I love Command & Conquer. I’ve played every C&C title since the demo of the very first C&C game came out sometime around 1994. Most of them have been terrific, and the ones that haven’t (I’m looking at you, Tiberium Sun) have still been enjoyable. But now I’m part of the C&C 4 beta and everything has changed.
The beta consists purely of online multiplayer. No campaign; no skirmish.
When I first entered the game lobby I announced that this was my first time playing. I was immediately told by a rival player that since he’s a level 30 and I’m a level 1, that I should probably just quit and find a new lobby because this one won’t be fun for me.
Let’s stop for a moment and think about everything that is wrong with that. First, upon starting the game I’m told by a fan that I won’t have fun. Wow, that’s encouraging.
Second, I don’t expect to win my first round of an RTS unless the person I’m playing against is also playing his/her first round and I just happen to click faster than they do. That’s not the point though- the game should be fun EVEN FOR THE LOSER.
Finally, the reason he stated it wouldn’t be fun isn’t that these guys are all experienced and I’m not, but because they are all around level 30 and I’m not. So now the level of player enters into it- this means that lower level, under-experienced players don’t have access to the same tech trees as higher level players. It used to be in C&C games, starting with Generals I believe, that you level up throughout the course of a given round of the game, gaining access to better and bigger means of destruction, but this game has introduced a mechanic that allows for the leveling to occur over the course of many rounds, persisting your rank and giving you more advanced tech the more you play. Modern Warfare anyone? This isn’t C&C.
The gameplay of a given round is different, too. No more harvesting! The means of resource gathering used in every C&C ever (except Renegade!) is gone in favor of control points, ala Dawn of War 2. In fact, this game plays JUST LIKE DoW 2, except with cartoony graphics and persistent leveling in multiplayer.
When C&C Generals was released, it was a pretty direct response to Warcraft 3, another great RTS. The GUI was altered to work a little more like WC3 and the construction was centered around engineering units rather than a generalized build menu. So now we have a C&C4 that is a direct answer to the success of DoW2, just as Generals was an answer to WC3.
The largest complaint I’ve heard against the C&C series is how little it has changed over the years. I complained a small bit when C&C 3 came out and it was just C&C 1 and 2 with a fancier engine. It’s still a fun gameplay style though so I quickly got over it and enjoyed the game as well as the Kane’s Wrath expansion.
At this point in the core C&C series though, the gamers who pick it up are traditionally going to be the hardcore fans who have given up on change. What they want is the classic C&C gameplay with yet another fancier engine. It’s nostalgic, modern, and fun all wrapped up together. But what they’re giving us is innovation (even though its Relic’s DoW2 innovation) in the fourth and final entry in a long running epic series that has never known innovation. We don’t want that now! It’s too late to change the game so drastically!
What they could have done though, is keep the C&C4 experience the same as the others, making the long-term fans happy and released this style of game play under another name… Generals 2. That way, they could continue the awesome universe established with C&C Generals and use the DoW2 gameplay to combat Relic, all while gracefully ending the Tiberium saga with a more traditional and separate C&C title.
Oh well. I’ll probably still buy the game when it gets cheap, if for no other reason so that I maintain my status of always owning every C&C title. But I won’t be happy about it.