A game review by Bobulous.
A game by Westwood. Long-awaited and overhyped sequel to the amazing, mid-Nineties classic: Command & Conquer. Take strategic command of an army and go use it to kick your enemy's ass.
£29.99 at Electronics Boutique in Sutton.
No problems at all.
Tiberian Sun can be very quickly summarised if you've played the original Command & Conquer. Imagine exactly the same game but with the following differences:
and that's it. Literally. So, if you liked the original lots, and don't mind playing with the same engine again, you may as well go buy this.
For those of you not familiar with the original game Command & Conquer, it goes like this...
Pick an army, any army: GDI (Global Defense Initiative) or The Brotherhood Of NOD (assumed to be some Biblical reference). GDI want to save humanity from the unpredictable and violent whims of NOD; NOD want to implement their "technology of peace" and change the world to suit them. Both armies are more than happy to kill everyone in their path to achieve their humanitarian goal. And, you'll be delighted to hear, they're both more than equipped to do so, offering land, sea, air and subterranean troops and vehicles. So, where do you come into all this? You get to order them all around!!!
The interface is easy to use. Click on a unit or drag-select a group of units and then click where you want them to move to, or what you want them to attack. Anything you're attacking will have a health-bar that will start off green, go yellow, and then red before the enemy unit bites the dust. And that's pretty much all you need to know, though there are extras like telling your units to guard, or creating waypoints that form a path for your units to follow. It's also very helpful to assign groups of units to teams, so you can quickly select them and centre on them by hitting a number on the keyboard.
Money is made by harvesting valuable Tiberium crystals from around the map and getting them to a refinery. Losing your harvester or your refinery is bad news, so there's a big importance in defending your money-maker (no joke intended).
The skill in the game comes from coordinating your units to attack at the right moment, and in using the strengths of one type of unit to compensate for the weaknesses of another unit. For instance, the artillery unit has an incredible range, so it's great for attacking the enemy base; but it's barely armoured and a couple of shots will destroy it immediately. So you have to defend it with suitably hard units of another type. It's not as simple as it sounds, and while a poor strategist might succeed against the computer in the single-player campaign, he'll be slaughtered and humiliated in multiplayer battles against other human players.
In single-player campaign mode, you follow a linear set of missions you must complete to progress. Each mission comes with a full-motion video briefing, starring a bunch of good actors including Michael Biehn (from The Terminator, Aliens and, ahem, Navy Seals). The videos add a greater sense of purpose to your task as supreme commander, though you may find yourself less than happy to be fighting for NOD when you see how they operate. And, of course, you get a final video when you complete the last mission. GDI's end-video is suitably bland (as in Command & Conquer) and NOD's end-video is suitably over the top.
Tiberian Sun is a good game, and as much fun as Command & Conquer was. But it could have been so much more...
For a start, there's the unshakeable feeling that Westwood did nothing to the engine but up its resolution and use a different graphics system for the units. I really wouldn't be taken aback if someone told me that 95% of Tiberian Sun's code was taken straight from Command & Conquer, and, after it's been five years since C&C, there really shouldn't be that feeling. There's also the niggling feeling that Westwood just don't play their own games. Problems that have you swearing: "how could they leave a flaw like that in the game", and the fact that the High-Score Board doesn't put names in order of score, it just dumps them in order of play. Which is ridiculous.
Saddest of all is the fact Westwood have ignored all the headway made in interfaces in similar games over the years. You'd have to play the games to understand, but one big example is the waypoint system in Tiberian Sun. It is truly useless in hectic situations, and it's hardly worth using at any other time. And, after so many years, why haven't we got Tiberian Sun in three-dimensions? It's certainly possible with current technology, but we're still forced to see our battlefield from an overhead view. Instead, we're offered a battlefield that you can damage with powerful weapons, making bloody great craters everywhere. This is all well and nice but, as a friend pointed out, if the engine is so smart, why can't we refill craters and make the land useful again? So much could have been done so much better.
At the least, though, one or two big bugs have been fixed from previous games. The harvester no longer is driven by Stevie Wonder (actually, I'd like to apologise for that comment: Stevie Wonder could have done a better job than the drivers in the old harvesters) and groups of units don't infuriatingly split every time they get to a narrow passage on the map. Also, the variety of units is very nice, with NOD and GDI being distinctly different in their strengths and weaknesses. So the game, old-style or not, is greatly more playable and strategic. So it's not all bad.