Thursday, 25 February 2010

Thoughts on the upcoming Command and Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight

Without actually flat out saying so it seems that the Borg of the gaming industry has decided to get rid of all that fusty micro managing and base building. Essentially removing all the strategy from this Real Time Strategy title.

The whole system of building a base and managing units has been scrapped in favour of a one-size-fits-all vehicle that does everything and is virtually indestructible. Don't worry if you're thick and accidentally get blown up, it magically re-spawns at any point on the map you like instantly killing every enemy around! There are a lot of videos on the EA website talking about the new Tiberium harvesting mechanic. Previously, there were vast fields of the stuff, covering the map being both a danger to your troops and the enemies whilst simultaneously encouraging you to build your bases right next to it so to soak it up more quickly. It seems this was a little too strategic for the current generation of gamers so now it's all been reduced to a nice gentlemanly game of capture the flag.

As for the story, well let's just say that it flies in the face of everything that's been established by the franchise so far. To recap, by the end of C&C3 the earth is basically to put it bluntly, screwed. I mean, really screwed. Over 90% of it's surface is infected by Tiberium, an alien mineral that it is quickly established to be more difficult to remove then Saturday night's kebab grease from your favorite shirt. Some places even have crystals so large they form glaciers bigger then cities that even going within a hundred miles of would cause serious harm to if if not properly protected. Like I said, doomed.

In C&C4 on the other hand, set a mere fifteen years later, the whole planet has been given a through spring clean and all that pesky tiberium is now a managed resource. let's think for a moment here, how does the whole earth go from being so destroyed that GDI is seriously considering getting out the hell out of dodge and living on the moon, to being completely hunkey-dorrey with baby deer skipping merrily through glens and fields of butter cups? Tiberium is now a little floating snot glob that looks like the designers had some left over graphics from the Sims that can be picked up simply by brushing past it. No more vast, dangerous fields of the stuff giving the game a much needed sense of danger.

The whole thing seems dumbed down. The original, while great fun to play, did have underlying adult themes of genocide (Tiberium being seeded by an alien race), Terrorism (NOD being essentially a terrorist group, albeit a very charismatic and wealthy one) and questions of class (People living in "yellow zones" having weird mutated kids while GD live in their perfect blue zones). Compared to the previous titles, this seems to have been dumbed down to a level for people who found Halo a little bit difficult to follow.

I remember playing the first C&C with my dad when I was a kid and I really feel like this games going to the guts out of the fanbase and for what? So the game can be ported to console or so it's easier? What happened to hard but enjoyable experiences? To propper planning and long term stratergy? Is this all we can look forwards to now in games, homogonisation where every game feels roughly the same as every other to reach the largest target audience whilst sacrificing what made it great to start with?

I hope not, but this franchise looks lost already. All will be revealed when Command and Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight launches mid March.

Jason Karlson

CeX, Hull, UK

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