Review Command & Conquer 4: A new way to command & conquer

Kane has returned for his grand finale in this revamped version of Command & Conquer.
CONSIDERING the popularity of all the previous versions of the Command & Conquer series (including Red Alert), the hype surrounding C&C4 was subdued at best.
There was no grand launch, no lines of people queuing up on release day. When we received our copy of the game on the day of its release (March 16), we found it was almost an entirely new game with very few similarities to previous C&C titles and even took some features from Red Alert and Generals.
Persistence is futile
The very first requirement written on the box is that the game requires a persistent Internet connection to play. This means that you need to have an uninterrupted connection even to play the single-player campaigns - just like Assassins Creed 2.
This is an attempt, by both EA and Ubisoft respectively, to stamp out game piracy by way of digital rights management (DRM).
Suffice to say, the forums are alive with vitriol over this decision. Why should you need an Internet connection for a game that is supposed to be installed and saved on your PC? What if you had a terribly unreliable Internet connection, or none at all?
Only a week after its release, the Web is full of reports of gamers being extremely dissatisfied at losing their game progress because they got disconnected.
To be fair, I never had an extreme encounter with the server. In seven days, I was disconnected six times and only twice fatally. Usually, if your Internet connection re-establishes itself quickly, you can continue with the single player game. The co-op mode is another story altogether and we will get to that later.
For Kane!
The storyline begins with the world being consumed by the rampant growth of Tiberium, which is threatening to render the earth uninhabitable. Kane and his Brotherhood of Nod joins forces with the GDI to find a solution and to deal with Nod separatists lead by Gideon.
This was meant to be the game where Kane's background and motives will finally be explored and explained with an epic conclusion. The Nod prophet and his followers are supposed to "ascend."
PROTECTED: Crawlers have a 'repair radius' around them while unpacked which gives the friendly units a defensive boost.
Unfortunately if you are dying to connect the dots in the story, you will be disappointed.
You must start with the GDI campaign and after about four levels you have to decide which side you want to stand with.
The campaign and the gameplay have got a more serious tone to them compared to the previous games. This will certainly appeal to those who thought the game was becoming far too "kiddy."
EA seemed to have a small budget for the cinematics this time around as the cutscenes are not nearly as long or feature as many celebrities as they used to. They did not explain as much as I thought they would in relation to Kane or how the brotherhood came to be. The videos were relatively short and uneventful. I guess the economic recession really did affect everyone.
Fight light
When you start any level, you will be asked which of the three available classes you want to play - Offense, Defence or Support. You build all your units from your "Crawler" which is an MCV that you can now take with you wherever you go.
You are given a set amount of command points, 50 for example, and each unit costs a certain amount of command points to build. This means there is a maximum number of units you can build at any given point.
LIMITED: The Crawler can only spawn in designated areas and you must take it with you wherever you go.
So what is missing? Firstly, there is no harvesting of Tiberium (probably because the planet is overrun with the stuff).
Secondly, you cannot build any buildings (save for the Defence class which has the option of building towers like the Obelisk of Light).
Thirdly, you must choose your units carefully based on the opposition and it is difficult to overwhelm your enemy when you have a cap on how many units you can build.
You cannot build too many tanks if you are up against a fleet of aircraft or you are in for a beating.
The list goes on and on. It is, for better or worse, a complete reinvention of the traditional C&Cgame structure.
After you have completed the first two missions, every game you play after that earns you experience points. What is really interesting is that the experience points are shared across all game modes (single player, multiplayer, skirmish).
If you are stuck on a mission, you can always leave and play a few skirmish matches until you have levelled up enough to dominate the map. Each level-up unlocks a new unit or upgrade for the units. By level 20 you would have pretty much unlocked everything for both sides.
BUILDING ON POINTS: Based on the number of command points available at each level, you can only build a certain number of units at a time so you must pick wisely.
Another thing they took out entirely was the ability to run over ground troops or for big tanks to run over smaller tanks.
Since the number of units is limited, it would be terribly unfair if Offence tanks could run over Defence foot soldiers. So now units just walk over and through each other without a scratch. A bit unrealistic and hard to figure out at times.
Graphically speaking
At some parts, the level of graphical detail was astounding. For instance, when a unit gets hit by a laser blast or rocket, you can actually see bits and pieces flying off.
However, I felt that the designers could have done better with the terrain and how they integrated the obstacles with the variable units. It does not flow as well as modern games should. This was especially striking when my Crawler was "walking" over my Scorpion tank and I couldn't move either of them until that part of the map was less crowded.
One great thing about C&C4 is that they seemed to have made the game as light as possible. The loading time has been dramatically reduced and games can begin within six seconds of clicking "start."
The flip side of this is that the game (connected to the EA server) is a little unstable. It crashes from time to time and this is not always due to a momentary lack of Internet connection.
Ironically, EA's attempt to fight game piracy may actually be promoting it. Many people in the game forums, even those who claim to have already bought the original game, plan to wait for someone to come out with a patch to avoid the DRM requirements and game crashes.
Beyond the campaign
If you are eager enough, you can finish the campaign in one day. It was surprisingly short but there are other aspects of the game that are arguably better.
There are quite a few skirmish maps and several types of games (Capture The Flag, Free For All).
One of the more exciting aspects of the game is the co-op mode. Since you are always connected to the EA server, starting a multiplayer game is pretty straightforward.
You can ask anyone in the chatroom if they want to finish the campaign with you or have a one-on-one or even a five-on-five skirmish match up (assuming you have enough players and it does not crash).
Playing co-op is also intensely more fun since the single-player campaigns are pretty limited.
In the pre-match situation room you can talk to other players verbally if you have a mic connected. Even with 10 players in one map, there is no lag to speak of. Now that is a mazing.
Many of those I went online with felt that this is not the C&C they grew up with from 15 years ago. They bought the game because they are fans and they play it because it they are fans. Nobody thinks C&C4 is one for the history books.
It is by no means an epic game but it is intensely fun while you are levelling up and unlocking new features. However, in a few short months we will all move on to bigger and better games, and chances are C&C4 will just end up as a footnote in the C&C line of games.
Pros: Speedy load times; great co-op modes; relatively low system requirements.
Cons: Needs a persistent Internet connection; limited gameplay; cinematics not up to par.


(Electronic Arts)
Real-time strategy game for PC
System Requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1 or 7; Intel Core 2 or better processor/ AMD 64 X2 or better processor; 1GB RAM or more; 10GB free hard disk space; 256MB nVidia GeForce 6800/ATI Radeon X1600 or better video card; DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
Price: RM139
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