Monday, March 31, 2008

Review: Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath


When I eagerly sank my claws into the long awaited, long hyped Command and Conquer 3, some will recall I was actually a little disappointed. The only thing I had to really praise about it was that it had one of the best user interfaces ever conceived for an RTS and decent current-gen graphics, but the rest of the game felt like it was just going through the motions and rehashing territory already well covered.

I was excited to get ahold of the new expansion for C&C3, called Kane's Wrath. This is because I remember Command and Conquer: Generals. Generals itself was much like C&C 3 at first... a mediocre RTS with decent graphics (for the time), but it also tried something new: a 3 way fight (which is also present in C&C 3) with specific strengths and unique paradigms for each faction. The problems with C&C:G (along with many of the bugs) were ironed out with the advent of the Zero Hour expansion, which (until Supreme Commander came along) made it bar none the best RTS released thus far. So I was hopeful that Kane's Wrath could do for C&C3 what Zero Hour did for C&C:G.

Well, that'll teach me to get my hopes up. Kane's Wrath tried to fix what was not broken and ignored most of what irked me most about C&C3. Oh sure, they tried the same thing with introducing subfactions into the mix, but honestly the subfactions do not differ enough from one another to really alter the way you play the game (unlike the Zero Hour factions). Additionally, the game attempts to rest on it's UI laurels. While every single other RTS on the market has adopted the standard "shift click to queue orders" methodry, C&C3 Kane's wrath still insists on forcing you to use its counter-intuitive "planning mode" to queue up multiple orders. And you can forget about units of different speeds moving in formation. The UI may have been revolutionary at original release, but it has stood stock still in the expansion, making no improvements. The biggest problem with C&C3, though, is that the individual unit AI is still beyond idiotic and all your units require massive amounts of micromanagement to survive, much less be effective. The autoresponse radius seldom is suitable, units set to guard chase MUCH too far, and units seldom select the correct target of their own volition (not to mention that to attack any noncombatant building still requires an explicit click, no matter how close it is). Often I was left wondering if my units were REALLY as stupid as they appeared to be, or if it was specifically designed to be another "obstacle to overcome."

See, in EA:Los Angeles' (the specific branch of EA responsible for this atrocity) estimation, inserting as many irritating obstacles as possible for you to feel good about overcoming is the fun of the game. You can tell this especially in the single player campaign by the number of bullshit "do this in 5 minutes without letting any engineers die, even though they can't survive a single hit" missions thrown at you. There were a few in the original campaign, but they come thick and en masse at you in the expansion. I hope you like clicking "restart mission," sucker... because often times the game won't even let you get a rudimentary base under you before it starts sending tanks and infantry in combined forces, along with airstrikes. And as with the original, there are plenty of "surprise, instant enemies, you lose, sucker!" moments.

Also, there's some line of sight issues. Often a single enemy bazooka solder lying just over the crest of a hill will be able to kill an infinite number of my defensive structures if I leave him alone long enough (and of course none of my units are smart enough to go out and shoot him without explicit micromanagement).

So the campaign is a complete write-off as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't even help that they produced more of C&C's signature cut scenes, complete with the usual level of overacting. The gameplay was enough to put me off them. The skirmish mode is still present, thank goodness, and some fun is at least possible there because your tech trees aren't neutered for the sake of the story and your victory conditions aren't in "super fun EA bullshit obstacle mode," so you can actually maybe enjoy the game a little, despite still having units so dumb that you often wonder if they die of enemy fire or of spontaneous unexplained brain death. I can't count how many times my infantry ran right through tiberium, dying halfway through (and naturally I can't shift click to set travelling waypoints AROUND the tiberium without entering the ponderous "planning" mode), and how many times my anti-armor decided to concentrate on the infantry first while my anti-infantry units concentrated on the armor, leading to their destruction and the game laughing as my base collapsed.

Oh, and any single unit with a flamethrower can level your entire base in under 10 seconds.

