Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Review

It’s been a long and rocky road for the Command & Conquer series. The series has seen numerous RTS titles, a first-person offshoot, and even an acquisition of series creators Westwood Studios by Electronic Arts, with EA LA taking charge. This isn’t to say that have done a bad job. EA LA produced great C&C games of their own; including C&C3 and the incredibly well put together Red Alert 3, personal RTS favorite of mine. Each game was known for its futuristic setting, FMV cutscenes, and mass unit armies that you could build and rush your enemy with.

With that said, take everything you know about a C&C game and throw it out the window. Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, the newest title in the series and the final one in the Tiberian Saga, is a game that turns C&C on its head and is drastically different from its predecessors. If Modern Warfare 2 and Dawn of War 2 had a baby, the result would be C&C4. While this may sound like a jumbled mess, and sometimes is one, C&C4 does enough things right to make an enjoyable and fresh game that might just bring in new players to the C&C series.

The first new addition, and major one, is the persistent ranking system. As you destroy enemy units and complete objectives, you gain experience. As in games like Modern Warfare, when you gain a level, you gain access to new units and upgrades. You have a separate, persistent rank for each faction, GDI and NOD, so leveling one faction doesn’t affect the other. You gain xp in every mode, which is useful as it allows you to play through single-player and still be able to level up, getting a feel for the units before jumping into multiplayer and getting pounded by a high-level player who has more advanced units. It’s a great system that has robust stat tracking and is incredibly addicting.

Co-op crawler mayhem

Gone are base building, resource management, and large armies. Instead, C&C4 utilizes a mobile command structure, dubbed a “crawler.” The crawler structure can be commanded like any other unit and can even build new units as you move it around the map. Once you park and unpack the unit, though, any unit that was queued up during its “crawler state” will pour out of the structure and it will emit a repair radius that heals all nearby units. The crawler can be one of three classes: offense, defense, and support. Each of these classes offers different units and structures for you to wage war with. Each class is effective against the others, though, they just feature different styles of play that cater to different battle strategies. If you like to keep the opponent on their toes and rush the enemy, Offense is for you. Prefer to sit back and build up your force? Defense is your class.

Units are now built using Command Points instead of gathering resources. You are given a set number of CP at the beginning of each match or campaign mission and each unit costs a set number of CP. Once you reach your limit, you can build no more. If you lose units, the CP is refunded and you can queue up new ones. This forces you to think in smaller army counts and more diverse units. Instead of spamming tanks, you may want some air units, a few tanks, and an engineer to cover your weaknesses. Or maybe you favor another strategy. Either way, the new CP system frees your mind from gathering precious resources and producing a force to take the fight to your opponent. It’s an action-based RTS system that is fast paced and heavily dependent on what units are the best to counter your opponent.

This both succeeds and fails. The system falls apart in the single-player campaign. At the start of each mission, you can choose which class you want to play as. You can only have one crawler deployed at any time and if you want to switch classes, you have to decommission your crawler, which takes a fair amount of time, and then summon a new one. If you encounter a situation that you are ill equipped for, you run the risk of being beaten, then having to summon a new crawler, all while your objectives run out of time or you get swarmed. To make matters worse, the enemy can deploy multiple crawlers against you. In my experience, this led to times when I would unpack my crawler outside an objective and just flood units in a battle of attrition to try to complete the mission while NOD forces had two crawlers against me. There are missions that just devolve into battles of attrition and it’s not very fun as you throw all of your units at the enemy in hopes that you can take them down before you need to summon another crawler.

A cornered crawler
The game’s single-player is also woefully short and not as epic as it should be. No event feels as urgent as it should and there are no moments during the campaign that wow you or up the excitement beyond baseline standard. Missions are boilerplate RTS fare and for as much build-up as this story has conjured, it feels boring and uneventful. This could be due to the game’s tone. Instead of the hammy, live-action cutscenes that were cheesy but endearing, C&C4goes for a more serious tone and tries to involve the player more. It doesn’t work as well, though, as the scenes are still badly acted and the actors are no longer trying to ham it up. Instead of being funny or cool, it’s actually kind of sad and cringe inducing to watch them try to be emotional and make you feel emotional. It doesn’t work and the game should have stuck to the same tone as the previous games. It’s like they tried to put on a serious face to mask a mediocre finale instead of actually plotting one that the series deserves.Multiplayer consists of capturing control nodes around the map that accrue points for you over time. In one-on-one matches, these become a virtual carousel of frustration. Your opponent will begin to capture nodes and gain the upper hand, assisted by what may be a superior crawler class. In response, you can retreat, grab another class, and fight back, capturing more nodes. Unfortunately, they’ll do the same and neither will be able to capture and really hold any node. It’s a constant tug of war between you and your opponent that is only cured by more players.

By playing 2v2 and higher matches, each player on your team can play their respective classes and assist each other. This is where the game really shines. The multiplayer turns into a team-based experience a la Team Fortress 2. With each player actually playing a role, it becomes a true team and co-op experience, unlike many other RTS games where co-op means placing two players on a map that is meant for one, leaving each player to do their own thing.

C&C4 is a game that tries to deliver on all its features, but only does the multiplayer and online functionality well. Playing through the game on your own exposes an experience that isn’t well put together and screams to be played cooperatively or online with friends. If you’re looking for a RTS game that focuses on fast-paced multiplayer combat and a robust online community, then this is the that game. Otherwise, the story and main campaign are not the sendoff this series deserves.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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