Review by jonmphy

"Cheeky, but in a good way?"

Electronic Arts takes the Command and Conquer series' departure from the dichotomy of the good GDI and the bad NOD to a more ''realistic'' worldview and overhauls the entire engine, to mixed effect.

Command & Conquer: Generals is an absolutely beautiful game with imaginative units for three entirely different factions. Its graphics are incredibly detailed and the units now play in a fully 3D environment for total immersion in total war. Everything from the muzzle-flash from the Humvees to the sinister laughter from the Scud Launcher driver shows incredible attention to detail by EA's programmers. Even the ''angry mob,'' which is a buildable unit, lets out a ''all your base are belong to us!'' every once in a while, and you see each individual carrying molotov cocktails or pistols ready to unleash heck on whoever they meet... that is, until a napalm-laden MiG fighter jet comes and gives its interpretation of Scorched Earth policy. With such resourceful characters, say goodbye to the tank rush!

However, it is just in those characters that might give a bit of light as to why EA made its first departure from the C&C line, especially with actor cameos and intro videos. I seriously doubt any self-respecting actor, unless he was Bruce Willis, would want his name on the box of this game, which takes stereotypes and hyperbolic exaggerations just one step too far.

Whether or not Electronic Arts based the opposing factions on the fighting in Baghdad or Kabul or Mogadishu or Beirut is irrelevant; the fact that the terrorists are of vague muslim decent is obvious. Every Global Liberation Army building is referential to mosque architecture, even copying the domes. The USA missions start with invading Baghdad, and watching the GLA launch Scuds at civilians. The majority of GLA missions involve attacking civilians, and if not civilians they're attacking other factions of the GLA.

Portraying near-future China as a carbon copy of a cartoonish 60's-70's cultural revolution China is silly - perhaps an intended jest - but the fact that all the units sound like a National Lampoon impression on take-out restaurant clerks is quite suspect. A lot of China's missions involve burning its own cities to the ground in order to spite the GLA rebels.

If EA wanted to take a humorous jab at red hordes, suicide bombers, and Reaganesque US war machines, it could not have picked a worse time to do so. To skip a long diatribe about the state of affairs in the war, let me just prejudicate that C&C: Generals will not make as big a sales impact in the EU.

Anyway.

The three different sides do effectly change one's tactics for victory, which is most definitely a very big plus for multiplayer games. And don't get me wrong, this is a multiplayer game: With the lack of mission cinematics, and the plotless single player campaign, Generals really only excels and shines in the multiplayer arena. Politics aside, this game has as much visceral action as can possibly be asked from an adoring C&C fan. There's still that tingly feeling when you halt an opponent's ''unbeatable'' tank column with a strategically placed General's point in A-10 Warthog attacks. Or an EMP bomb. Or hit-and-run technicals, or car bombs, or - America's favorite - 1001 deaths from above.

All in all, this is a really enjoyable and pretty game with about as much depth as Black Hawk Down.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/02/03, Updated 04/02/03


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