Dec 7th, 2008 by cm1
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Though it wasn’t the first game of its type, Command Conquer became synonymous with real-time strategy gaming when the very first game in the series was released in 1995. Along with Blizzard’s Warcraft II, Command Conquer helped build the foundation for one of PC gaming’s most beloved genres, defining many of the real-time strategy conventions that are used today. And though Command Conquer has seen its highs and lows over the years, the series’ quirky, politically incorrect, comic-book-like take on modern warfare has remained intact all throughout, and it is upheld in the latest entry in the series, Command Conquer: Generals. More importantly, Generals is easily one of the best Command Conquer games yet, with the impressive visuals and highly refined and accessible gameplay that have come to characterize the best entries in this genre. Die-hard fans of Command Conquer may lament a few of the departures Generals makes from the series’ roots, and the game does have a few rough edges, but Generals is still one of the best real-time strategy games around.
Generals’ fictional premise puts the USA, China, and a terrorist group called the Global Liberation Army (GLA) at odds sometime in the near future. You can play as any one of these factions in its own brief single-player campaign, in skirmishes with computer opponents, or against other players over a LAN or using the game’s online player-matching service. Those who played the previous two Command Conquer RTS games, Red Alert 2 and its expansion pack, Yuri’s Revenge, will note that Generals is highly reminiscent of those games, despite its much improved appearance and its seemingly more conventional array of infantry, tanks, and aircraft. Like in Red Alert 2, battles in Generals are often quick and decisive, largely due to the immense power of many of the game’s units, the presence of devastating super weapons on each side, and the generally fast pace. Also, while each faction has a good variety of units at its disposal, you’ll likely get the impression that the number of unit types per faction was limited so that each unit type could play an important role in most any fight–and also to leave room for an expansion pack. The lack of seafaring units in the game is a disappointing omission, given the importance of ships in most previous Command Conquer games (not to mention in actual modern warfare), but the designers have still done an excellent job of imaginatively differentiating the game’s three sides.
It may not take itself seriously, but Command Conquer: Generals is still a very well-designed real-time strategy game, and it’s unquestionably one of the strongest entries in the series yet. It’s totally first-rate from a technical standpoint, and it’s an all-around fun game to play on top of that, with excellent pacing, great explosions, clever strategic twists, a variety of units, and a fair amount of humor. It takes a few liberties with some of the franchise’s conventions, but the core gameplay of Generals is still very much in the spirit of Command Conquer, and that’s truly the best thing about it.
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