Command & Conquer Generals – Zero Hour PC Review

Command & Conquer Generals Zero Hour is the first expansion pack for the critically acclaimed title Command & Conquer Generals. Zero Hour challenges players to square off against the world’s most elite commanders for battlefield domination. With new units, structures, and upgrades, as well as the all-new Generals Challenge Mode, Zero Hour delivers all the fire-power you’ll need in your quest to become the ultimate modern warfare General.

Gameplay

Generals changed the Command and Conquer universe forever when is was released. It brought with it a load of changes to the battlefield, the biggest of these been most noticeably the 3D game engine. The warring faction also changed as it offered 3 different sides: the Global Liberation Army, China, and the USA; each having their own pros and cons. Zero Hour continues these changes but this time the changes are not so ground breaking, but they do have a distinct affect on the way you play the game. The biggest change this time is the amount of new units and upgrades the game offers. 30 brand new units now grace the battlefield and accompanying this are 20 different upgrades for a selection of these units.

The title also features fifteen new single player missions and the usual multiplayer options to play with your friends, or if you like maybe you want to challenge the members of the DarkZero forum. Another big change for the C&C series comes in the form of Zero Hours “Challenge Mode” which may seem bit weird for a RTS title but surprisingly does work very well. Challenge mode offers the player a chance against 9 different AI generals, each of which have their own unique play style that have there own positives and weakness for you to fear and exploit. For example one of them is appropriately named General “Pinpoint” Townes has the advantage off of been able to use advanced laser weapons, while other Generals have specialist abilities such as the Tank general having the most powerful tanks. This Challenge mode is a nice change from the normal single player mode and in my opinion is a fantastic addition the series.

Now back to the normal single player mode and other changes that Zero Hour brings. The campaigns are still story driven and continue on from the Generals ending. The US have won the war (shocking!) but now face a new threat from the GLA is the guise of Dr. Thrax. Coupled with the fact that the Chinese are trying to invade Europe and you got a nice, if not highly original story for you to play through. The campaign plays very similarly to Generals but a few changes (I am using that word a lot!) are made. Firstly the difficulty is now slightly higher (I guess the EA believe most of us finished all of Generals and wanted to offer a slightly bigger challenge) and the AI is also a bit smarter with both the enemy and your troops finding a path to their target with much more ease

Finally other minor additions include a “right-click interface,” letting you right-click to issue orders and a “double-click destination interface” that allows units to Guard when they arrive. Couple this with “retaliation” unit behaviour, which makes units more responsive to enemy attacks (sometime they just stood their while getting shot in Generals). You soon realise that the gameplay experience in Zero Hour is far superior than that of its processor.

Graphics

If you played generals, and you will most likely have as you need it installed to play Zero Hour, although maybe you plan buying both titles at tiles at the same time! Anyways back to the graphics, and they look pretty slick while played on a top end system. Loads of nice effects are also used to make things look that little bit nicer. If you make a Microwave Tank you will see that it is surrounded by a nice heat haze effect which looks great. All the buildings in the game look great and are expertly textured and feature nice lighting effects that make you believe people actually lived there. All the bases have nice animations, with doors and radar dishes moving at all times at your barracks and air bases respectively. All the units look great with my favourite been without doubt the GLA guys on motorbikes, which look absolutely fantastic while jumping over hills. Damaged units now look that little bit more damaged than they did in Generals, in fact the whole game engine has been optimized to make everything look that little bit better. All in all Zero hour is a treat to the eyes for those that have the system to run it.

Sound

Not to be outdone by the pretty graphics, the sound in Zero Hour is also top notch with sound effects, voices, background ambient sounds and music all bordering on being an audiophiles dream! The soundtrack has a great beat to it and each composition suits its country very well. All units have a nice selection of one liners to yell when you click on them, some of them which will literally make you laugh out loud. Movement of tanks or other metal beasts are accompanied with that harsh noise of metal clunking which is nice, and all aircraft sound are fantastic with the American Chinook rotors churning around a favourite of mine. The explosions also have a nice oomph to them when you destroy something, or (if the unthinkable happens) something belong to you gets destroyed. Finally there are loads of background ambient noises to help set the scene for each country you play in. Zero Hour is without doubt home to some great audio work and all of the above will sound that bit better if you have a set of good speakers hooked up to your computer.

Lifespan

Did you love Generals? Did you play it to the end? Did you keep playing skirmishes after completion? Are you still playing Skirmishes? Have you Generals running in the background as you read this? If you answered yes to most of the above then there is no doubt that Zero Hour will last you along time, probably a lot longer than Generals did. It has redefined all the fun of the original, added loads more units and features further interesting things to do.

Overall

If you felt you were starting to get tired of Generals’ offerings this expansion pack shakes everything back up again, reinvigorating the title and almost makes it feel brand new. As I stated above it offers a range of new things to do in both single and multiplayer modes. It brings new units to the battlefield and will force you to think about your strategy all over again. There are many add-ons that could just be classed as a cash in on the original title, and while some may accuse EA of cashing in on Command and Conquer with this expansion, the bitter pill of shelling out you money is a lot easier to take while the expansion back is this good. Zero Hour actually pushes the franchise forward, and that is something you can’t say a lot these days!

9.0 out of 10
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