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Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Review

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Command & Conquer 4 attempts to be a smaller game than its predecessors, but rather than going back to basics, this new approach makes for a dull experience.


You're usually faced with a decision between a lot of low-end units or a few high-end ones. 
For all the changes that Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight makes to the once-unbeatable C&C formula, it's surprising that the largest issue is that the game feels monotonous and tiresome right out of the box. By stripping away some of the more complex elements of resource-gathering and other staples of the real-time strategy genre, C&C4 makes individual units feel almost entirely meaningless, leaving you little reason to actually strategize your way through its campaign, since you can just pump out more units as your existing ones get taken down without penalty. When placed together with a lackluster campaign and a persistent online progression system that means you won't be able to see the game's best units until you've invested way more time into the game than it deserves, Tiberian Twilight feels like it was designed to kill interest in the Command & Conquer franchise.

The disappointing part about all this is that the changes made to the franchise sound like a good idea. Rather than turtling up and building an elaborate base, or immediately feeling the brunt of an early game rush, C&C4 works on a much smaller scale. In most games, you'll be limited to somewhere between 10 and 30-ish units at any given time. The major limiting factor is a command points cap, and most units take three or six points to spawn. Units build out of your crawler, a class-based structure that you can pick up and walk around the map at will, allowing you to set up camp anywhere you like, for as long as you like. And if your crawler gets blown away in a fight, the game doesn't end. Instead, you can spawn a new crawler and keep going. There's a cap on respawns in campaign games to give you an eventual way to fail.

The game's three classes play a bit differently and offer different units. The offense class gets the heavy ground-based vehicles and plays fairly straightforwardly. Defense gets infantry units and defensive structures, like bunkers and turrets. This means the defensive crawler has a build radius and also has a power limit, which is sort of like the command point limit for units, but instead prevents you from just creating a zillion turrets all over the map. Support gets the air-based units and an energy meter that allows you to cast support powers, like airstrikes or a healing radius. The energy refills on its own and lets you sort of hang back and still make an impact on the battle.

 The maps are small, which keeps things moving at a decent pace. 
The campaign is meant to tie up the current story arc, which has Kane and the Brotherhood of Nod sort of making peace with GDI in a last-ditch attempt to save the planet, which is being overrun and contaminated by tiberium, the same crystal-based form of energy that kicked off this entire war to begin with. Though attempts were made to make the franchise's signature video sequences a bit better and more serious, the story falls flat from start to finish. Previously, the sequences were bad in a campy and fun way, often with a little stunt casting to sweeten the pot. Now, they're just bad. Joe Kucan continues to be the high point as the charismatic villain, Kane, but even his role feels pointless in the grand scheme of things. Overall, it's full of characters you won't care about double-crossing each other in ways that barely matter.

Of course, it's not hard to see that the game's multiplayer is probably where the developers hope you spend most of your time. The game has a persistent progression system that works across all modes, and as you level up, you'll unlock additional units and upgrades that make you more effective in battle. This is unfortunate, in a way, because low-level players aren't going to have access to the more useful tactics until they earn enough experience points to even the playing field. Normally, the response would be to say "well, just play against people of your level." But the game doesn't seem to be great at automatically matching players up that way. The XP system also comes at the cost of requiring an Internet connection at all times. I'd guess that this is to preserve the sanctity of the unlocks by storing your status server-side, but it also means that even if you want to skirmish or play the campaign, you'll need to be connected. And if you happen to get disconnected, your progress goes right out the window. The only other "benefit" of being connected all the time is that a chat room sits at the bottom of every menu screen, which is handy if you want to see people attempting to chat in Russian or love reading complaints about the game you're currently playing.

