Giant Bomb Review75 Comments
Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Review2
by Jeff Gerstmann on
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.
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 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.
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.