I fondly remember the days back in the 90’s spent playing the original Command & Conquer games (despite being far too young to play them legally!). Command & Conquer, Red-Alert 1 + 2 and C&C; Tiberian Sun were all such fantastic releases then, and still are to this day.
These games were produced by a pokey little outfit named Westwood Studios, based in Las Vegas. The games giant Electronic Arts then bought the company in 1998 and hence acquired the C&C trademark. Despite EA increasingly interfering with the outfit, Westwood Studios did manage to release Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 to great acclaim. However, EA decided to liquidate the company in 2003. And it was from there the franchise began its downhill decent.
The original games (the ones made by Westwood Studios) had a defined sense of atmosphere for which they were noted for. It’s quite difficult to explain it words, one has to play the games to understand! What’s certain is that interlinking of the soundtrack, concepts and game play definitely had a part to play.
Post-Westwood Studios, each release have become progressively more and more flaccid and the atmosphere that underpinned the prior games has all but dissipated. C&C3: Tiberium Wars, Red Alert 3 and C&C Generals, whilst they’re not bad games, felt like they lacked a certain something, an essence that was previously present in the originals. There was also a marked focus on graphics and marketing, rather than on the actual game play. But C&C4: Tiberium Twilight is where things really take a turn for the worst.
I really do pity any of you who actually bought the latest instalment, C&C 4; Tiberian Twilight. This game is truly a huge stain on what once was a brilliant RTS franchise. One of my peers did have had the misfortune of shelling out for the game, allowing me to have a proper tinker with it. It turned out I couldn’t borrow and install the game on my PC, due to some inane DRM software. So I ended up borrowing my friend’s laptop in it’s entirety. The problem didn’t stop there as the DRM required there to be a constant internet connection to allow the game to work. And if your internet connection drops mid-game, you lose your progress. Fantastic. Didn’t help the wifi adapter was a bit flaky.
Even when you are able to play, the gameplay has been changed so much it’s almost unrecognisable. Where the previous C&C games focused heavily on the collection of resources to enable the production of units and structures, the production team behind C&C 4 decided to make a departure from this concept. Instead, the focus was placed on capturing ‘nodes’, and the winner was the team that captured the most nodes and generated the most points at the end of the match. Structures are mostly abandoned in favour of ‘crawlers’, large mobile production centres. This is a massive change from the prior games and really ruined the gameplay dynamics of the franchise.
If you found the gameplay video utterly confusing, you’re not alone. The game is just as confusing to play. It just doesn’t really tie in with the rest of the series. As well as that, there’s a irritating melee of having to unlock units and upgrades, respawning things and selecting crawler class….argh!
The sudden demise of the series is just another insight into how EA operates as a company. They like to purchase smaller games studios, gut them of their unique assets and release sub quality games on the back of the namesake’s past successes. Another example of this is with Maxis and their SimCity series.
Whilst EA have postulated that C&C4 may be the last in the ‘Tiberium series’, and despite the huge slating C&C 4 received by fans, one gets the feeling that they’ll try to release another one anyway. To that, I plead with EA to stop tarnishing the C&C series and leave it to rest in peace in a dignified manner.