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PC Review - 'Command & Conquer Generals'

by Hank on March 6, 2003 @ 11:55 p.m. PST

To make the experience of modern war as immersive as possible, EA Pacific is using a proprietary state-of-the-art 3D engine, code-named “Sage,” which delivers unprecedented detail and interactivity. Because of Sage, Generals’ battlefields will include fully modeled urban cityscapes, rugged deserts, vast forests and frozen wastelands. Amazing special effects will allow players to crush cars with hulking tanks, blow out the windows of skyscrapers, or lace the skies with smoke from dueling fighter planes. Read more to check out our lengthy review!

Genre: Strategy
Published by EA Pacific
Developed by Electronic Arts
Release Date: Feb 11th 2003

"General, we are seeking your intellect, leadership, and expertise to lead your troops to victory. There can only be one winner. Prove to us your true strength, and let the world bow down to your feet." So begins Westwood's fourth installment in the Command and Conquer RTS series, C&C: Generals. Generals is placed in the near future, where the three races are fighting for their mere existence: China with its hording ability, GLA with its long range attacks, and USA with their advanced technology. These three battle it out, proving their military superiority as well as achieving revenge for their country.

Generals combines two great systems, Emperor Battle for Dune’s 3D interface and Command and Conquer's battle interface, to produce an astounding game. With the intensive graphics, the game requires an incredibly powerful system: a CPU of 800 MHz or higher, 128MB ram, a 8x CD/dvd-rom, DirectX 8.1, 32 MB AGP video card using the Geforce2, ATI Radeon 7500 or more recent chipset with DirectX 8.1 compatible driver. What’s even crazier is their recommended specs, a 1.8 GHz or faster P4 or Athlon, with 256 MB ram, and Geforce 3 or higher.

The graphics in the game are absolutely stupendous. You have the ability to zoom in and out of the map and rotate 360 degrees around any given object, giving you more control and allowing you to arrange the buildings in any strategic manner. The 360-degree rotation is also widely used in the cut scenes, providing a Matrix-style cut scene. Even though the 360-degree rotation is a great add-on, I believe the zooming option is far more impressive. For example, when you use the tank hunters, you can place a stick of dynamite onto buildings or vehicles, and if you zoom in, you can actually see the timer counting down, as well as the incredible detail and texture on the terrain and units. With this much graphical ability, you can slightly understand the need for those insane system requirements.

Unlike the other Command and Conquer games, music was not a major factor in this game. The music never stands out, and the main sound that most players will remember would be the war cries of your soldiers. Even with the lack of music, in the game it is still quite enjoyable, having the sound focus on the AI, which will inform you of enemy attacks, if a sniper is found, or if someone on the battlefield has launched a special weapon. The lack of music can also be considered a plus because the lack of sound interference allows you to focus more on the gameplay rather than anything else.

Within the game, you play as three races or groups: China, GLA, and USA. China’s main objective is to annihilate the GLA, who attacked and destroyed their main capital. GLA’s objective is to destroy the all-powerful China and USA forces in order to grasp a solid military standing. Like China, USA has the same objective: to eliminate the GLA threat. There are a total of 22 missions with three different difficulty levels: normal, hard, and brutal. I personally played brutal because when I finish the game, I will have complete confidence that I’ve mastered it. This will also help enhance my strategies and tactics by beating those EVIL computers and preparing me for multiplayer battle!

There are approximately 46 buildable units: 16 US, 14 Chinese and 16 GLA. Even though each race has a relatively similar amount of units, they do not have the same type of fire power. China’s units focus more with napalm power, GLA’s on chemical warfare, and the US relies on its air superiority and advanced technology. China’s main powerhouse would be in its nuke cannon, Overlord tank, and Inferno tank. GLA’s powerhouse would be in their SCUD launcher, Jarmen Kell, and bomb trucks. Last, but not least, the US powerhouse would probably be in its Tomahawk missile launcher, Paladin Tank, pathfinder, and its aerial units.

As we all know, China is well-known for its massive population, and because of this, Generals has implemented a horde effect, which allows specific units to gain more power when in masses. These units would be the Red Guard, Tank Hunter, and Battlemaster Tank. When these three are put together, it is a force to be reckoned with. However, this does not ensure victory, for a force must be diverse with long range, infantry and tank killers.