They also added one more mode of play called "Global Conquest," which is EA trying to do something to compare with WH40k-DOW's new campaign style (IE, global planning done from a turn based perspective, and zooming in to individual conflicts to play RTS). It seemed interesting enough at first until I suddenly realized that what I liked most about it was that it had the option to "autoresolve" any conflict, which I used all the time. It clicked. What I most liked about this new mode in the Command and Conquer 3 expansion was that it let me choose not to play Command and Conquer 3.

The Verdict-
If C&C3 hadn't come out and the content in this expansion had been part of the C&C3 original release, I still would have given it a B before, but as this is an expansion, it is held to different standards. An expansion is supposed to address issues and introduce innovations, not exacerbate or ignore issues and introduce new ways to play whose principle lure is that they don't make you suffer through the actual game. Thus it is that I award Kane's Wrath with a well-deserved D and extend every middle digit I have in EA's direction. It isn't even worth the reduced price, in my opinion.

Grade: D


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17 comments:

DimentoGraven said...

Dude, good review! The clarity of your writing is much improved.

Unfortunately from my experience much of the C&C series suffered from the problems you mentioned here, at least from the neccessary "micro management" aspect.

Yes, it is intentional. The computer effectively has "infinite" cursors while you are only capable of handling one small section of the battle at a time.

If your unit AI was at the same level as the CPU AI, the games would be much shorter highlighting an actual lack of content in these games.

The players unit AI or the AlI (artificial LACK of intelligence) is a cheap ass trick to extend each scenario such that the game takes longer.

Seriously, have you ever sat back and seen how little there is to actually do in those games?

Doesn't help that EA is as usual effectively prematurely ejaculating this in our direction...

Gas Bandit said...

I think Supreme Commander is an excellent example of how individual unit AI can be reasonably intelligent, and most things actually automated after placement, and yet a single round of the game can still last many, many hours. But then, I guess if I continue to compare every RTS to Supreme Commander, most of them are going to fall very, very short.

DimentoGraven said...

I'll have to look at it again. I've had a copy moldering on my shelf for a while.

I played a few initial rounds of it, and quite frankly the "infinite cursor" aspect of this type of game starting rearing it's f'ing head again and I decided to play Bioshock all the way through, one more time, again instead.

If I'm going to be playing against a computer, I prefer turn based strategy that way, the computer can takes 4.5 nanoseconds to do my equivelant 10 minute process, and I'm not penalized.

We'll see... We'll see...

Though... I'm kind of having fun with the Beta testing of Mythos right now... So, there'll be a delay for sure.

Anonymous said...

Never looked at the options menu, did you? Yeah. Didn't think so. If you had, you would have seen the option for entirely customizable hotkeys. That Shift+click feature? Yeah, its called "Waypoint mode" in the menu and you can set it to whatever key or combination of keys you want. Want to make it shift? Make it shift. Want to make it Spacebar? Make it Spacebar. Want to make Alt+Home? I have no idea why you would, but you can make it Alt+Home. Default is just Alt btw.

So yeah, if you miss such a major feature in a game, you pretty much fail at reviewing.

-Derek

PPMcBiggs said...

IMO C&C has sucked since its initial release with the exception of C&CG:ZH. I dont know why people get excited about new releases of this crap. I think there has been maybe 10 C&Cs in some form, and only 1 has been worth keeping around. 1-9 is a pretty terrible record.

Anyway, a good review. I purposely avoided getting anywhere near this game and now I feel justified.

In reply to Dereks post, why the hell cant EA stick to a control scheme that people are already familiar with? Holding down shift in windows selects multiple things, holding down shift in SC selects multiple things. But this is an EA game so that means that we have to do our best to take something simple and complicate it. I know, we will take ALT which, elsewhere, doesnt do much except hotkeys and make it select multiples. But what about shift?

Anyway, Derek, I doubt even if GB had taken the aggravating, unnecessary steps to setup the keyboard the way it should have been (using everything else in the world as a reference) that he would have given this game a better score.

So yeah, if you miss all of the other major points made in the review you pretty much fail at comprehension.

I think you may be a fanboy.

