The Battles Continue!

Command & Conquer Generals
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Many were worried when Electronic Arts became the owner of the Command & Conquer franchise, but worry no more, as the latest Command & Conquer release – Command & Conquer Generals – has stayed true to the system we all know and love.

Right down to the left click to target your units, left click to target their position to move to, it’s the same interface. And this is despite the current trend among Real Time Strategy (RTS) games to use left click to target units and right click to target location to move to. Command & Conquer Generals will definitely become a welcomed addition to the Command & Conquer line of RTS games.

No longer is it the USA vs the Evil Russians (after all the cold war is over. Right?). So in Command & Conquer Generals (C&CG) you get to choose from three sides – USA, China or the GLA (Global Liberation Army). It does not take long to figure where the idea behind the GLA comes from. They are all wearing turbans, speak like middle easterners and the initial mission of the USA Campaign is to liberate Baghdad. And if this is not enough to convince you, the first thing the GLA does when your units close in on Baghdad is drop chemical weapons on their own positions in an attempt to catch the USA troops unaware!

There is a tutorial to help the uninitiated become familiar with the controls and game play, but this is woefully deficient unless you are familiar with other Command & Conquer games. The manual is only marginally helpful in getting new gamers up to speed with the system. Unfortunately the best way is to do the tutorial, try a few missions as your chosen side in this Global Conflict (Hehe that part has not changed either), and be sure to have the manual and game aids handy for reference purposes until you are familiar with the interface and the different structures and units available to your side.

In a nut shell, you need to gather resources (from numerous supply dumps scattered over the map – or side specific means) to build structures, that allow you to build units so you can beat down the enemy, find more resources to build better structures that allow better more powerful units, etc. Yep back to the good ‘ole build the bigger army and pound your adversary into the dirt type of game. And nuclear launch alerts have been replaced with SCUD alerts, so be sure you have plenty of Patriot Missile sites to shot those bad boys down!

But this is not just the same old game with new forces. There have been many additions to the system – my favorite being the new battle drones, a USA unit upgrade that each motorized unit (not helicopters unfortunately) can have protecting them. These little drones will attack enemies that their parent unit is fighting or hover over the parent unit repairing it. This is extremely useful when using hit and run tactics. You can use multiple small attack groups and attack with one while the others are repairing themselves and then switch groups after each successive attack.

Another new feature is the idea of General Points. As you win battles you can acquire ‘general points’ that can be used to gain new abilities or new weapons. These units are normally far superior to the units otherwise available and can be the deciding factor in many a battle.

On the GLA side you have the nasty ‘Terrorist’ unit. This unit is basically a suicide bomber, complete with the sticks of Dynamite strapped to their chests, which when in proximity of an enemy unit will blow up taking the unit (ANY unit) with it. And these guys can be placed into trucks and other mobile units available to the GLA. This is definitely something to watch out for as the USA or Chinese player.

They did not forget the ‘super’ weapons for each side. The GLA has their SCUD Storms, the Chinese have their Nuclear Missiles while the USA has their Particle Cannon. Each requires advanced structures and enough resources to build, like any other building.

Oh, and did I mention that you may have to fight over resource locations? There is nothing worse than finding the next available resource center heavily defended by the enemy. And this ALWAYS seems to happen when you REALLY need the resources. Also be sure you do not let your cash supply drop to zero as many missions will have multiple parts to them or, if you loose your supply units (Chinooks for USA, Supply Truck for China and Workers for the GLA) and happen to have no cash to build them back you can be in a world of hurt until you find one of the ‘instant cash’ spots on the board.

Visually this game is very pleasing as well. The units are well rendered, the terrain looks as it should so you can more easily identify the best way to get you troops from point A to point B. In some instances however the AI will take your troops through dangerous territory (resulting in their loss if you are not paying attention) instead of the completely obvious route you had envisioned when setting the destination. The explosions, especially of the ‘super weapons’ is indeed something to see!

So with C&CG we have balanced forces for each side. There are nifty new things to experiment with, and it all uses the standard C&C interface. Plus there are cool super weapons for each side and an interface that quickly becomes second nature to you after only a few plays through a scenario, or during the completion of one of the three campaigns. All this adds up to a VERY enjoyable gaming session each time played. Generals is very deserving of four and a half GiN Gems.

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