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Command & Conquer 4 First Look The Tiberium universe prepares to go out with a bang. Rate Topic: -----

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 11:40 PM

Command & Conquer 4 First Look
The Tiberium universe prepares to go out with a bang.

August 11, 2009 - Fourteen years ago, Westwood Studios designed an ambitious real time strategy game between two militaristic factions fighting over a mysterious resource for world domination. However, this was not set on a distant planet or in a fantasy realm, but on an alternate Earth. Command and Conquer told the story of the UN's Global Defense Initiative and the cult-like terrorist organization known as the Brotherhood of Nod fighting for control over Tiberium, a mysterious alien mineral. Spawning three separate franchises, Command and Conquer has arguably become one of the most popular and influential titles within the RTS genre. However, Electronic Arts has determined that all good things must come to an end, with the announcement of Command and Conquer 4, the final chapter in the Tiberium saga. I recently had a chance to check out the game, which has been in development for more than a year.

C&C 4 will be a much darker and grittier gameplay experience than ever before. I was told that the designers specifically focused on making a more serious story without many of the story elements that fans traditionally think of with the franchise. Campy elements within cinematics have been eliminated, as have monologues delivered by characters to the screen as if they were transmitting to a faceless character. Instead, the designers wanted to make the gameplay more engaging to both newcomers and veterans of the series in a few ways. The first was to tighten up the storytelling to make the action more direct and immediate. The second was to establish the camera as if it was the player, with specific camera angles and moves that feel as though it's your perspective through the scene. The third way is to have darker cutscenes that are grittier and more ambiguous for players so they don't immediately determine who's a good guy or bad guy until the end of the tale.

The story behind C&C4 is a particularly bleak one compared to any of the other titles in the franchise: set in 2062, humanity is on the brink of extinction thanks to the overabundance of Tiberium which has taken over the Earth's surface. As a result, the world is expected to be uninhabitable by 2068, which forces a drastic alliance to be formed. Kane, the leader of the Brotherhood of Nod who had long been assumed to be dead, reappears and approaches his sworn enemy GDI. He has designed a method to tame the destructive element (known as the Tiberium Control Network), and is willing to help cleanse the world. The campaign starts fifteen years after the Network has been completed, with the newly harnessed Tiberium ushering in a new golden age for humanity. However, all is not well: extremist elements from both GDI and Nod who fundamentally disagree with the alliance of former enemies constantly cause unrest. What's more, there are plenty of questions that have slowly arisen. Why did Kane decide to turn away from his beliefs which he'd fanatically held for so many years? Why did he decide to help his enemies, and what exactly does he want in return? While there were no details on the number of missions that will be included within the game, it will be a mix of branching and linear tasks, with a number of side missions that can be taken on for your side.

Along with this new plot and tone come radical redesigns of the gameplay mechanics. Players will still decide whether they wish to play as GDI or Nod; however, they'll select from one of three classes before each mission, each with their own specialties. If you decide to be an Offensive class player, you focus more on ground units and troops during your deployment. Defense class players build structures and protective emplacements, such as turrets and shields, to repel enemy forces. Finally, Support class players primarily focus on aerial units as well as powers to buff its forces. These powers also include the special attacks like ion cannons and nukes to eliminate opponents. While players are forced to select one class, they're able to select a completely new class at any time by quitting and respawning in a mission. That's right, catastrophic losses within a single player mission won't automatically doom you within a stage; instead, you can respawn and get back into the fight. While you will lose all of the money you collected up to that point, any upgrades and units that didn't die during the respawn period are still kept for you to take advantage of. In fact, respawning can be used as a weapon, such as when I witnessed a redeployed Crawler land with enough force to destroy spawn campers below

You can see just how key the Crawlers will be to battle.

Players will also notice a significant change in the way that bases and units are constructed. Simply put, it's entirely possible to not construct a single building and still win a map. C&C veterans will have trouble wrapping their heads around that fact, but it's true thanks to the newly included Crawler, a portable MCV with legs (treads if you're a defensive player or flight if you're a support class). These units can produce new equipment within its queue, and even make up to four vehicles or units to store within its body as its moving from its initial deployment zone to the front lines. The walker can even be upgraded to wield guns on its own to defend itself against incoming attacks. This allows you to not rely upon armor factories or other buildings to make your units. In fact, only the Defense Class will be able to create buildings; all others are forced to make do without, which seems counterintuitive to C&C tech trees and standard methods, but is surprising easy to grasp once you see it in action.

The mission I saw was specifically tuned for an offensive class player, and while I won't go through all the details of the mission, it entailed the GDI units stuck behind enemy lines as the Global Stratusphere Transport, the vehicle moving forces around the world, was shot down. Tasked with repairing the GST before Nod could capture or destroy the machine, the GDI troops had to move away from the crash site and capture Tiberium nodes to earn enough money to repair the massive vehicle, as well as build its army. This was handled in a few different ways as well. For one thing, GDI used large big rigs as a way to capture buildings and Tiberium nodes instead of engineers. These ground units were instead used to restore the husks of destroyed units to working order. One of these was a large new unit known as a Mastodon, a giant AT-AT looking machine that could be used to bombard enemy structures.

Crawler vs. Crawler -- the battle begins.

Of course, Nod also received new units as well. For example, during one wave of Nod attacks, the GDI Crawler was assaulted by a squad of Nod Centurions, cyborg soldiers who wielded energy shields. These units were able to deflect direct attacks from the front, forcing the GDI troops to flank them to inflict any damage. These Centurions also backed up older, more commonly known Nod units like the Flame Tanks, which had developed new tricks like causing fire damage for more than ten seconds on its targets with each blast. Eventually, the GDI side managed to collect enough Tiberium and fend off the incoming strikes long enough for the GST to be repaired, at which point the jets of the transport immolated the Nod troops and the mission ended.

Along with these new mechanics for the gameplay came additional interface tweaks. Instead of a vertical HUD where you select their various unit and building options, C&C 4 has a horizontal HUD designed to focus the player's attention towards the action on the field. On top of that, players won't find their radar screens taken over by communications from leaders or other commanders on your side. Instead, you'll receive hologram messages that will rise from the top edge of your HUD, allowing you to still get information in the middle of a mission while not losing any access to critical gameplay elements. The final adjustment was the inclusion of an experience bar, which factors prominently within the new Player Progression system.

Die, GDI Scum!

Every single kill earned within any mode (whether that be campaign, skirmish or multiplayer) will earn you experience, which will contribute to your character's overall level, earning you additional units and powers that can be taken into matches. So if you discover that you don't have the item you need, you can exit, play a separate mode for a while and go back at a later time. There is a mild caveat that players will have to get accustomed to, however; there's no reason to restart a mission, even if you manage to lose your objectives because you still earn experience for every kill you make. Restarting or quitting will jettison those gains, making it not worth your while even if you're doing poorly. This is particularly true within the five on five multiplayer mode, which will be objective based and will focus on a social RTS experience where players attempt to maximize the advantages of each class to augment their team. The multiplayer also includes a new Party system which will include a Follow the Leader feature for teammates to instantly join games, as well as leaderboards, clan support and other modes. I was told that this mode has received some extensive testing, having been played since the beginning of the year. While we'll have to wait until 2010 to experience the final chapter of Command and Conquer 4, the large number of improvements and adjustments definitely make it one to keep an eye out for if you happen to be a fan of the genre. We'll have more as soon as it becomes available.

Awaiting For The Game biggrin.gif

Ready, Set, Go !

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