Follow this link to read a review that will give you that warm fuzzy you were looking for:

http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3167096&p=1

Caution: there are EA ads all over this site, may not be an objective source

Anonymous said...

lol man, I'm no fanboy for CNC3. You're absolutely right that ZH was the only CNC game that was any good for multiplayer. KW is a big step up from CNC3, but its still all around spammy and far from ZH. But I hate reviewers that ignore obvious features then detract from the score due to their own ignorance. If you're going to review a game, no matter how good or bad, do it right.

And Shift IS the default for multiple select (Alt for waypoint, Shift for multiple select, but both can be changed). You'ld never use it though, you just need the "Select all units" hotkey.

-Derek

Brandon said...

First off, Command and Conquer was one of the first RTS games ever created, hot on the heels of Dune 2, the first RTS, and created by the same studio. Just some history for you.

And you get on a pretty high horse saying that it is EA which is causing all of this. Maybe you are just an EA basher? Would be no different than being a C&C fan boy.

The difference in C&C and SC is the play style. It has little to do with how much 'content' there is. You have your land units, your air units, your naval units (in other C&C games), your resource collection, all that is there in both games. The difference is that SC focuses on large areas with you simply managing the basics of that each area does. And in C&C you are getting in to more in depth controlling smaller squads of units and handling only a handful of bases. Just because two games have different play styles does not mean that one has to be wrong.

And on the waypoint issue, each game has a fully functioning waypoint system. C&C even has its Planning mode to allow you to have coordinated strikes (a feature which evaded me in SupCom despite trying to figure it out). Just because they are different doesn't mean one is bad, again.

Gas Bandit said...

The lack of command queueing was but one of many reasons I reviewed the game the way I did. Even your point being the case, the fact that it is set to be defaulted to a counterintuitive method is a strike against it.

But even all that aside, what about the unit AI? What about the flamethrower imbalance? What about the "surprise you lose instantly!" content that permeates the campaign? The lack of evolution in the UI was but one of many gripes.

Oh, and as for mister "history lesson" up there, here's one for you... C&C was created by Westwood Studios, not EA. EA did what EA does, that is buy out a successful Intellectual Property and try to milk it to death. They did it with Ultima. They did it with Mythic (DAOC and now Warhammer). They did it with Command and Conquer. Oh, and Warcraft predates Command and Conquer by a year.

If you guys go back and look at my review of the original C&C3, you will see I gave it a B. The expansion however, does not measure up for the money. Warcraft evolved over time and in its expansions. Company of Heroes evolved in its expansion. Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War had some excellent expansions, particularly Dark Crusade. Supreme Commander even managed a pretty good expansion.

C&C3 is an ok game, in my opinion. Kane's wrath, again in my opinion, was not a worthwhile expansion. And that's the word from bandit camp.

Oh, and Dimento... to help you combat the infinite cursor of the computer... keep in mind you can always pause Supreme commander to issue/queue as many commands as you like, and then unpause.

DimentoGraven said...

Trust me, the obfuscation of the default control settings, along with the obtuse unit AI for players is TOTALLY intentional to hide the lack of content.

If you have to play various scenarios multiple times in order to progress through the game you may not notice how few scenarous there are to play.

Any game that let's your supposedly "AI'd" units sit there and get picked off just because the enemy that's killing just "happens" to be out of their attack circle... Well that's just a cheap fucking trick, OR, an incredibly incompetant oversight of the programmer.

As the general, you shouldn't be required to tell units being attacked to either:

A. MOVE THE FUCK OUT OF RANGE

or

B. FIND THE FUCKER KILLING YOU AND KILL HIS ASS

Or at the very least have some discernable method of setting reaction type per unit/group, etc.

I don't like games that require intensive micromanagement, especially REAL TIME games.

MAYBE it's not EA's fault, but so far EA has f'd up just about every title they've created or gotten their grubby paws on via acquisition, so the proponderance of the evidence suggests that any title that gets fucked up that also happens to have that EA trademark, well... It's pretty obvious where to lay that blame... Not many realistic alternatives available.

Brandon said...

It's nice that you read my post but you must have skipped over the part where I never said EA made Dune 2 or Command and Conquer. And if you want to get on the date thing, Dune 2 was released 2 years prior to Warcraft.

