Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun misses StarCraft’s mark

Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun
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Command and Conquer’s release back in 1995 was the start of a gaming empire the likes of which we have never seen. For a game that started as an upgrade to Westwood’s last strategy masterpiece, Dune 2, it inspired a whole new gaming genre that has seen numerous clones and spin-offs. And even C & C itself promoted its own sequel, called Tiberian Sun.

Now we’ve been waiting for almost 4 years for this sequel, and aside from a pseudo-sequel, Red Alert, and a mulitplayer action title called Sole Survivor, Tiberian Sun still was on the top of every C & C fans most wanted list.

And while waiting, as mentioned before, many clones were released, all raising the bar of what a good RTS game should have. The most prominent of these titles is Blizzard’s Starcraft. Starcraft’s dominance in the industry caused Westwood to constantly go back to development in order to make Tiberian Sun the RTS title to beat. From what I’ve seen so far it can be pretty close, but I feel that Starcraft still walks away with the crown.

Tiberian Sun takes place in 2030, thirty years after the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) destroyed the temple of the Brotherhood of NOD (NOD), and as a result, crushing their leader Kane to death. Time passed, and the effects of the mysterious compound Tiberium starts to affect the ecosystem. Tiberium poisoning runs rampant, and the environment suffers its own version of Tiberium winter. Ion storms are a common event as well. Also, a new race of human nomads, called the Forgotten, evolve to fight for their freedom against the remnants of NOD.

NOD themselves are having their own problems as well. With Kane fallen, NOD is split into several independent factions who do not get along with each other, and makes them easy prey for GDI, who monitors all Earth activity from their orbiting space platform, the USS Philadelphia.

However, the Philadelphia receives a special message from the once-thought-dead NOD leader Kane, swearing that he witnessed a new future, using Tiberium to power his evil doings. General Solomon (James Earl Jones) summons his best field commander, Lt. Michael McNeil (Michael Biehn from Aliens) to investigate the matter and stop NOD’s forces. This makes for one heck of a story, an excellent expansion to the C & C universe that we know and love. But what about the gameplay?

First of all, the interface that we know so well is as easy to operate as it can ever be. Construction of units and structures are available from the scroll down menus on the right, and on higher resolutions (800×600) more options on screen would cut down on the time wasted on scrolling through menus. Items can now be queued in development (similar to Starcraft) of up to 5 units, and units can now be sent via several waypoints rather than directly from one point to the next (i.e. Dark Reign).

Switching the perspective from an overhead perspective to a more Starcraft-like 3/4 perspective adds a better view of elevated ground, and in this game, elevation can be very important. Artillery can be planted high up to bombard enemy forces while being safe from attack. Also, bottleneck passageways can be used as an ambush point for any invasion.

But the biggest factor in this game is that we now have a battlefield where obstacles can be used to our advantage. Bridges can be destroyed to prevent enemy movement and to force alternate routes, and abandoned buildings can be destroyed, creating rubble to block progress. And in typical C & C fashion, each military has their own style of units. Just like how Red Alert had Soviet air power vs. Allied naval power, Tiberian Sun feature a battle between NOD’s Tiberium based weaponry (cyborg units, chemical missiles, etc.) and GDI’s conventional weaponry (walking anthropomorphic mechs, Orca fighters, etc.) Granted this cannot compare to Starcraft’s three rival alien races, but it still is effective.

Lastly, it can be said that a lot of time went into the FMV segments, and what is shown here is very impressive. But I feel the best role is not Jones’ General Solomon, or Biehn’s Lt. McNeil, but it definitely belongs to Joe Kucan’s performance of Kane. We’ve seen him as Kane before, but he is definitely as his best here, reuniting the old Brotherhood and starting his new war against GDI.

Tiberian Sun, after the four year wait, turns out to be almost everything that C & C fans hoped for. I was hoping though, that it would be the monumental title that Starcraft was when it was released, but it nonetheless still has the firepower and depth to make it a 4 1/2 GiN Gem winner.

NOD followers such as myself will be sure to fight every battle we can in the name of Kane!

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