The original Command and Conquer brought together two key elements in such a way that it became an instant hit. The first element was its fast strategy gameplay, involving simple base building, research and combat, all wrapped up in an easy interface that anyone could use. This alone would have made a winning game, but developer Westwood went one step further and threw in a tacky, B-grade cinematic story, making the moments between each mission just as fun as the game itself. This combination put C&C into the PC gaming zeitgeist, but the series lost its way, failing to repeat its initial success (the excellent Red Alert spin-off notwithstanding).
Now, C&C is back. And when we say it’s back, we mean Westwood had a good long look at what they’d been doing over the past decade and threw it all away. This is C&C as you remember it, complete with all the dodgy acting and simple gameplay that made the original so compelling – and with a facelift that makes it one of the best looking RTS games ever.
The junk food story bears all the hallmarks of the original. That wonderful crystal Tiberium is still around, but the mega armies of the Global Defence Initiative and the militant terrorists at the Brotherhood of Nod still can’t seem to get along. There’s also a third force thrown into the mix, the alien Scrin, armed with mysterious weaponry and a bond with the mystical crystalline resource, Tiberium.
The game itself consists of classic, objective-based missions. Simple ‘destroy the enemy’ tasks play a large role, but you’ll often find yourself with a handful of units and a small base, then incrementally advancing through the objectives. This linear ‘hand holding’ can be frustrating, particularly if you just want to get on with the conquering, but the objectives are paced just right, and the challenges are varied and entertaining.
The interface is similarly traditional, but it’s quick and easy to get into. You can carefully plan out waypoints, giving you more strategic control, or you can just hit ‘Q’, select all your units, and throw them at the enemy base.
Finally, those in-between moments of cinema represent the best of the worst movies you’ve seen – and it’s marvellous. B-grade actors abound, including Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers), Josh Holloway (Lost) and Billy Dee Williams (Empire Strikes Back), and they give it their all as they bark orders at you before a blue screen.
C&C 3 is exactly how it should be. It can be simple, and sometimes repetitive, but that’s all part of it. It’s not meant to have the sweeping grand strategy of Supreme Commander, nor is it meant to have the fine-grained tactics of Company of Heroes. It’s C&C, it’s popcorn, and it’s a classic.