 Kane deserves a better send-off.
Once you actually get into an online game, you'll find that the action is very different from the C&C games of the past. Instead of simply exterminating the opposing side, you'll need to hold down control points on the map. Holding points and destroying enemy units both contribute to your team's score, and the first team to 2,500 points wins the match. You can still respawn your crawler as many times as you need, but since the enemy is earning points each time your crawler is destroyed, you've got a bit more of an incentive to stay safe. The matches are very fast, and swarms of lower-end units seem to do better than teched-up mammoth units, which adds to the speed. It's very different than the typical C&C multiplayer, and it really feels like someone just went and applied a first-person shooter game type to an RTS. It's a cool idea that you might get into if you're already accustomed to playing RTS games competitively. I thought that maybe the simplified nature of the game would mean that dopes like me who are only good at getting stomped out in a mutliplayer RTS game would get a fresh lease on life. This does not appear to be the case, and even though the teams can get up to five per side, the battles are still small enough that everyone needs to be on their game in order to succeed.

Though it has two campaigns and a healthy array of maps for skirmish and multiplayer, Command & Conquer 4 feels like it's missing about half-a-game's worth of content. There are some neat ideas in play, but the action itself isn't strong enough to make it all work, and the cutscenes aren't good enough to make you forget that the game isn't all that hot. At this point, C&C fans would be better served by sticking with Red Alert 3. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
75 Comments
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Edited by OroJackson

Ouch, 2 stars stings
 
Man, whatever happened to the CnC I used to love

Posted by Pie

Is C&C dying out as a series now then? 

Posted by MikkaQ

Yeah that's too bad. Poor poor Kane. What a great character he was.

Edited by TravisT

Ouch. A shame the series couldn't end on a high note.

Posted by Ghostiet

Maybe they'll retcon this shit after 10 years, like they did with Heroes of Might and Magic IV. People - not even fans, just casual men - still refuse to acknowledge that piece of shit as a HoMM game, or its existence at all. It's like with Leisure Suit Larry: weird, there's V after III!

Posted by ThatFrood
@Pie said:
" Is C&C dying out as a series now then?  "
It... kind of has been for awhile now.
Posted by Daryl

Great now back to some real games. 

Posted by raiz265

played 2 rounds in the multiplayer BETA and it was just horrible...

Posted by Trejik

Well, this sucks.
 
Too bad I don't care. Guess why?  Star. Craft. Tuu.
 
Oh yeah. I went there.

Posted by Pie
@ThatFrood said:
" @Pie said:
" Is C&C dying out as a series now then?  "
It... kind of has been for awhile now. "
The fact that this is the next numbered C&C made it seem more significant to me. I dont know 
Posted by Captain_Insano

does anyone else think that Jeff's disapproving pose (the cartoon one) looks exactly like Kane on the cover art for the game

Posted by Binman88

Someone said it in the forums I think, can't remember who, but I agree: Remake Red Alert 1 with these graphics and I would be super interested. I'm not even that interested in RTS games anymore (probably because of how they've turned out) but I would probably buy it.

Posted by Tortoise

In multiplayer "...low-level players aren't going to have access to the more useful tactics until they earn enough experience points to even the playing field."
 
Bullshit game design in my opinion. The field should always be balanced with newcomers in mind. I feel the same with MW2 and other FPS games where you unlock important things as you go on: you start out immediately against people not only more experienced in the game and on the maps, but with more choice of weaponry and sometimes just plain better weapons. This is even worse in an RTS game where I can only imagine if you don't have any paper you'll get smashed by rocks or if you lack scissors you'll get wrapped in paper and have no effective way to respond.

Edited by S0ndor

This confirms all my expectations for this game.

Posted by masterpaperlink

just remake red alert 2 instead of R-word.org'ing C&C!

Posted by Jeffsekai

ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Posted by EgoCheck616

This is what happens when you lay off a team before they're finished a product. Imagine what Modern Warfare 2 would have been like if this mess happened before the game launched.

Posted by Shifty_Mcfly

What a shitty send-off for Joe Kucan. Long live Kane!

Posted by Jimbo

I can't even see where they were coming from with this.  It's like they asked somebody to design it who has never even played an RTS before, let alone a C&C game.  
 
This is... it's just... somebody get me EA on the phone.

Posted by buckybit

I call this a good review, because a good review is good written, not about a 'good' score. 
 