My perfect assault team would consist of the Inferno Cannon, Gattling Tank, Tank hunters, the Overlord, and maybe a nuke cannon. The Inferno Cannon is my favorite long range unit because it shoots a shell which explodes and burns on contact. A large group of these can create a perfect opening for your invasion force, but they're rather ineffective when used against infantry. The Gattling Tank is ideal for protecting the Inferno Cannons because its decent long range and insanely rapid firing rate allow you to mow down the infantry as if they were a bunch of flies. The Gattling Tank, however, does have a weakness in that they stand no chance against other tanks, which is where the Tank Hunters come into play. Tank Hunter infantry units fire rockets at rather fast rates, making it the perfect attack unit to destroy massive groups of short- to medium-range tanks. Even though these units are considered tank killers, there are a selected few tanks, like the Gattling and Toxin tanks, that can eliminate these units before taking any damage. This brings me to my favorite tank, the Overlord, which is all that AND a bag of chips. The Overlord is probably the largest tank in the game and thus the slowest, but it has upgradeable features which more than make up for the lack of speed. If protected correctly, the Overlord could wreak havoc upon your enemies. A massive group of Overlord tanks can take out almost anything, but the best thing about this tank is its upgradeable parts, the bunker, gattling gun, and speaker towers. My favorite upgrade would probably be the speaker towers because this gives the unit and the units around it healing power, making it even better to travel in groups. My second favorite would be the gattling gun, which gives the Overlords more protection from infantry units, but not as much compared to the Gattling tanks. Once these are added into the group, the army is almost unstoppable. To add just a little more power to the lineup, I would use the Nuke Cannon, equipped with nuclear charges to cause tremendous damage and radiation in attacked areas. Because of its massive power, however, it is incredibly slow in both reload and movement. Like other slow units, this unit is extremely vulnerable and requires massive amount of protection, which is why I always keep the Overlord tank in the back. Even though these are my favorite, Chinese units have many more possible additions that you may like more.

Even with such an arsenal, we must not forget China’s special weapon, the nuclear warhead, which history has taught us is a powerful and deadly weapon. In Generals, the power of the nuke is a fearsome force, and when the time comes, chaos will occur. With this weapon, China instills fear within the hearts of its enemy, the GLA.

The GLA is not a force to belittle. With its hit-and-run tactics, this race is the most annoying one. With long range, stealth, and suicidal units, this force affects fear on the unsuspecting US and Chinese forces. Like the current al Qaeda, both rely on terrorist tactics to achieve their goal. To achieve their reign in terror, they would requires units such as terrorists, bomb trucks, toxin tractor, mob, rocket buggy and scud launchers. As terrorists, they also mysteriously receive bounty for every unit killed. They can also salvage the destroyed units of others in order to enhance their own.

GLA’s most powerful terrorist unit would probably be the bomb truck, which has the ability to camouflage itself as friend or foe and can destroy any enemy bunker undetected, leaving way for the perfect assault. We all know about the L.A. riots, where massive amount of civilians just tore down L.A. The GLA also has this sort of force in its mob, which is probably one of my favorite infantry units. The mob is a massive amount of people considered as one group and can grow in size, and its members are equipped with pistols and fire bombs. These units can also be upgradeable to hold AK47s, making them a reputable force. Their downside is that they are quite weak against infantry killer units like the Chinese Dragon Tank, which burns infantry units to a crisp, and US’ rangers with flash bangs. At this point, toxin tanks come in handy, because they're equipped with a vicious poison that can kill any infantry unit in a matter of seconds, whether friend or foe. These tanks do not achieve their true power until upgraded with Anthrax Beta, making them even deadlier to infantry and tank units, yet still do not prove useful against standard tank units like China's Battlemaster, and US’ Crusadar tanks. To counter this, GLA has the Rocket Buggy, probably the most evil tank destroyer ever. This vehicle has medium- to long- range, giving short range tanks a run for their money. Like the toxin tank, however, it is also weak against tanks in close-range combat. In order to make up for this, it has incredible speed, being one of the fastest vehicles in the game, providing perfect protection for the slow Scud Launchers. The Scud Launcher is GLA's long-range attack unit, which can be equipped with either high-explosives or an anthrax bomb, both of which cause great destruction to unsuspecting units. It has approximately the same range as China’s Nuke Cannon, and when these two units duke it out, they're so evenly matched that whoever shoots first, wins. My most favorite GLA unit would be Jarmen Kell, a camouflaged sniper who has the ability to snipe the drivers out of their vehicles, which is just godly. This then allows rebels GLA’s standard soldiers to take control over the unit and add more arsenals to GLA’s forces. It’s too bad that you can only make one of these units.

