your new toys. This has a number of huge implications, including the possibility of having that command center destroyed. Game over, you might think? Not so: when that happens you simply order a new one, which will come flying in from orbit (or up out of the ground for Nod). That equates to respawning, something many dedicated fans of the series will have a hard time stomaching. You’ll never really enjoy the satisfaction of wiping every single sniveling unit of an opponent off the map, since they’ll just drop in again and start building new ones. Instead, gameplay is focused on capturing and holding buildings and the like, an objective style of play that is very dynamic and combat-heavy.
This is good news for RTS rookies, because even if you do get wiped out, you’re just a few minutes away from having a new army at your disposal and jumping back into the fight. That there are three different types of command structures, each with different flavors of units (offense, defense, and airborne support) also lets gamers play to their strengths. It’s a radical change and overall a likeable one, but a lot of people who just want more C&C won’t. Like a few other recent RTS sequels, C&C4’s transformation may alienate its hardcore base.
That said, everyone, from newcomers to players who’ve been onboard with C&C for the past 15 years, will enjoy the high production values. Graphics are as polished as any RTS, with intricately detailed (and Tiberium-riddled) maps. The music score is absolutely top-notch, and while the acting in the cut-scenes leaves a lot to be desired, it wouldn’t be a Command & Conquer game if it were any other way.
Put to Rest or Reborn?
Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight is the most fast-paced and fun-to-play entry to hit the franchise, which makes it curious that this one (currently) won’t find its way to consoles. Instead it’s a PC-only affair (as of launch) where it is sure to get a more mixed reception from longtime series fans. EA LA’s revamp might disappoint those who just want more C&C in the vein of past games, but gamers who can look past the reboot approach will have a lot of fun. Just be warned that if you’ve spent the last 15 chasing lost harvesters, you’re likely to be a little shocked, confused, and rather disoriented if you’re not prepared to embrace change.