Review by Jiriki-2

Reviewed: 08/13/04

Strategy, War, and That Stupid Matrix Effect

I’ve never understood the popularity of the Command and Conquer franchise. They’re good games, but… they’re not that good. I could be wrong here, but I just feel like the series has outlived its time. There used to be a more distinctive, unseen element to the games, but Westwood never developed them past that point. Sure, the C&C games were the pioneers of RTS gaming, but they just don’t stand the test of time.

Westwood, in its final effort before leaving the game industry, has created the last installment to the series with Command and Conquer: Generals. This chapter is more of the same, really, but in a good way. Gone are the overly cartoonish story elements, mostly. Instead, they have made the decision to focus on a more “mature” story, by making the three playable forces the Americans, the Chinese, and the terrorist organization called the GLA.

Westwood did a great job of, at the very least, making the three sides markedly different. The Americans focus heavily on technology, and as such their units cost much more than other factions’ do, but provide a much heavier attack. The Chinese focus on power, with heavy tanks and brutal weapons as their backbone. The GLA, who are unfortunately painfully underbalanced, resort to craftier means, with suicide bombers and an arsenal of toxic weapons at their disposal. The three sides were refreshingly unique after playing games of Age of Mythology for months, and I was happy to see that no characters were shared between all three factions. All units are unique, and all add new strategies to the game.

This is one of the key things that I like about this game: every unit adds another element to the strategy pie. There are no units that are completely pointless, or that are just like the one next to it. Every one has specific strengths and weaknesses. Many RTS fans won’t agree with me when I say this, but I really like the rock-paper-scissors design of that. Although it’s a bit simpler, it just makes the game a bit more fun when there’s no learning curve. Although I like deeper games, there comes a point where I just prefer a game where I can go in without learning about armor and damage types, and memorizing the percentages and numbers involved with that.

The actual product is pretty impressive. The graphics look great, especially on a high quality system, and the sound is pretty good as well. But Westwood could have done so much more with this game, and that’s really why I’m not very enamored with it. The UI is bulky and annoying, and there are little problems that mess with the entire game.

The worst bug has led me to lose many games. When your idle units are attacked in this game, they don’t automatically fight back. Why? I have no idea. It seems like a very stupid bug to leave in a game, even if later patches fix it. Here’s a piece of advice: if you get the game, download the patches.

The single player campaign is good, but still flawed. You play through the game as any of the three sides, in an order of your choice. Again, the little problems that would be easy to fix come into play. Campaign games autosave, so instead of going to an actual campaign menu, you load from autosaves to continue your campaign. It’s not a huge issue, but I can’t imagine just having a gradually unlockable list of campaign maps for every side would be a huge thing to fix. Also, I want the person who recommended using the damn Matrix effect every five seconds fired.

In all, Command and Conquer: Generals is a decent game. If you run across it in a bargain bin, check it out. Otherwise, 50 dollars is just too much to spend on it. It’ll supply you with a decent amount of fun, at a cheap price. Just be sure to, y'know, download the patches. Because otherwise it's just dogwater. Yeah, you heard me.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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