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Xbox 360/PC Review - 'Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars'

by Michael DePasquale on June 26, 2007 @ 12:31 a.m. PDT

Add layers of strategy to your gaming experience by building mobile bases, wielding the power of terrifying Ion Storms on the battlefield, or customizing your armies by combining units.

Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: May 10, 2007

If you've ever played a real-time strategy game on the PC, you might think that playing with a controller would be impossible. It's not, and Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars proves that point very well. If you're a gamer from the late '90s, then there's a good chance you'll know of Command & Conquer: Tiberium Sun, the prequel to Tiberium Wars. Tiberium Sun featured two factions, the Global Defense Initiate (GDI) and the Brotherhood of Nod, constantly at war over supreme ownership of Earth. They're back on the battlefield in Tiberium Wars with a good amount of recognizable units you'll be familiar with, but also many new units, facilities, global weapons, and more. In fact, those two aren't the only ones showing their face; a new race, the Scrin, has landed on Earth and is ready to join the party.

The game features a campaign system, much like every other Command & Conquer title, that will lead you through different events and missions against your foes. These missions are fun and entertaining, constantly throwing something new into the mix. Of course you'll still need to spend time constructing and growing your army, but there are usually mission objectives and events that will spice things up. In addition to main objectives, side objectives scattered throughout the campaign can earn you achievement points and extra units on the battlefield. Additionally, there are varying difficulty levels that will yield different medals upon completion of a mission: bronze for easy, silver for medium, and of course, gold for hard.

During the break between missions, a cinematic will play, depicting current events in the game world and setting the stage for your next mission, or explaining the effects of your last. These cinematic clips can be hilarious, but most are overdramatic as the game attempts to immerse you into a movie-like setting with plots and a storyline — something it manages to do quite well. It's rewarding to finish a mission and be greeted with the next stage of a movie that you're personally progressing, and which you'll need to deal with as soon as the clip finishes playing.

Tiberium Wars plays surprisingly like its 1999 counterpart in almost every way. The unit production and building construction system remains completely the same; you choose the unit or building from a list, and after a short amount of time, either the unit is produced or the building is ready to be placed. The Xbox 360 version of Tiberium Wars displays the productions icons at the bottom left, alongside the mini-map. The game's overall pace is well preserved, too, so the action is very much fast-paced; the construction of units and buildings taking no time at all, when compared to other titles in the genre.

In addition to new units, some of the old units have been changed or removed altogether. Whereas in Tiberium Sun, you were able to produce transport airships to move tanks and artillery, Tiberium Wars instead features a heavy bomber and no troop transport ship. Most of the unit changes take only a couple of play sessions to adjust to, but there's one major piece of the puzzle that Tiberium Wars is without — walls. Walls were a big deal in Tiberium Sun because you could completely wall yourself in, with a small gate being the only access point in or out. This would provide the much-needed cover to halt that initial rush of small infantry you knew your opponent was going to send your way. The lack of walls is not going to break the game, but if you're a fan of the Command & Conquer series, it's disappointing. Fortunately, the most important feature of the game, multiplayer, is still better than ever.

Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars offers an impressive assortment of multiplayer game modes, especially for a real-time strategy. First off, there's your classic versus mode, which pits teams against one another in a fight to the death, with the victor being the last team standing. Then there's king of the hill, where the objective isn't merely to annihilate your opposition, but to take hold of a specific location on the map for a certain amount of time. Should your units leave the hill area before victory has struck, all of your time spent capturing the hill will be ignored, and you'll need to start over. Next is capture and hold, which, much like king of the hill, provides a location on the map for which you'll need to hold in order to win. However, with capture and hold, there are multiple locations to capture, and your time spent in each location will accrue points which do not expire. The game is over when a team amasses the target amount of points.

Capture the flag, a multiplayer mode I've never seen in a real-time strategy game, has made its way onto Tiberium Wars. As the name suggests, the objective is to capture a single flag on the map and return it to your base. Do this enough times, and you'll win the game. Last, but not least, is a game mode called siege, which is the preferred mode for players who absolutely despise quick-rush attacks by the opponent at the outset of a match. When a siege begins, a large wall which spans the entire map prevents any movement across it, thereby eliminating any possibility of a quick attack by the enemy. The wall remains standing until a certain amount of time has elapsed. The different game modes shift the objectives just enough to provide a different twist to gameplay mechanics that other titles in the genre are lacking.

Graphics are a big part of the game industry today. Whereas in 1999, Tiberium Sun featured sprites as the main and only component of the visual experience, Tiberium Wars is endowed with a 3D world that does the gritty apocalyptic world some justice. The particle effects are outstanding, explosions are phenomenal, and fire really does look like fire. The landscapes also benefit greatly from the attention to detail. Roads have directional markers on them, complete with traffic signals and destination signs. Settings of the rural variety are lush with flora which emits a soft glow, and urban centers have an undeniable sense of grit and roughness to them. However, as graphically advanced as Tiberium Wars is, it's not without its share of problems. Large firefights can substantially slow framerates, especially when a few explosions are thrown into the mix. Too many on-screen units can also cause that annoying slowdown which always seems to rear its ugly head during the latter parts of any skirmish.

In the sound department, Tiberium Sun does quite well. The title was known for its catchy background music, so much so that a soundtrack CD was sold separate from the game. Tiberium Wars' background music isn't quite album material, but it's very subtle and unnoticeable, striking up occasionally only for an intense battle or victory. Everything in the game sounds appropriate; guns firing on metal will make a "clinking" sound, stray bullets kicking up dirt in the grass will sound as such, and lasers sound like lasers should, if there is such a standard. At all times, a helpful computerized voice will notify you of absolutely everything happening on the battlefield. From unit and building creation, to enemy units being spotted, to units being lost, to your base being destroyed, the voice will always let you know what's going on.

Overall, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is an excellent real-time strategy game that is worth playing regardless of the platform. If you still have a sneaking suspicion that the Xbox 360 version suffers from the inferior control scheme of a controller, think again. After a few minutes of adjusting, you'll find that it's just as easy to perform at your peak on the Xbox 360's controller as it is on a keyboard and mouse setup on a PC. The graphics and sound are great, but most importantly, the multiplayer is absolutely fantastic, and you can easily spend hours on the Xbox 360 lost in the world that is Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.

Score: 8.8/10

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