 I am still interested to see it for myself (if they release a Single-Player Demo) - otherwise will probably wait for a lower price point. The Quick Look was rather appealing - I don't mind less complex "strategy" in some RTS games, if it's fast paced. It's way more interesting looking than SupCom2 for me.

Edited by raiz265
@EgoCheck616 said:

" This is what happens when you lay off a team before they're finished a product. Imagine what Modern Warfare 2 would have been like if this mess happened before the game launched. "

look at how it turned out on PC even before "this mess happened" 
 
... could not resist :E
Posted by Hero_Swe
@OroJackson said:
"Ouch, 2 stars stings  Man, whatever happened to the CnC I used to love "


EA killed westwood, that's what happened
Posted by MattBodega

Remember that story from a little while back, that EA was going to can the C&C Team as soon as they finished with 4? It'll be interesting to see if that comes to pass.  It means the developers can blame a total lack of motivation and zero publisher support to give C&C this reboot.  
Regardless of whose fault it is, this game seems like a real bummer. Activision has definitely earned it's reputation of wearing you out with year after year of franchise iteration, but make no mistake: EA ruined C&C the same way. All the good will built up after the release of C&C 3 has disappeared. 

Posted by MildMolasses
@Pie said:
"Is C&C dying out as a series now then?  "

Not surprising since they seemed to be rushing them out over the past couple of years
Posted by Kombat

Disappointing.  Glad I didn't buy this when I was at the store yesterday.

Posted by MildMolasses
@Tortoise:
You're absolutely right, it is bad design. But when it comes to MP, there's a bit of a double edged sword in terms of game design. You want to do something that encourages people to continue to play by rewarding them, but you also need to be approachable to new players. Unfortunately, it seems like more often than not that they decide to reward people who are already pretty good at a game rather than welcoming new people in.
Posted by Warskull
@Hero_Swe said:
" @OroJackson said:
"Ouch, 2 stars stings  Man, whatever happened to the CnC I used to love "
EA killed westwood, that's what happened "
Sad, but true.  Ever since they killed Westwood its been downhill.
Posted by Jimbo
@Warskull said:
" @Hero_Swe said:
" @OroJackson said:
"Ouch, 2 stars stings  Man, whatever happened to the CnC I used to love "
EA killed westwood, that's what happened "
Sad, but true.  Ever since they killed Westwood its been downhill. "
True enough.  You could draw parallels to how Activision are starting to behave.  Publishers get it in their head that it's a simple formula, so anybody can churn out these games - usually turns out they can't.
Posted by ITSSEXYTIME

"it really feels like someone just went and applied a first-person shooter game type to an RTS"

Someone hasn't played Company of Heroes/Dawn of War 2...

Dunno why Jeff is reviewing an RTS  of all things.

Posted by Kohe321

Yup, the quick the look pretty much summed it up.

Edited by Vorbis

I agree with everything in this review. I really wanted to like this game, I loved all the others... but this game was just bad. I picked it up on an impulse buy as I wanted to know how the story ended, I wish I had passed and watched it on youtube. Now ive finished the campaign (never got to see half the good units), I will just forget about this game. 
 
I could see what they were trying to do and some parts of it showed promise, but it just never quite got there.
 
Time to go pickup DoW2: Chaos Rising as I know I won't be disappointed with that.

Posted by ITSSEXYTIME
@Tortoise:

When I was in the beta I almost reached the progression cap for GDI in around 20 games or so.  Really, the progression just serves as an online tutorial to the game where you can play with new untis as you get them and physically feel how they strengthen your army in the multiplayer.  It usually takes 20 games anyway to learn the basics of the game and experiment with all the units anyway so it's hardly a big deal.    


It's not the best feature for balance, but then again anyone playing competitively will be max rank within a few days and it does a much better job of progressively introducing the units to you than any campaign would.

