The Command & Conquer name carries with it a hefty burden. Since the first game in the series, C&C has been the mother of all real-time strategies. It's the Wolfenstien 3D of the genre, the originator, the definition. Because of this, developers have, for the most part, been very careful when attaching the Command & Conquer name to a game. When it was revealed by Electronic Arts that EA LA, developers of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, would be creating the fourth and final installment of the C&C series, the excitement was palpable. Now, to an oddly low amount of publicity, Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight has been released, bringing the Tiberium saga to an end.
The story picks up ten years after the events of Kane's Wrath, with humanity on the brink of extinction. Tiberium, the substance which was once the lifeblood of the planet, has grown out of control, and the Earth's years are numbered in the single digits. Kane, leader of the Brotherhood of Nod, arranges a treaty on the Global Defense Initiative in order to stop the spread, which, for the most part, is successful. Years later, hostilities between the factions cause another war, and players are given the option to choose a side to see the last Tiberium War to an end. While it sounds epic, the story is marred by an utterly uninteresting singleplayer campaign, and uncharacteristically bad cinematics. While the Command & Conquer series is known for its use of actors and a low-budget feel instead of CG characters to tell the story, Tiberian Twilight does it poorly, with bad acting and even worse scripts. Low-budget is one thing, but this looks like it was shuffled together by a high-school drama class, which is far from the send-off Command & Conquer deserves.
It wouldn't be so detrimental if the gameplay, too, wasn't so flawed. Command & Conquer's gameplay, for 15 years, has involved building a base, upgrading units, and attacking opponents. EA LA takes a hugely different route, giving players one of three solitary buildings to pick from. Players can choose to either have an offensive, defensive, or support focused base, and can only build a small number of units at first. Instead of collecting resources and purchasing upgrades, as Command & Conquer fans have enjoyed doing since 1995, different units are unlocked by playing. A lot. Experience is earned through singleplayer and multiplayer play, which slowly unlocks units for players. It's just barely an interesting idea, but EA botched the implementation so badly that it's nearly unworkable. It's not uncommon to have a weak, limited army during the opening levels of a singleplayer campaign. Seeing them carry over to multiplayer, when opponents might have a complete army, is ludicrous.
When battles actually occur, they're much smaller than the ones in previous games unless playing cooperatively. Playing with a friend makes the campaign marginally better, as it's very obviously balanced for two players instead of one. There are many times where the opponent has additional bases, which means it's able to create units faster. Since there are no upgrades or resource gathering, it's incredibly difficult alone. Even with a friend, the game is incredibly frustrating due to rock-paper-scissors combat, taken to an entirely new level of annoying. Certain units do enhanced damage to others, as is usually the case in the genre, but it's taken way too far. Large battles will often amount to two groups of opponents doing barely any damage to each other, unless one has a unit with enhanced damage against their armor, in which case it'll take out opponents in a matter of seconds. Technically, it adds more strategy to the game, but that's not always a good thing, especially when the controls end up being needlessly sloppy.
This problem is carried over into the multiplayer, which, while more entertaining, still suffers from balance and gameplay issues. Fans of Command & Conquer will immediately be turned off by the changes, which take away more than they add. The flaws aren't as problematic during multiplayer, since everyone needs to deal with pathetic pathing and mediocre gameplay mechanics, but with so many quality RTS games on the market there isn't any reason to play this one. Being limited in unit selection, too, should send most hardcore C&C fans running for the hills.
Feel no loyalty to this game; it doesn't deserve it. For anyone insistent on seeing how the game ends, it's better to just watch Youtube videos of the cinematics. If you do decide to pick it up, odds are you'll drop out after a few hours, finding the issues more troublesome than they're worth. All of the game's problems can be traced back to the strange choice to completely revamp the gameplay. Some will argue that EA LA's risk should be commended, but that's not the case. They didn't take some bold direction that went unappreciated. They didn't invent a brilliant new gameplay mechanic that simply didn't work as intended. They needlessly reinvented the series during the last installment, cutting out everything that feels even remotely like Command & Conquer. On top of that, the game features draconian DRM, which requires players to be online at all times in order to play. Luckily, the game isn't entertaining enough to justify dealing with it in the first place. There are far worse things than servers not allowing players to play Command & Conquer 4. In fact, it might be beneficial.
So here's what they did. They thought to themselves, "what could we possibly do to end the Command & Conquer series?" They sat in an office and thought about it. They all went home, did research, and came back with lists of things that people have come to expect from Command & Conquer. They read reviews of the previous games, and found everything people enjoyed about Command & Conquer. They even went on forums, and found every instance that anyone uttered something that they loved about Command & Conquer. They took all of these things, put them on a long list, sealed that list in an envelope, and lit it on fire. It was on that day that the creators of Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight made a vow to develop one of the least entertaining real-time strategy games in the past ten years. I'd like to say they were successful.