The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Don’t play Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight alone. Play it
online and hope that you get reasonable teammates. Play it with buddies
and enjoy the intense 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 objective-based matches. Play
through the lame story campaign with a friend if you must. Whatever you
do, though, don’t go it alone. The entire point of this game is to
bring cooperative real-time strategy to the next level. It accomplishes
that goal quite well, but does so at the expense of everything else.
rock-paper-scissors unit matchups and combat model will be instantly
familiar to anyone with a lick of RTS experience. Rockets blow up
aircraft, lasers dominate heavy armor, and gunfire owns infantry. A few
special abilities like sprinting infantry and burrowing scorpion tanks
can give proficient micromanagers an edge. The C&C staples fans
expect are present, with engineers reanimating avatar and mammoth tank
husks and commandos blowing up everything in sight. Here, though, is
where the familiar comes to an end.
Macro strategy is completely
different. You don’t collect resources or build bases; you simply order
new units from your mobile construction vehicle. Normal play consists
of competing with the other team to control point-generating nodes.
Like a game of Battlefield, the first team to accumulate a set number
of points (which can also be gained by blowing up enemies, though node
control is the primary means) wins. Losing your MCV isn’t the end of
the line, as a limited number of redeploys allows defeated players to
get back in the fight.
This unique take on RTS is a blast when
you’re in a solid match. You’re constantly scouting and checking the
minimap to stay on top of what your opponents are up to while
micromanaging the current battle(s) as best you can. Juggling unit
builds and tech upgrades, coordinating macro strategy with your
teammates, and simply watching the gorgeous carnage unfold all add up
to an intense, fulfilling strategy experience.
Teamwork wins more
skirmishes than anything else. Since each player chooses one of three
classes – offense, defense, or support – a combined force is far more
than the sum of its parts. Offense provides the beefiest units and
unmatched mobility. Defense can set up turrets and bunkers, as well as
pump out powerful infantry to take advantage of garrison-able
structures. Support has a big bag of tricks, from the best air units
(which are powerful but cannot capture points of interest) to powers
like instant area-effect repair and scouting bonuses. The briefest
consideration of the classes’ diverse abilities conjures a plethora of
tactical and strategic possibilities, and conceiving them is nearly as
much fun as executing them with a competent teammate or four.
huge investment in cooperative play is both C&C 4’s biggest
strength and weakness. Each player is playing basically a third of a
standard RTS faction, though you wouldn’t guess it from the large
stable of units and powers available to each. Offense is short on air
support. Defense lacks strong tanks. Support has a heck of a time alone
in any stand-up fight. If your teammates are lone-wolf idiots or just
bad, the entire game breaks down. Accomplishing anything of note by
oneself is a frustrating, Sisyphean labor. No amount of micro skill or
clever unit balance will make up for fighting an entrenched defense
class with competent repair and scouting assistance from a support
teammate when your ally is off doing something useless.
same vein, having no teammate is even worse than having a bad player on
your squad. I cannot stress enough the failure of the story campaign in
single-player mode. From baffling, objective-scuttling AI on escort
missions to boring slogs through weak linear defenders, this scripted
garbage goes nowhere. With a co-op buddy, the campaign improves from
merely horrible to bad. Even the story makes inexcusable missteps,
despite my unabashed enjoyment of the live-action camp that the series
is known for. C&C 4 reaches a level previously reserved for Uwe
Boll, where the quality of everything from writing to set design and
acting is so poor that you can’t even laugh at it.
Some of the
reliance on cooperative play could be mitigated by a strong online
backend, but C&C 4’s is middling at best. There is a friends list
and rudimentary matchmaking, but the stat tracking and achievements
leave me cold compared to better solutions like Modern Warfare. Forcing
players to be online in order to play single player is lame as well.
4 is not without redeeming qualities, and in the right situation it
offers something truly unique to the RTS genre. I have no doubt that
there will be gamers who fall head-over-heels for its tightly
engineered co-op design. The binding dependence on teammates can be a
pain, though, and legacy issues like bad keyboard shortcuts and unit AI
persist. I can recommend the game, but only to a certain style of gamer
and only with a handful of caveats.