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.
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.
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