Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Los Angeles
Release Date: June 23, 2008
Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath is the first expansion to the Tiberium Wars series of C&C titles, ported over from the PC to the Xbox 360. If you've been a fan of the series for a while, you'll find a lot to love with this newest expansion, and the title is even friendly for newcomers. Easily one of the faster-paced RTS titles on the market today, Kane's Wrath introduces sub-factions to the three main groups, including new units, some of which work a lot better than others. The standard cheesy Full Motion Video sequences are still present, as is the over-the-top military story line, which skips around the Command & Conquer timeline from act to act.
While Kane's Wrath is definitely an expansion and doesn't make great strides or changes to the initial gameplay formula featured in Tiberium Wars, it does function as a stand-alone title, and at $40, it's a reasonable introduction to players who have been wanting to try out a console RTS. The plot of the main campaign is devoted to the Brotherhood of Nod faction, focusing purely on Kane (as the title implies), starting from his presumed death at the end of the first Command & Conquer title and then jumping forward in time to cover various events in the Brotherhood's history. This pattern allows players to see things from a different perspective and reveals interesting new details revolving around the Brotherhood.
If you want to play as the GDI or Scrin, or even their sub-factions introduced here, you can play in the Skirmish mode, which allows you to fight against four other players or AI opponents, or participate in the new Kane's Challenge mode, which replaces the Global Conquest mode in the PC version of the game. Kane's Challenge features 10 different skirmishes for each faction, allowing you to play a variety of matches against every available faction and sub-faction, and it serves as a pretty solid training level ground before you jump into the various online modes that Kane's Wrath has to offer.
The sub-factions in Kane's Wrath consist of the Steel Talons, Zocom, Black Hand, Marked of Kane, Reaper-17 and Traveler 59. Each group carries over certain units from their parent faction, but they also have a variety of new units at their disposal. The main and sub-factions also have new units they can both use, some of which are definitely improvements, like the GDI MARV tank, which can act as both a reclamation unit for resources and an offensive unit, while others feel a bit lackluster. For the most part, factions are balanced in gameplay, but at the same time, they all contain enough variations to make them stand apart from one another. Online, you'll find yourself facing off against a variety of factions, instead of players focusing on one particular overpowering group, which is definitely a testament to the great job the developers did in balancing out the nine different groups.
Kane's Wrath also offers up a basic Boot Camp mode, which does a fantastic job of introducing new players to the game's basic functions. It covers everything from unit building to base construction, combat, and the small differences between base units (air vs. infantry, vehicles, etc.).
Also, the difficulty of the main game never feels frustratingly hard. It eases in players through each of the 13 missions, slowly introducing new units to toy around with, a great variety of objectives besides your basic mass army attacks, and simple hit and runs. Each mission also has a variety of optional objectives, many of which will provide a clear advantage if you're able to complete them.
Kane's Wrath also makes use of the various faction powers present in the previous titles, which run the gamut of simple abilities that allow you to get a sneak peek at an opponent's location to other more explosive and outrageous results. Most of the main units from Tiberium Wars are also present here, so if you're already familiar with the first title you'll definitely feel right at home with Kane's Wrath.
While the game doesn't make great strides in the visual department, it definitely does a solid job, with a frame rate that manages to stay steady even in some of the more heated battles. It's not going to compare to what a top-end PC can push out, but when put against other console RTSes, Kane's Wrath is definitely in the top tier at the moment. The introduction of a radial interface for unit and building commands that replaces the cumbersome sidebar from the previous game is also a welcome addition, helping to clear up some of the clutter on-screen, giving you a better view of your units when they're performing some of their more automated tasks.
Overall, the controls are handled quite well, allowing most of the freedom that a standard keyboard-and-mouse setup does. The only downfalls come from trying to quickly navigate a map, something that still feels too slow and awkward, and trying to pinpoint certain units within a large group could also use a bit more work. As it is now, you can only select all units of a particular type, all units on a map, or a simple box that you can drag around a group of units. When things start to get a bit too cluttered on-screen, you'll have a difficult time managing everything, especially during battle. Thankfully, your unit AI does a pretty solid job without you needing to hold its hand, and it doesn't get hung up on various structures or tasks too often.
The story line of Kane's Wrath is probably the only thing that won't be particularly inviting to newcomers, since a certain amount of background with the series is definitely required. Also, if you haven't seen FMV in a game since the '90s, be prepared for some of the cheesiest acting and dialogue to be featured in a video game in quite some time. The story itself is serviceable, and Joe Kucan as Kane still puts out a solid and completely self-aware performance, but some of the newer additions, like Natasha Henstridge's character, definitely don't feel at home in this low-budget environment. The cut scenes between stages also tend to go on a bit longer than necessary, and if intentionally horrible dialogue isn't your thing, it can definitely be a turn-off for the whole experience.
However, even if you find yourself not quite enjoying the campaign, it's hard to deny that the online modes featured in Kane's Wrath can be a whole lot of fun with a full group of four players. All of the previous modes in Tiberium Wars return here, including Versus, Siege, Capture and Hold, Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill. My online experiences were mostly lag-free, and as long as you match up with players who have a steady connection, you'll have a lot of fun. You have the option to play as any of the nine factions from the Skirmish and Kane's Challenge modes as well, giving a solid variety to the online gameplay.
Overall, I absolutely enjoyed Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath. It serves as a really solid follow-up to Tiberium Wars, and it's one of the best RTS titles available on the 360 today. While the story is definitely a bit much at times and the ending is a complete tease leading into what I'm sure will be another expansion, the overall gameplay is really solid, and it doesn't feel nearly as plodding and slow as other console RTSes. If you've never played an RTS title before, or at least not on consoles, then definitely give Kane's Wrath a spin. The plot might not be your cup of tea, but the gameplay is some of the best around.
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