Besides, Westwood's game inspired Chris Taylor to make Total Annihilation which of course went on to be remade in to Supreme Commander, thus Command and Conquer and Dune are responsible for the creation of TA and SC, therefore C&C > TA and/or SC.

Prove me wrong.

Gas Bandit said...

Hmm, if I inferred something from what you said that you did not in fact say, I apologize for mischaracterization... I pointed out westwood because you only mentioned EA and "the same company made Dune 2."

But as for what ">" what, you can't base superiority of game simply on release date, be it ascending or descending order. Just because C&C may have inspired TA, which in turn spawned SC as a spiritual successor does not mean it is "better." Otherwise, by the logic you employ, one could argue that australopithecus > homo sapiens. As a matter of fact, one of the points I make is that a stagnant lack of evolution over that period is quite indicative of the contrary.

Good games borrow from each other all the time, and improve over time both through assimilation and innovation.

Anonymous said...

This is not a review, this is a short rant, nothing more in my eyes. A review goes into detail, every aspect concerned, and does not feature but some issues and bloat them into infinity. Where's word on the maps? Music? Units? Missions? Feel? Not to mention that you're clearly biased- It's not Dark Crusade that invented GQM (In fact, GQM only mimics EAs own "Ring mode" from BfME2, which was released before DC). On a side note, there's not only multiplay, you know.
I tell you this because from all those RTS games you praise so highly, the campaigns were short and lacklustre, soulless even, perhaps with the exception of CoH, which IS a great game despite it's shortness. And about the obstacles: It's the bane of 3D RTS. I don't think I've ever played a 3D RTS without pathfinding issues, clipping errors and bad AI. It's a weird mix, yes, challenging and piss-easy at the same time, but that does not make it a terrible game. SC is superior in faction design (As compared to DC), btw.

Verdict: I know it's much to ask from someone who just criticized you, but there should be really more topics covered in your review(s). And let your anger/frustration go before you write ;) I can't say though if you'd be less biased then, I guess everyone is to some extent (Sorry for the blurb, I just had to write it down after I read "Good review" in the comment section).

Gas Bandit said...

Opinions are everywhere and differ from person to person, and yours largely differ from mine. That's life.

However, the one thing I did want to address is that this is not my usual review style.. this one got slightly different treatment because it was an expansion, one that actually changed very little about the core game itself. So to individually critique the graphics, sound etc would have been redundant with the reviews (1, 2) I had already previously done about the original release of C&C3.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's not about your opinion, I haven't even played KW yet :)
It's about the review quality, or simply the information value of it.
As, theoretically, if this would be the first review I've read about the game, I would not get to know much about it, respectively I'd think that it does not feel fleshed out much/objective.

Gas Bandit said...

Hm. Well, I never actually claimed objectivity... as the subheading of the site trumpets, subjectivity is rather the emphasis of my modus operandi.

I'm not gamespot or IGN... I'm the Gas Freakin Bandit.

Dimento Graven said...

Bizarre man, bizarre...

I've read a shitload of reviews over the years, trust me, a good 99% of them rarely got into "every aspect concerned", as a matter of fact generally, depending on if the game producer invested a lot of money in advertising that week, you'll find they centralize on one or two "whiz-bang" features.

Of the reviews I read regularly, and there are quite a few (I even maintain a Game Informer subscription, that's how fucking sick I am), they're pretty much written similarly in level of detail and specificity of content as the ones you'll find here.

I respect Gas Bandit's opinions and appreciate the style and content of his reviews keeping in mind his, advertised "opininated" perspective.

I don't always agree with him, I would have graded Bioshock a lot higher myself for example, but over all, his scores are close to what I would score a game.

Besides I don't see you berating NoPunctuation for those reviews. My god talk about a lack of detail... BUT, they're damn entertaining, and ultimately, that's all a game reviewer should really be shooting for, now isn't it?

Dimento Graven said...

BTW, congrats to Gas Bandit for his first exteneded heckling!!!

You know you're doing a good job as a reviewer of ANYTHING if you piss someone off!