Written by Tom Hynes
After playing Command And Conquer 3 and being pretty underwhelmed by it and how it seemed to have taken a step backwards in terms of evolution, I decided to look to the last game I remember playing of this franchise that took steps forward. Command And Conquer Generals was an unusual one for the C&C franchise as it decided to give it’s take on modern day warfare rather than pursuing its 2 main story arcs of GDI Vs. Nod and Soviet Vs. Allies in Red Alert respectively. It also for only the second time in it’s history gave you 3 sides to choose from instead of the usual 2 which breathed a new life into an already exciting prospect of a game.
So you’re given the choice of taking command of China, The GLA or the USA. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses and are all very distinguishable from one another. China have a plethora of heavy tanks and artillery, nuclear capabilities as well as aircraft but have few options when it comes to stealth and infantry mostly relying on the brute force of their tanks and sheer numbers to overwhelm their opponents. The GLA are more geared towards swift attacking with a large number of light tanks and vehicles at their disposal, a lot of infantry plus they utilize chemical warfare which tears through infantry with ease. They also have a great variety of upgrades to better arm their units and have plenty of anti aircraft weaponry as they have no aerial unit capabilities themselves. The USA are the all rounders as they have elements of both sides, plenty of variety in infantry, tanks and superweapons and probably the best air force over the Chinese but not by much.
The single player campaigns have a continuing story that flow nicely into each other in both the main Generals campaign and the add on Zero Hour. It’s intersected with short cutscenes usually comprising of a news report from the faction you’re playing as and a short briefing then the rest of the action is played out by in game cutscenes which are set out with great care and always look very genuine. The missions themselves are cleverly laid out and can be pretty frantic and demanding at times. Even on medium difficulty the AI finds ways to attempt poking holes in your defences and not letting you rest on your laurels. Even if you think you’ve made a perfect defense barrier it’ll usually find a way of making you intervene taking your focus away from building up that strike force you were preparing.
Watching The Action Play Out
Sending a strike force out from your base is almost as satisfying as watching it engage your enemy. Every unit is well animated and hold it’s own significance on the battlefield but equally a lot of thought was put into these units being destroyed too. Seeing your infantry being burned by flamethrowers, ran down by a legion of tanks or melted by chemicals is never anything any General wants to see but at least when they are it looks convincing. Explosions, small arms fire, missiles and lasers all look vibrant and convincing and create a great representation of a chaotic and convincing battlefield.
Self Sustaining Economies
A staple of C&C games has always been to gather the most resources the fastest in order to gain the credits to assemble a large enough force to take on your enemies. In Generals however, each army has their own way of independently gaining monetary resources without having to do the usual resource gathering. They each cost a fair amount to start up but once you’ve got enough of these up and running you’ll have more credits coming in than you can spend which makes building an army a matter of time rather than money.
Having large amounts of money generating means you don’t have to wait very long to construct super weapons either. Sure, you can send huge amounts of units to your enemy’s base or you can build up your defenses and build a multiple amounts of super weapons and let them do your job for you. Unless playing a multiplayer match where multiple super weapons are disallowed you can sit back and amass an arsenal of nuclear silos, particle cannons or SCUD storms to rain down on your enemy’s base without having to move any of your units at all if you wish.
Just in case super weapons weren’t enough you can also earn extra firepower by destroying enemy units and being promoted. This is gained in a similar way to gaining XP and levelling up, destroy enemy units or buildings and you’ll gain points towards towards your next rank. The rewards that can be picked do hold some super weapon esque qualities such as EMP bombs, anthrax bombs and long range heavy artillery strikes but there are other more tactical options such as unlocking new units for production, paratroop drops, spy drones, stealing credits from enemy supply depots and a variety of others. It adds real credence to making you feel in control of the fight and the ability to turn the tide with this variety of tactical options that are at your disposal.
I’ve really enjoying re-playing this game, I recently tried Red Alert 3 to see how it measures up to Generals and I still far prefer Generals to it. Whilst Generals may not be attempting to be quite as innovative as RA3 it feels a lot more solid to play and has a bigger sense of satisfaction and achievement once you manage to get your base up and running smoothly and when you mobilise your forces to level an enemy stronghold it’s extremely exciting to direct the attack and watch it unfold in front of you. If you’re craving an old time strategy game fix without sacrificing too much in the way of graphics then C&C Generals and it’s add on Zero Hour are fully worth taking the time to revisit.