Thereâ€™s something decidedly fun about playing the latest round of C&C titles, and it comes in the form of the more-than-over-the-top live-action acting used to tell the story. The simplistic, almost static sets with their deliberately uncomplicated lighting (red for evil, blue for good) and Captain Proton-esque
design work perfectly alongside the terrible scripting and equally terrible acting. So much so, youâ€™d be forgiven for wondering if this isnâ€™t just a little deliberately tongue-in-cheek.
This â€˜expansionâ€™ (it was released for PC as an expansion earlier this year) sets things up right after the last new outing for the franchise, Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. However, instead of playing as the GDI (Global Defense Initiative), youâ€™re taking on the role of one of Kaneâ€™s last surviving generals. The Nod have been torn asunder and the prophet Kane has been ridiculed false by various splinter factions in the wake of his death.
Unfortunately for these splinter groups, they couldnâ€™t be further from the truth as Kane is actually very much alive. Not one to come out guns a blazinâ€™ though; he has you working towards rebuilding his army by capturing leaders, technologies and units from the various turncoats floating about the decimated Earth.
For the most part, this is all business as usual, only this time on Xbox 360. If youâ€™ve played C&C3: TW on PC and enjoyed the fight against the Brotherhood and newcomers, Scrin, chances are you've already picked up the Kane's Wrath expansion. Anyone potentially looking to get into this on home-console however, should sit up and pay attention because this is potentially the first step in getting the RTS genre right for the under-the-tellie crowd.
One of the key aspects of any RTS is maintaining a constant vigil on everything you need to manage and micro-manage and this is best done with the keyboard and mouse combo. The ability to quickly use the mouse to select units or utilise constructed hot keys makes this style of game almost impossible to look at on an Xbox 360. That said, EA have done a pretty top-notch job with what they have and after a few missions I found myself caring less and less about a lack of free-form control.
It takes some getting used to, but for the most part controls are doubled up in groupings through the use of the controller triggers. Holding the right trigger in will bring up a command circle which can be siphoned through for various commands based on the structure or unit youâ€™re looking at. Itâ€™s daunting, especially if youâ€™re coming off the simple PC controls, but strangely comfortable given you get used to it and are likely playing the game from the comfort of a couch in your living room as opposed to a desk and chair set-up (not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that).
Gameplay is based on tried and tested RTS rules of power, development, resource gathering, ecnomy and construction. Tiberium here is the key to building your forces and base quickly and youâ€™ll need to harvest it in order to grow. Most maps are riddled with pockets of the stuff and itâ€™s up to you to decide whether or not you want to harvest it all to build a massively powerful army or to power through as quickly as possible.
Typically you can garrison abandoned buildings, have engineers commandeer silos for more cash and resources or to take over enemy bases and units. There are various military unit types, all based on what weâ€™ve seen before from infantry and vehicle to air support and heroes. As mentioned above, while the game is enjoyable and offers a new stretch on the overall C&C narrative, itâ€™s all pretty much business as usual.
C&C3: TW had a host of big names carrying through the gameâ€™s plot. The likes of Michael Ironside (Total Recall, Splinter Cell), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars) and Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica) graced
the screen and with Kaneâ€™s Wrath youâ€™ll see a few other big names as well (particularly Species
hottie, Natasha Henstridge). As mentioned in my intro, itâ€™s all very serious in the delivery department for these actors, so much so that it feels deliberate. Iâ€™d pay to watch a true fan eat this stuff up as gospel, but for the rest of us, itâ€™s almost pure comedy (and eye-candy for Natasha).
Visually the game holds up pretty well on the 360, displaying in 1080p if youâ€™re set up that way. You can zoom in to a relatively close range and have a look at the shiny surfaces and bump-mapping, though itâ€™s not overly high-res, still it looks pretty good in comparison to the PC. Cameras can be swung at a full 360 degrees with an amazingly sensitive sense of freedom. It doesnâ€™t feel locked or rigid, which is what many people would likely fear with the RTS genre on PC.
On the multiplayer front, you can have up to four people playing across Xbox Live with full Live Vision Support (so you can act out your own version of C&C3 character direction inspired by Kane actor, Joe Kucanâ€™s over-the-top performance), and I didnâ€™t really have too many issues putting together games. Servers make a difference, so if you do pick this up on console, be sure to try and hook up with Aussies to ensure the best connection.
While Kaneâ€™s Wrath does little to break its own rule-set, and stands as not much more than extra missions and a new story in the C&C universe (and specifically on PC), it does stands as a leap forward for the genre on home-console, and with Halo Wars not too far away (weâ€™ll be seeing it next month at E3, so stay tuned for more on that) Iâ€™m feeling more and more confident it will be a competent RTS outing for the 360. It might be a bit difficult to swallow picking this up as a stand-alone game when you can just have it as an expansion on PC and have to pay full price for it on 360, but if youâ€™ve never played the series before this isnâ€™t too bad a place to start.