Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath PC Review
A year after C&C3: Tiberium Wars sees the first expansion pack released. I say first because the game folder is “cnc3_ep1”, but this is at best a mere hint of the future. If you are new to Command & Conquer and want a good single player campaign, be warned that this is not a good place to start. It throws you in the deep end of the game’s history, picking up from where Tiberian Sun left off, and then converging with the events of Tiberium Wars. There’s much reference to CABAL and the Tacitus, so while this is great for long term fans, newcomers are best off picking up the C&C: The First Decade pack instead.
Kane’s Wrath is told entirely from the Nod perspective, but this is a sound decision given that so much mystery surrounds Kane’s life, The Black Hand and the Brotherhood’s cyborg technology. The proceedings that unfold do not seek to undermine what has gone before, but to pad out the unexplained, and the tie-in with Tiberian Sun is admirable. The acting has taken a more serious turn and Joe Kucan puts in a fine performance as Kane, as does the new edition Carl Lumbly who plays Marcion. Later on, Alexa Kovacs (Natasha Henstridge) gets a lot of screen time but is an unconvincing member of the Brotherhood. It’s entertaining but as you progress the story becomes increasingly disjoint, the lack of cast members more apparent, and you don’t get a sense that this follows the course of 20 years. I expected a bigger end sequence, but if you’re a fan it’s something you won’t want to miss.
There are 13 missions in all, so you’re looking at around 10 hours play, given that some of the later missions will require multiple attempts. Disappointingly the repeats are often due to the unforgiving nature of some missions. The difficulty can jump suddenly as new objectives are added at the death and you find yourself not in a position to beat them in the time limit. A prime example of this is upon capturing a building at what you think is the end of the mission, only to find out you have to escort a transport back to the other side of the map. This is all very well in theory, as most players would have secured the battlefield, however new units stream in from off-screen from previously safe areas – totally without warning. My advice is to save regularly as it’s a pain to waste half an hour completing the mission only for the game to throw something unexpected your way. From a gameplay perspective the missions are a fairly tedious affair, often lacking real strategic play, and you’ll find it’s most effective to spam one or two unit types. Another irritation is the clunky presentation of in-game scripted events, and while typical for the genre, feels increasingly out of date. Also many of the maps in the missions lack character and are overly symmetrical, this is because some appear in the multiplayer map list!
The big addition this time around is a new ‘epic’ unit for each faction. These add another dimension to play but I won’t divulge the specifics as this gives you something to look forward to in the campaign. Credit where credit is due, the new epic units boast a striking similarity to Supreme Commander’s superbly executed ‘experimental’ units. With this in mind, hopefully Red Alert 3 will feature SupCom’s zoom, less fiddly waypoints, improved unit repairing, unit history and the expertly balanced implementation of air, land and sea units. I jest of course, but if anyone reading hasn’t played SupCom you really should.
Global Domination – a new C&C gameplay mode – has been added to the main menu. It is presented in the style of Risk and other war based board games where you take turns to set up bases and move armies around. At first this feels needlessly complex and daunting but the tutorial does well to explain what’s going on. When there is a battle you get the option of auto resolving the result or playing out the action in real-time. Both sides start with the units that were in that base and/or army, with you in control. The benefit of this is that instead of just playing one-off skirmishes, each game counts towards a bigger picture, providing an additional layer of strategy for those wanting to take on board the extra complexity.
Kane’s Wrath features updated multiplayer and skirmish modes, with the customary selection of new units added to GDI, Nod and Scrin. Each faction now also comes in two optional variations: Steel Talons, ZOCOM, Black Hand, Marked of Kane, Reaper-17 and Traveler-59. These too come with a handful of unique units and succeed in adding variety to the proceedings. Notable inclusions include the Nod stealth artillary, cyborgs, GDI heavy harvester, combat engineer, laser fencing and the re-introduction of Titans and Wolverines. The fast pace and endless battle to control the limited Tiberium fields combine to make the multiplayer without question the strongest part of Kane’s Wrath. Whether you want to play competitively online, against the computer or for fun against friends there’s plenty of enjoyment to be found here.
Other than the customary unit sound bites there’s very little to get excided about in the audio department. Generals, Tiberium Wars and Kane’s Wrath all totally lack the kind of energising soundtrack typified by Frank Klepacki’s Hell March. For RTS games in particular a great soundtrack can really boost the enjoyment and make the experience complete, as fans of Red Alert and Total Annihilation will testify. In this case it would have improved the missions no end. I hope the audio is totally transformed for Red Alert 3.
Given the number of times the C&C formula has been put to use, it’s surprising how well it has withstood the test of time. If you enjoyed Tiberium Wars then you should take pleasure in what is essentially more of the same. Kane’s Wrath delivers just enough in single player to make it a must buy for fans of the series, or for anyone who enjoys a good skirmish.