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Critical Reception: EA's Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars

Gamasutra examines the largely positive online reaction to Electronic Arts' Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, a long-awaited sequel in the Command & Conquer Tiberian subseries - average ratings, review synopses, and conclusions inside.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Electronic Arts' Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, a long-awaited sequel in the Command & Conquer Tiberian subseries. Though Command & Conquer is one of the most well-known and popular series in the real-time strategy genre, the franchise's initial Tiberian subseries has not seen a real sequel since the 1999 release of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. The last fans had heard from the Tiberian storyline was in 2002, which saw the debut of Command & Conquer: Renegade, a first-person shooter spinoff title. As a long-awaited RTS follow-up in the subseries that launched one of EA's most popular PC franchises, Command & Conquer 3 faces an especially tough reception from both fans and critics alike. As of now, Gamerankings.com's average review score ratio of 86% offers a good sign that the sequel has lived up to its high expectations. GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd scores Command & Conquer 3 at 9 out of 10. "If you're a fan of the Command & Conquer series, three small words are bound to get you excited: Kane is back," he begins. "But Tiberium Wars is a lot more than just lip service to franchise enthusiasts, and you don't need the rose-hued glasses of nostalgia to appreciate its polish and intensity. It's simply a superb game that's fun and exciting to play both online and off." VanOrd describes Tiberium Wars as being "a rusher's paradise," in comparison to the genre's more recent and more deliberately paced entries. "If you're usually content to turtle up in real-time strategy games, you're in for a surprise: Battles are intense and focused, and they give you little time to prepare," he explains. "Once you get past the first two acts of each campaign, you'll discover that Tiberium Wars' artificial intelligence is aggressive and resourceful, and it will take advantage of your strategic flaws." "Regardless of your history with Kane and his cohorts," Vanord concludes, "Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is one of the finest real-time strategy games in years. It's also a triumphant return to form for the series, because it's more than just a graphical update--it's an exciting, well-tuned experience with enough that's old and enough that's new to thrill old-timers and newcomers alike." Tom Chick at Yahoo Games is much more critical of Command & Conquer 3, despite his high rating of 4 out of 5 stars. "Don't judge Command & Conquer 3 by its single-player campaigns with their live action cinematics, in which the cast meanders through bad lighting and worse dialogue," he warns. "Then there are the campaign missions themselves. Defend the base, destroy the base, escort the trucks, use the commando. Defend the base, destroy the base, escort the trucks, use the commando. And so on. This is tedious trick-based RTSing at its worst, where the challenge comes from gimping the game by locking out certain units or features, or by using scripting that does an end run around the rules." "It sounds pretty bleak so far," he admits. However: "If you're okay with playing skirmishes and multiplayer games, Command & Conquer 3 has a lot to offer. This is a slightly sloppy, mostly grand, over-the-top, popcorn RTS that's surprisingly satisfying and easily the best Command & Conquer yet." Chick explains that while Tiberium Wars may seem simplistic in many areas in comparison to more recent real-time strategy games, this simplicity works to its advantage. "In this regard, Command & Conquer 3 is an unequivocal success, modest in its aims and wildly successful in achieving them," he writes. "The secret is that there isn't any secret, or special twist, or unique hook, or innovation. It's formulaic and unambitious, content to revisit the formula Westwood introduced back when they were competing with Blizzard as the only RTS game-makers in town." "Command & Conquer 3 might be a disappointment for players who want reinvented wheels underneath their real-time strategy games. It's RTS comfort food: safe, familiar, and probably not even that memorable," Chick summarizes. "But for those of us who love the genre and where it's going, it nice to know that we can still have a grand time in the same old places it's already been." 1UP.com's Matt Peckham, on the other hand, feels that one of Tiberium Wars' greatest assets is the personality found in its cutscenes -- something he cites as lacking in its RTS peers. "Whether it's Tricia Helfer preaching you up in punky fishnets, Josh Holloway drawling like everyone's favorite Southern-fried wiseass, or even the terrific Michael 'Sam Fisher' Ironside coaxing plausibility out of the script's predictable military hoo-hah," Peckham says in reference of the game's full-motion video sequences, "personality's the reason why you really can't miss Tiberium Wars." "It's not just a great RTS," he continues in his 9-out-of-10-rated review, "it's a 'Katie bar the door!' revival of steely actors staring you straight in the eye and declaiming 'Save our bacon or else!'" Gameplay-wise, Peckham describes Tiberium Wars as exciting and fast-paced. "For all its subtleties, C&C3 might as well be subtitled 'speed trumps tactics,'" he writes. "You can have your base laid down and upgraded in minutes, and in battles -- save for long-range weaponry -- positioning means little. Winning's all about swiftly countering one unit type with another, or simply overwhelming the enemy with superior numbers of just about anything." Peckham acknowledges that Tiberium Wars' hammy actors and frantic gameplay may be a turnoff for some. "But then, that's what a C&C game does, after all," he writes. "Real actors, over-the-top stories, hyperkinetic special effects, and straight-up pulp without any silly self-awareness. Let the RTS wonks and contrarians toss it overboard for what it regurgitates -- it won't be one iota less entertaining." With its adherence to old-school ideals, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars will likely appeal the most to gamers who have been following the real-time strategy genre for a number of years. For those gamers -- and for others looking for something a little different from what the genre typically offers today -- Tiberium Wars should offer a satisfying experience worthy of the franchise.

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