Review by RareMerc
"Good fun, but not without its flaws."
Since 1995, Real Time Strategy Gamers have hunkered down and fought virtual wars from their virtual foxholes through one primary outlet: The Command and Conquer series. The games released in this ever-growing franchise have combined a good sense of real-world military tactics with a campy sense of fun, futuristic, oddball weapons and units, and an overall sense of mayhem. The newest release, C&C Generals, continues to follow suit with other games, especially C&C Red Alert 2, that have been released before it, but also adopts quite a bit from other exterior sources, primarily Blizzard's Warcraft III. The result is a game that deviates a bit from what hard-core RTS gamers would expect, and has quite a few flaws, but still manages to deliver a great deal of entertainment, regardless of whether you're an armchair commander or just somebody looking to eradicate people via tank.
The first thing anybody will notice about Generals is the fact that it utilizes a completely new graphics engine, and as a result, looks better than any C&C game released before it. The terrain graphics are smooth and very lifelike in their appearance; trees, mountains, deserts, towns, cities, and forests are all overwhelmingly convincing. Many of the explosion and weaponry effects are also top notch. Tracers, heavy explosions, and flame effects are all there, and they all look excellent, especially the effect produced by using a nuclear weapon, which is so lifelike, its almost scary. Unfortunately, the unit graphics are a mixed bag. Most of the units look decent, and from a distance, there's nothing all that visually offensive about any of them. But zoom in, and you'll start to see that the units themselves are very blocky and somewhat drab. I was especially disappointed with the infantry unit graphics, which consisted basically of a small little block figure toting what looked like a large tree limb. And that was on the highest graphical detail setting, which means that users with lower end systems with be in for quite a bit of ugliness. Overall, graphics earn a 7.
Here's an area where little if any fault can be found. The explosions, gunfire, aircraft engines, tanks, and any other ambience found in the game all sound superb. I was very much so impressed by the battle chatter; in the thick of combat, the units banter excitedly. Some of it can be pretty funny, and all of it intensifies the feeling that you're commanding troops in a heated battle. The combat chatter can get to be a little incessant after a while, but you probably won't notice it, and it doesn't detract for the experience. The only bad part of the audio aspect is the poorly dubbed accents; Chinese soldiers sound like Alf on a bad day, and Arab soldiers sound like space aliens of some sort. Sound receives a solid 8.
The most important area of the game. Generals has quite a few things going for it in the game play department, and it is here that the most glaring flaws appear. In game, unit and structure management is handled like Warcraft III, build a base, plunder supplies to earn cash, crank out units of varying types, kill things and complete your objectives, repeat. This might sound boring, but it can be tremendous fun. There are three main unit types in the game: infantry, armored, and aerial. Naval units have been omitted, which doesn't really detract from the game at all. What units you are presented with all possess strengths and weaknesses. For instance, RPG soldiers are strong against tanks, which are strong against infantry, but weak against aerial units. Many units have secondary functions, as well: Rangers can use flash bangs, and Chinooks choppers (usually used for supply transportation) can be used to air lift soldiers. All of these elements add up nicely, and offer many good RTS elements. One problem, however, is that the unit strengths and weaknesses aren't as pronounced as many would like them to be. In the end, it doesn't really matter what unit you use, as long as you have enough to overwhelm your enemy. This is a minor problem, however, when compared to what I consider to be the game's biggest flaw, which would be basically the entire single player campaign. Firstly, the missions are mostly pretty fun, but they can get tedious, and fast. And then there's the AI. The enemy AI is very good at times; unfortunately, friendly AI can be spotty. Units sometimes sit there and take fire from an enemy only feet away, sometimes to the point of their own destruction. Furthermore, with the exception of a slightly vague plot involving terrorist plots, there is pretty much no story to tie missions together and create a sense of cohesion. You're a general, you have troops, you kill the enemy. That's it. This doesn't really hurt the game, but some details as to faction motivations and things like that would have been nice. The good thing is, the single player campaign is just the icing on the cake. Jump online, and the game takes on its true form. Online battles against human opponents can be very fun and immensely entertaining, and in the release version I played, things were very stable. Patches need not apply, for now. In conclusion, the single player falls a bit flat, but the multiplayer component shines. Game play receives an 8.
There's tons of replay, to put it simply. Online play offers an almost unlimited amount of replay. The single player aspect can get a bit old, but with three different factions and several difficulty settings, it will entertain you for a decent length of time. Replay receives an 8.
Buy or rent: It may be disappointing to some RTS veterans, but I enjoy the game, and would recommend that anyone interested in the genre to pick it up. A rent probably wouldn't do it justice.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/26/03, Updated 02/26/03
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