Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Xbox 360 Review
The C&C series has been going on many, many years now. In fact a quick glance at a box that always seems to be close by my computer tells me that it has been well over a decade since I first began to play the fabled franchise. Personally I have always chosen to play the C&C games solely on PC, in fact I still play different games from the series to this day, but having not upgraded my PC since way back in 2004 most of my graphically-intensive gaming these days is done on a console. As such I have had very little contact with the PC version, only notching up an hour or two’s worth of gameplay when a mate of mine was looking the other way and I managed to get my hands on his snazzy new rig.
Right from the get go it is immediately noticeable that the biggest change for the 360 edition of Tiberium Wars is undoubtedly the controls. Thankfully, even though they are a bit of a departure of the norm they still feel C&Cesque. Nevertheless, even long time aficionados of the series may have a few fumbles before they feel at home while using them. Managing units on the battlefield sees you using different combinations of the shoulder bumpers and face buttons on the 360 pad to navigate a selection of context sensitive menus. For example if you hold down LT and then press A all units that are on the screen will be selected, then you press A again on what ever unit you want them to attach to, or where you want them to go on the map. RT and A are then used for giving commands and building units and creating you base. For example if you go to your barracks and press A and then RT a menu will open up with all the units you can build. You can then select the unit(s) you want to build using the d-pad and the A button. The RT and A combo can also be used to given certain units orders and select certain stances for them.
Unfortunately due to the new controls, selecting a single unit out of the masses in the middle of a heated battle is much harder than it need be – in fact the smaller the unit the more problems caused. To try and solve this EA have added an option called ‘Unit Magnetism’ in the menu which is an aid that will let the cursor snap onto certain units when close to them. Unfortunately, this is usually more a hindrance than a help as it can sometimes snap to the wrong unit when not wanted. Personally I kept this setting to a minimum due to these problems. Explaining these controls in words all sounds quite complicated, and in all honesty it still is when playing, but it does start to become second nature after you spend a while with the game. All in all, and even though it is less than perfect, this is probably the best way to approach an RTS game on a console. If you think back to the mess that was the Playstation, Saturn and N64 ports of the original C&C games this is an infinitely huge step up in quality.
Even though the game may control differently it still has same old Command & Conquer gameplay at it heart. There is still tank rushing – love it or hate it – and there is still a nice selection of cheesy FMVs with a few memorable quotes throughout. There is also a nice collection of around 35 missions on show in the game, with all of them thankfully having a different feel and list of objectives than the one seen before. The first few hours of gameplay kicks things off very well as you play as the GDI and defend both the Pentagon and the White House, take on an army with just a single commando and defend an abandoned base before escorting an APC through line after line of hostiles before you can build a new base to once again get a foothold in the area. To add to the game’s lifespan all of these missions can be played on three different difficulties and they also all contain a selection of optional secondary objectives. For example if you play a mission on normal and come out victorious but finish just the primary objectives you will get a silver medal. However, you can then choose to go back and play the mission on a higher difficulty level (playing on hard will get you a shiny gold medal) and try and beat all the secondary objectives and win the ribbon for that mission. There are of course Achievements tied to these medals and ribbons to give you some incentive if the ‘Gamerscore Whore’ within you cries for attention.
Multiplayer skirmishes are also given a reasonable upgrade from the PC version. King of the hill and capture and hold type modes are the first available to put your time into. These are very similar to each other and task you with trying to hold different areas on the map to come out victorious. Siege is another interesting mode that differs from the two above as it sets a time limit on when you can attack (in effect leaving tank rushers to come up with some new tactics). Due to the time limit each player can build up well stocked armies to take a similarly well stocked adversary which means unit choices and tactical choices will play a bigger part in winning the battle. Finally there is a capture the flag mode which is identical to modes of the same name seen in many an FPS release. Also, thanks to Xbox Live Vision Cam support winners can also choose to express their joy should they win an intense battle. Thankfully there is also the welcome option of turning the Vision Cam off if you do not wish to see the winners “joy” being “expressed”.
Graphically the game looks great and is presented well with typical EA-style extravagant menus on show right from the get go. The FMVs are all directed reasonably well and make a decent attempt at setting the mode for the upcoming battle. I have to say I found the decision to cast a multitude of well know actors rather off-putting and half expected Josh Holloway to call me freckles, Tricia Helfer to tell me about glory of the gods and Grace Park to cry a lot about a baby. However all of the above characters, along with Michael Ironside, Billy Dee Williams and Joseph D. Kucan as the iconic Kane do a respectable job in their respective roles. In-game, things also look great with top quality partial effects, animations and textures waiting to great you right from the first map. All things considered the game is a very nice piece of eye candy with very little visual blemishes to talk about. The only notable visual problem rears its head if you are the kind of general who likes to build an abnormally large army as you may get hit with a bit of slowdown when the 360 struggles to cope with the colossus you’ve created marching across the map.
In terms of audio I have to admit I was a little disappointed. After spending my first four hours with the game playing solely the GDI campaign none of the music tracks or the one-liner units uttered really stuck in my mind. In fact very little of the GDI script was neither fun enough, nor corny enough to be memorable after playing. Things however changed drastically when I switched over to the NOD campaign and Kane opened his mouth and rolled out line after line of dialogue that was stuffed to the brim with cheese. Things got even better after the first few cutscenes and missions as I listen to the rambling of his cultic army on the battlefield. All in all I felt I enjoyed the NOD story much more than the GDI… of course then there is the Scirin but they are supposed to be a secret (even though there is a nice screenshot of them on the back of the game’s box)
All in all, the 360 version of Tiberium Wars is a fantastic attempt at bringing the Command & Conquer series over to consoles. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the port does bring up a few annoyances that impede the experience being a truly awesome one. As I stated before, the biggest of these problems is the control method – it simply does not hold up well enough during some of the more manic missions. Thankfully with continual play most people will start to learn little tricks and become more proficient at using the pad to control the units which in effect cancels out the game’s biggest point of contention. Other than that everything is just as you’d expect it to be, Tiberium Wars truly is everything you would expect from a C&C game.
A fantastic option for those that cannot play the PC version in all it’s glory.