Review by MC Grammar

"Definitely a mixed bag, but with great results in the end."

Ah, Command and Conquer, my old nemesis. The series has gone through ups and downs, twists and turns, but now we reach the most unique incarnation of C&C yet-- Generals!

Generals takes all of the rules, mechanics, and general feel of the other C&C/Red Alert games, mixes them around a bit, and comes out with a fine product. It is a very unique game (by RTS standards, anyway). It is not as smash & grab as the other C&C games, but not as slow-paced as Warcraft 3. It feels like a mix of both, really. On with the meat of the review...

Ehm... no, just no. Not ''no'' in the sense that the story is bad, but ''no'' in the sense that there really was no story. Any story that there is, however, can be picked up simply by looking at the box covers-- the GLA are mean terrorists, get 'em! That's about it. No matter, RTS story-lines have never been all that enthralling anyway.

Graphics, Animations, and Atmosphere
Beeeeautiful! Everything from the way the occupants of an enemy Jeep fly from the inside and out onto the cold pavement, to the way trees fall over as the Chinese over-lord tanks rumble atop them. Beautiful. Everything has been taken into consideration to make this game seem like a living, breathing, world. If your paratroopers happen to be falling to the ground above an area that has been doused in flames, their parachutes will catch fire. Really. It doesn't seem like much, but little things like that really add a lot to the feeling of submersion.
However, these graphics come at a steep system cost. Even at the lowest graphics systems, many computers chug during the larger battles. However, with no unit cap (a la WC3), it is a truly formidable task in itself to make ANY computer handle some of the massive 600 unit tank battles that often ensue between you and your soon-to-be-vanquished enemy.

You play as one of 3 factions-- the versatile GLA, the technological Americans, or the all-powerful Chinese. Each team has a very distinct way of playing the game. The GLA rely heavily on being able to get from point A to point B is a matter of seconds (plus a dosage of Anthrax or eight helps...). The Americans rely on their far superior intelligence system to get the edge on its' opponent, allowing for preparation of defenses and immediate counter-attacks. The Chinese, on the other hand, require neither of these-- they rely on brute force alone! From the devastation of a nuclear war-head, to the ogre-like power of the massive Overlord tanks, the Chinese get it done!
The single player campaigns of Generals leave much to be desired. The missions lack much originality, and usually revolve solely around destroying Enemy X or to protect Objective Y. Yawn.
However, the skirmish mode remains a bringer of good times. The all-out speed of the skirmish mode is great for those 15 minute gaming sprees on your lunch break.
The online play is hit-and-miss. The games are often laggy (even on broadband), but if you happen to get a good game going, hold your breath. The diversity of player strategies is awe-inspiring, and you can go from biting your nails in fear to cackling maniacally as you fry your opponent in a matter of minutes. Games often last for several hours, with the balance of power almost guaranteed to switch several times over.
The game interface reeks of WC3 (not that this is bad), and many tried-and-true mechanics that have been with C&C from the beginning are now gone. No more engineer rushes, boys and girls. The old side-bar is gone in exchange for a Blizzard-like ''select your building and choose what to create from in there'' style of unit creation. Also, workers/dozers are now needed to create buildings.
None of these things deter from game-play, of course. In fact, it is actually quite refreshing to see a new interface in a C&C game. It takes the WC3 interface and sticks it in Red Alert. It is a LOT of fun!
In the game there are many different things that you can do to win. You can go for the all-out tank rush, or you can go for a more cunning approach, relying on your super-weapons and a squad of elite soldiers. Try knocking out the power with your super-weapon(s), and then sending your smaller army in to pick up the pieces. Or, as I said, you can simply make 50 tanks and laugh.

Wonderful! From the proud speech of the American 'Dozers (''Made in the U-S-of A!''), to the unmistakable wail of a terrorist bomber as he flings himself into a crowd of Americans-- everything is spot-on! The music is not as memorable as previous C&C games, but it does the job none-the-less.

Final Thoughts
So, yes, despite its' short-comings, Generals proves a worthy successor to Yuri's Revenge, and firmly erases the smudge on the C&C series placed by Tiberian Sun. The game does something that Westwood/EA Pacific seems to have been afraid to do-- it changes things around! The game is a refreshing twist from the ordinary that I would recommend highly above WC3 or even Age of Mythology.

The Good:
-Excellent skirmish mode allows for spontaneous fun
-Potential for deep, involving online experience
-The new interface gives C&C a breath of fresh air
-Maddening, chaotic fun!

The Bad:
-No story-line to speak of
-Online game-play can sometimes lag (even with broadband)
-Uninspired campaigns

The Ugly:

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/27/03, Updated 02/27/03

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