Taking the Initiative in Combat

Friday, July 20, 2007

For years, the Command and Conquer series has been the cream of the crop for real-time strategy video games. The latest installment, Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, doesn't disappoint.

Set in the not-too-distant future, the game places the ruling Global Defense Initiative against the cultlike Brotherhood of Nod, a faction led by the enigmatic Kane and obsessed with a crystalline fuel source called Tiberium. As the game begins, the brotherhood reemerges from 17 years of silence to conduct an unexpected and worldwide offensive against its enemies, crippling the initiative and beginning to tip a long-standing war in the brotherhood's favor. The initiative scrambles together the last of its forces, placing you in charge of an attempt to regain control. Players can choose the well-rounded initiative soldiers or side with the brotherhood, which relies on quicker attacks with comparatively weaker vehicles and a renegade fighting style.

Tactics make the game fun, and it throws a slew of challenges at you from the beginning. Even the Tiberium that serves as the game's critical fuel source acts as a double-edged sword, its radiation hurting nearby infantry units. In addition to protecting their base, exploring the map and finding a way to wipe out opponents, players must protect their Tiberium reserves and keep their units safe around the fuel.

The game consistently pushes players to find a new idea or tactic to overcome an obstacle ("the sneakier, the better" being the general rule of thumb).

Beyond the game's movie-level production values, the story proves genuinely compelling. Twists, turns, subplots and betrayals keep players wanting to see what happens next. Furthermore, choices made within the game's final levels lead to different endings.

From a technical standpoint, Command and Conquer 3 is everything you'd expect from a marquee title. Graphics, sound and voice-overs are outstanding, and little touches such as infantry and vehicles kicking up clouds of dust make the game feel complete. The game requires a mid-level PC to run, but nothing that will break the bank. Although the game performs well on Windows XP and Windows Vista, there are a few bugs. Units occasionally become stuck when told to move, and the latest version of the game almost fails to connect players for online matches against one another. Still, Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars stands at the top of the real-time strategy game genre thanks to outstanding production, great replay value and numerous twists and challenges that make taking over the world that much more interesting.

-- Chris Barylick

Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Teen; Windows XP ($60) EA Los Angeles/Electronic Arts

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