Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight PC
I’ve been playing the Command & Conquer series on and off since the original back in 1995. The early titles were a huge success and really captured my imagination. In more recent years the series has lost its way, suffering from a lack of innovation and lacklustre storytelling. EA have sought to update the gameplay to some extent in Tiberium Twilight, but the story is worse than ever.
For me the best things about Command & Conquer was building your base, all while fending off attacks and trying to get your harvesters to and from tiberium fields in no man’s land. With an energetic soundtrack injecting a sense of urgency, this was what Command & Conquer was all about. Not any more.
In Tiberium Twilight there is no economy and in its place we now have low population cap of approximately 15 units. Such restrictions have always been annoying in RTS games but used to be present due to technical limitations, here it has been a deliberate choice. Unfathomable.
The tiberium fields have gone, replaced by a few scattered crystals which respawn in the same place like clockwork. Your units can collect these and return them to base in exchange for points you can spend on upgrades or powers. This just isn’t fun.
Further still you have no buildings other than your Crawler (formerly MCV). No barracks, war factory or airfield. Instead the Crawler builds all units, so you don’t really have a base as such. There are base defenses like the Obelisk of Light (which feels disappointingly weak), but as you can’t build powerplants so the number of defenses you can build is severely limited. One aspect I did like was the Crawler’s ability to stand up and move around the map. This helps make it easier to move your ‘base’ around the map, but feels inferior the solution offered by C&C Generals‘ construction dozers.
The Crawler comes in three classes: Offense, Defence and Support. Air units are only available in the Support class, and towers only in the Defense class. The range of units is good, but you only have access to a third of them at any one time. This really limits your options and as it encourages you to use the same few units over and over, makes it difficult to surprise your opponent.
When you launch the game you have to enter your EA account login details. Once past the intro movie that starts every time, you must once again enter your EA login, every time. Neither login screen allows you to remember your password. Even more infuriating is the fact you can’t play unless you’re connected online, which is a very unfair and poorly considered restriction. On my second day playing the game wouldn’t load, the official site kept going offline, and I suspect server issues were to blame on both counts.
The day after launch I did a Twitter search for C&C4 and what I found was a lot of annoyed people. Whether it was the online issues, gameplay changes or the poor story, there was almost nothing positive being said. This is in stark contrast to some reviews out there handing out 7 or 8 to a game that seems so disliked.
Many units can withstand a lot of damage, resulting in overly drawn out exchanges of fire. Some infantry seem almost impervious to shots from vehicle based units and annoyingly you can no longer drive over infantry. Crawlers take a huge amount of damage and you’ll need a big force as enemy units can be built every few seconds, which can make it quite tedious to destroy a ‘base’.
Visually Tiberium Twilight is similar to the last few releases. There are annoyances on this front too, from the unit menu icons that are barely indistinguishable from one another, to the dreary landscapes that offer little attention to detail and feel devoid of life. Musically the downward trend of the series continues, with the NOD campaign featuring a dull and irrelevant tribal soundtrack throughout.
The single player missions are a real chore. They’re dull, tedious, and only someone with much determination and patience will make it through to the end, only to be disappointed by the limp finish. The difficulty is quite steep due to some ill-considered level design and I recommend switching it to Easy as it lessens the torture; some sequences feel barely play tested. Most of the missions lend themselves to building an ‘army’ of ten units, sending them over to do a bit of damage, seeing your units be destroyed, then having to wait until you’ve rebuilt the same force. Combined with troublesome pathfinding, the missions feel like a complete waste of time.
Story wise, the plot is muddled, unconvincing, and lacks the charm and magic of the early years. Joe Kucan puts in a good performance as Kane and is the sole ray of hope throughout, but he’s been given little to work with. The ending is disappointing and it wasn’t worthy of the series’ history, nor the time spent playing through the missions. The chat window is present throughout the menus between missions. An interesting social idea that resulted in some impromptu discussions, but unfortunately you’ll probably find people talking about the ending sequence before you see it.
The multiplayer setup is geared towards team capture-the-node gameplay. If you destroy a Crawler it respawns, taking away much of the satisfaction away from beating your opponent – instead it’s all about ‘points’ obtained from holding onto a node tower. Expect a lot of back and forth as everyone spams 1-2 unit types. There’s no subtly, and aside from coordinating an attack alongside a teammate I found it a tiresome experience devoid of strategy. If you like intimate 1v1 maps, forget it; they’re all 5v5.
Tiberium Twilight is a poor game that removes the things that made the original concept so good. What’s left is a hollow shell that feels irrelevant, given the superior games in the series that came long before it.