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Real-Time Strategy



Electronic Arts



EA Pacific (formerly Westwood Studios)



T (Teen)



Q1 2003



- Frenetic action

- Look great

- Balanced opponents



- Whereís the C&C magic?

- Distinct lack of Kari Wurher



Review: C&C: Red Alert 2 (PC)

Review: C&C Renegade (PC)

Action Figure: Havoc

Review: C&C Generals Zero Hour (PC)



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Command & Conquer: Generals

Score: 7.9 / 10


Any time I launch into a Command & Conquer game, there are a number of things Iíve come to expect Ė frenetic action and balanced (but challenging) opponents, slathered with its own stylish look and highlighted with some of the best cutscenes gaming has ever known.  Although Command & Conquer: Generals has many points that has made the franchise so popular over the years, it has been ďvanillafiedĒ Ė itís been molded to play and appear like every other real-time strategy (RTS) game out there.


command and conquer generals pc review          command and conquer generals pc review


My first few gripes seem so small as to border on anal-retentive.


Howís this for starters?  The load-up is boring.  Previous C&C games featured mini-intros to the game.  Not this time.  Things donít get better when you see the game screen boot up for the first time.  The command bar no longer resides along the right side of the screen.  Instead it sits along the bottom just like every other RTS game out there.  Granted, the command bar has been cleaned-up and streamlined but why couldnít the bar stay where itís always been?  One of the biggest digs is that the (relatively) lavish between-mission cutscenes are gone Ė a staple of the C&C RTS gamesÖ gone!  And Kari Wurher?  Generals is 100% Kari Wurher free.


And Iíll go one step further about the cutscenes.  They didnít always set up the missions perfectly, but in Generals the only mission direction you get is a few lines of text.  Most of the personality of C&C is completely absent, as is any cohesive story.





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The actual gameplay is good Ė itís what weíve come to expect from the C&C universe: collect some resources (in this case, secure Supply Docks), construct a base, occupy neutral buildings, build an army then wipe out your opponent.  The three sides Ė America, China and the terrorist GLA Ė are very balanced even though the tactics needed to win are very different (but youíll find yourself building up a massive army before attacking more often than not).



Somewhat counter-balancing the tank rush is the General upgrades, which can unleash some serious hurt.  Like WarCraft IIIís heroes leveling up, as you destroy your opponents you can upgrade your abilities (by earning Skill Points) to give you access to more powerful weapons, etc. When used at the right time, the tide of battle can be completely shifted (especially during Multiplayer games).  Each side of conflict possesses different Generals abilities.  For example, a 5-star General for China can unleash an EMP pulse, which disables vehicles and structures in a given area (kind of like Goldeneye); in contrast, an American 5-star General can call in a Fuel Air bomb.  Itís a great balance  Ė especially with the EMP stopping tanks in their treads.


Just like Generalsí predecessors, the action is fantastic to watch.  The move to 3D really kicks butt, however, if you donít have some good power behind your CPU youíll experience much choppiness and some staggering slowdown (especially during the gargantuan skirmishes).  Otherwise, the small touches and the high-impact explosions are incredible to watch.


command and conquer generals pc review           command and conquer generals pc review


Thereís been much made of the racial stereotyping of the three sides, particularly the GLA, which employs some hot-button tactics like anthrax attacks.  I donít why itís suddenly a big deal now Ė Red Alert sported the suicide truck.  Go back and have a listen.  If you were offended then, youíll still be offended.  Is it funny?  Is it derogatory?  Outright offensive?  Tongue in cheek?  Everyone will have a different interpretation.


C&C Generals is not a complete write-off though Ė itís just like so much vanilla now.  So much more could have been done with the title.  The underlying gameplay is very good but without a good story (complete with FMV cutscenes) and the personality of previous C&C games it just doesnít feel right. (Hell, it took me four days to get used to the command bar running horizontally!)  Itís possible that they could have gone back and explored the link between the Red Alert and NOD vs. GDI storylines or any number of different narratives while still including the Generals upgrade ability.


Whatever happens with future C&C titles itíll definitely take something special to reclaim the magic.


- Omni

(June 8, 2003)


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