Posted by Brad
@MildMolasses said:
" @Pie said:
"Is C&C dying out as a series now then?  "
Not surprising since they seemed to be rushing them out over the past couple of years "
 
They also laid off the entire team behind this game as soon as it was finished, so C&C's prospects aren't too rosy.
Staff
Posted by NoXious

Open MP Beta already made this aware to me, and then the Quick Look sealed the deal.
For my current RTS fix (oldies style) I'll just stick to playing Red Alert 3. It's not the best they produced, but it's at least decent for my macro/micro desires.

Posted by NoXious
@Brad:
Was this team responsible for RA 3 too? Or was that another team?
I guess they could just drop the entire RTS genre as a whole though, not much profit in it if it's mostly PC dominated.
Posted by Ubiquitous

Yeah I played a few rounds in the beta and realized that I never wanted to touch the stupid game again. All the recent RTS games have been dissapointing to me. Especially SupCom2 just because I was really looking forward to it, and from the demo and what I've seen It just doesnt seem to do it for me. My main problem with it is the maps.

Posted by Yummylee

Ah well, I ended my C&C craze with Tiberium Sun anywhoo.
Posted by amir90

The new CnC games never appealed to me. 
 
good review though, except:
 
 and it really feels like someone just went and applied a first-person shooter game type to an RTS
Jeff, Jeff, been missing out on RTS games for the PC have we?

Posted by MaddProdigy

Reviews right on the money Jeff. From what I can tell, they tried to copy the fast paced feel of Starcraft and missed the mark entirely. They cut out pretty much anything good about previous games, even the cheesy cutscenes! I expected this game to flop from the QL or gameplay vid or w/e it was that I saw weeks ago, but I at least expected it to flop hilariously. Just a boring disappointment.

Posted by Afroman269

Oh man that sucks that Kane's send off ends up being shit.

Posted by iAmJohn
@buckybit said:
" I call this a good review, because a good review is good written, not about a 'good' score. "
Oh the ironing.
Posted by JoelTGM

Just watching the quick look I thought it was bad.  Those videos with the bad actors look very cheap and aren't fun to watch at all, and the gameplay looked like it's taking a step back.  Also, not being able to zoom in real close means you can't appreciate the battles. 

Posted by Xanth93

I got a beta code from GameSpot and was disappointed. First time ever playing a C&C game, and I didn't enjoy it. I'm glad to hear the others are much better.

Posted by MEBs

It sucks that this was how the saga that defined C&C is concluded. Tiberium Wars was great, but to see EA toss that formula out to toy with something new on a franchise that carries so much weight is unfortunate.

Posted by DavidSnakes
@Brad said: 
 
"They also laid off the entire team behind this game as soon as it was finished, so C&C's prospects aren't too rosy. "
 
....Does this mean Greg Kasavin is out of a job??

Posted by Tennmuerti
@DavidSnakes: Greg Kasavin has abandoned this sinking ship ahead of time - Spec Ops: The Line
Online
Posted by Nikulas
@Captain_Insano:  Hahaha exactly the  same
Posted by CptBedlam
@DavidSnakes: 
 
Greg works with the "Yager"-Team for some time now. The current game is Spec Ops - The Line.
Posted by FuzzYLemoN

It's really quite depressing what the once great C&C has become.
I haven't played it yet, but I wonder if Kane's end was lackluster because they intend to do it for real in an expansion pack?

Edited by CptBedlam

To be honest, the only real good C&C - where everything (gameplay, graphics, atmosphere, videos, music) fit together perfectly - was the first one.
 
Red Alert wasn't bad but with Tiberium Sun the decline was already showing. They took the series into a wrong direction with all the heavy sci-fi stuff (mechs etc.) and along this way the series lost it's charm. C&C originally was about almost contemporary warfare with only some slight sci-fi influences sprinkled in. And it was about building bases, doing tank rushes, demolishing the enemy bases building after building and last but not least about a kickass soundtrack that gave a certain "drive" to the gameplay. Not one of these things is left. The series is dead and it already died when Westwood was closed.
 
(yes, Generals was okay gameplay-wise but it lacked everything else that characterized a C&C game; the music was "okay" though)

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