GLA cannot live up to its name without a super weapon, and what better super weapon is there than the Scud Storm? This structure is GLA's most harmful weapon and shoots out nine Scud Rockets containing Anthrax, which kills or poisons units on impact. This is also one of the scariest weapons known to man and is a threat to even current US forces of this era. Without this, the GLA cannot truly be considered a terrorist race.

The last race, and probably considered the most powerful, would be the US. USA has always been known for being the top in military advances and aerial power, and C&C: Generals still proves that fact. USA’s powerhouse belongs to its Rangers, Pathfinder, Paladin Tank, Tomahawk missile launcher, and Comanche. With these units, America still proves to be one of the super powers.

USA's cheapest unit would probably be the Rangers, which are standard foot soldiers with several upgradeable abilities. They come with fully automatic machine guns, but after upgrading to carry flash bangs, they become great infantry-killing units. Once paired up with a Chinook (Supply Collector, Transporter), Rangers can raid buildings already garrisoned by the enemy and eliminate the threat, just like in the movies. The Rangers' last upgradeable feature would be the capture building option, which the Red Guards and Rebels also have. These extra features make these units an extremely valuable asset, but once faced with a toxin tank, these units are shark food, which is where the Comanches and Paladin Tanks come in. The Comanche is probably the best air unit in the game; they mow down infantry in matter of seconds, and when upgraded, they can destroy vehicles as well as structures with a missile barrage. When faced with the Quad Cannon, GLA’s anti-air unit, the Paladin Tanks are more well-suited than the Comanches, as they can eliminate the Quad cannons and other tank units in matter of seconds. The Paladin Tank comes equipped with jet-assisted shells and a laser-targeting system, which automatically blows missiles out of the sky so Scud Missiles stand no chance against this unit. These units prove to be a powerful force, but are not complete until you have the Tomahawk missile launcher, the US’ strongest tank. The Tomahawk is equipped with a homing missile that bombards targets from long-range, taking down structures -- as well as units -- instantaneously. However, these units are extremely weak against rocket infantry, and I created Pathfinders in order to counteract this weakness. The Pathfinder unit is one of the two sniper units available for the US, and they are so stealthy and can weed out infantry in a snap. One distinct advantage over the GLA's snipers is that the US can make more than one and can sense hidden units. There are many more units available, but I suggest you buy the game and find out what other units are available.

If you’ve seen the new 007, you have already seen USA’s new special weapon. Like the original Command and Conquer, we all remember the ending where the Ion cannon takes out a key location. Well, they’ve brought back that super weapon, but with a slight twist: it can now move. Rather then calling it the Ion Cannon, it has been dubbed the Particle Cannon, which is definitely the perfect super weapon for the USA, the race with the most amount of technological advances. With these many units, I suggest you choose your race wisely and conquer the world. Good luck, General, may the Force be with you (wait, wrong game ...).

Not only are there missions for single player, there are also skirmish battles where you play against other computers and try to completely annihilate their forces. This is a good place to practice your skills and prepare for multiplayer battle. Unlike skirmishes, multiplayer battles allow you to play online or through a LAN, allowing you to go head-to-head or play together as a team to annihilate the enemy. Online play is just great, allowing you to play against unknown players throughout the globe as well as with friends who aren’t on the same network. There are two options when online: quick match, which allows any player to play a random opponent at any given time, and custom match, which allows you to set the match settings like maps and playing against the computer as an opponent. After each match, the data is stored on an online database. If you look at the persona, they keep your wins, losses, disconnects, as well as medals for showing how well you perform on the battles. The only downside is the lag as well as being unable to use the direct connect option in network play. If they fix up the lag for online play and enable the direct play option, this would be an awesome multiplayer game.

Lag isn’t the only problem that this game suffers from. At times, it also suffers from poor unit movement. The units stop moving, requiring the user to repeatedly hit the move button until they achieves their final destination. When they reach their destination, however, they may not be perfectly aligned as requested, making it extremely difficult to set the unit's desired formation. The special weapons are also kind of annoying to manage because in order to launch your special weapon, you must find the corresponding building. Finally, another downside would be the fact that Westwood had a patch out for it the day of release. If you intend on releasing a game, I would assume they would be satisfied before selling it to the public. Even with these downsides, however, the game is quite enjoyable.

With great graphics, gameplay, and fun multiplayer ability, this is one of my favorite RTS games. "Generals" is a great addition to the C&C series, and I would definitely recommend this to any RTS fans. Go grab this game and have fun shooting up your friends with nukes, missles, and cannons. For those who buy it or already have it, here’s a secret for you: make more then one special weapon, abuse it, and enjoy conquering the world.

Score : 9.2/10

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