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Hell march: hands-on with Command & Conquer

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 16:15 GMT By Dave Cook

Command & Conquer is making a comeback as a huge free-to-play experience later this year. Dave Cook goes hands-on to see if it lives up to Westwood’s legacy.

Command & Conquer

Developed by Victory Games, Command & Conquer is free-to-play and will launch with factions and units from the ‘Generals’ timeline.

The studio told VG247 that it would add the Tiberium and Red Alert timelines to the game after launch, as well as exploring entirely new fictions.

Powered by DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine, Command & Conquer is looking rather lovely. See EA’s latest gameplay screens here.

Although it’s free, Command & Conquer will feature multiplayer and single player skirmshes against bots at launch, but no solo campaigns. Those come later, we were told.

The impact of Command & Conquer shouldn’t be understated. It brought the notion of RTS gameplay to a wider audience and led fans on to other titles such as StarCraft and Company of Heroes.

It has a long and mostly-accomplished history, but I get the impression that opinions have waned in recent years. EA and Victory Games seem to know it too, as they’re stripping the series back to its bare bones in this latest release.

Although it was originally announced as the second instalment in the ‘Generals’ strain of C&C games, it’s now simply called ‘Command & Conquer’. There’s significance to the name.

Victory’s plan for its free-to-play game is to launch it as a C&C Generals title, then create off-shoots focused on the Tiberium and Red Alert canon further down the line.

At a recent EA showcase event, I was also told that the studio wants to explore new timelines beyond these three varied settings, based on entirely new fiction.

For now however, Command & Conquer focuses on the mechanics and timeline of Generals, giving players the option of controlling three initial factions. Thanks to the power of microtransactions, the studio has plans to add more groups over time, as well as new generals that will add specific bonuses to your army. I was told that some content will be free, but that remains to be seen.

First up is the European Union, which is the game’s high-tech faction. Their ace in the hole is the Railgun Tank, a lumbering, ferocious monster that can overwhelm opponents in large numbers. I asked the developer sitting next to me if tank rush was going to be a pain in the tits this time round, but I was assured that it won’t be a ‘win-all’ strategy.

On that note, the Asia-Pacific Alliance faction is absolutely geared towards swarming opponents with a sheer volume of infantry units. Their squads take less time to build, so there is potential for rolling large teams of varied units across the map. Fail to keep the swarm balanced however and they’ll be flattened in moments.

Finally, the Global Liberation Army is the game’s resident terrorist group, and gives rise to what Victory is calling ‘improvised’ play. It’s a faction that must react to whatever opponents are doing on the fly, using stealth and subversion rather than brute force. It also comes with two unique tech trees called ‘Salvage’ and ‘Toxin’.

My play-test begins in control of the Asia-Pacific Alliance faction on an African map called Blood Diamond. It didn’t take long for all of the classic C&C thought processes to return as I created power stations to keep the juice flowing, started training troops in my barracks and sent my resource harvesters out to salvage scrap.

It felt like classic C&C even if a few things had changed. The presence of two power tiers for electricity and oil takes some getting used to. You need a mix of both to create more advanced vehicles, so you need to place oil derricks and power stations around your base to keep them topped up.

While previous C&C games would see your ore or Tiberium trucks intuitively seeking out resources, here you must direct them to salvage caches dotted around the map. Not only do these stockpiles create suitable hubs for base expansion, or new sites altogether, but they can give rise to skirmishes over resources.

Everything feels natural if you’re a fan of the series. Old tactics such as being able to garrison buildings with troops, and create advanced facilities to access higher tech trees will be familiar to veterans, suggesting that Victory Games is keen to recapture the essence of the series.

New tricks such as placing propaganda towers near troops – thereby giving them a health boost – add tactical breadth to each encounter, but of course nothing beats a good old battle between the muscle of infantry and tanks. As a way of testing out the developer’s claim that tank rush was no longer an option, I created a huge batch of assorted tanks and rolled them up the map to my opponent’s base.

The Frostbite 2 engine kicked in as my tanks crunched over cars, causing them to burst in a shower of nuts, bolts and shrapnel, revealing more of the map’s fog of war as I advanced. Everything felt chunky and satisfying, making me believe I was unstoppable, but after reaching my enemy’s base my tank brigade was reduced to ash in moments. I felt like a wally.

Instead, what you really need is to tap in into the rock, paper, scissors mentality of battle by creating troop and vehicle types that will counter attacks of any form. Aircraft, ground-to-air defence vehicles and a mix of standard and special infantry – I recommend the flamethrower troops – are all needed to back up your tank squads.

I think this is the most important element of a solid strategy game – that no one tactic can defeat absolutely everything that stands in your path. Victory Games has – so far – given me no reason to believe that such a shortcut exists, so you can consider me very intrigued in what’s next in store for Command & Conquer.

It was a fleeting hands-on session, but most importantly, the game feels like part of the series. With no campaign at launch, and plans to monetise the hell out of new generals, maps and modes after along the way, I’m keen to see just how much of the game freeloaders will get gratis. For now though, I’m keen to play more.

Stay tuned for my interview with Command & Conquer developer Victory Games soon.

Disclosure: To write this interview, Dave attended a recent EA showcase event in London. All travel and food was paid for by VG247. Catering at the event was offered but not accepted. No code, merchandise or advertising was accepted.

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11 Comments

  1. Hirmetrium

    I’m still really worried about the lack of talk about how its monetized. What is going to be monetized besides tank skins? Are certain units locked away? What sort of cash input are we talking to be able to play?

    What does the game play like? what is it closest to? CnC3 or Red Alert 3? Both are very different games. It’s all well and good to say “it feels like a CnC game”, but they all play very differently :P

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 I’d say it plays closer to Red Alert at core level, but with the Generals buffs (each general gives you bonuses, from air strikes to additional resources etc)

    Hope this helps :)

    PS: I’d like to know more about monetisation too.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Hirmetrium

    Ah, cheers Dave. Can always rely on you my good man :) Red Alert was always my favourite, even if I felt RA3 lost its way a bit.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Zohar

    RA2 4 life :P

    Anyway, thanks Dave, that looks really exciting. I’m jealous you got to play it! haha

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Mus42

    Well that’s the end of my interest in C&C then :(
    “Your base has been destroyed, send us $1.99 for a new one!”

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @3 Any time :) Yeah I preferred the Red Alert games too. I have such good memories of playing 4 player games using four PSones and four TVs with my mates, plus a stack of pizzas and underage beer-drinking.

    Sigh…

    @4 Red Alert is the bomb :D I wish I could have played longer and tried all the factions, but I had to interview other devs. be sure to check out my C&C interview in a week or two.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @5 that’s just madness :P You seem to get a lot for free. Three factions, multiple generals, tons of maps. It’s not all bad. Stay positive :D

    #7 2 years ago
  8. xXNapsterManXx

    I don’t mind them monetizing the game if it’s f2p but I don’t like the sound of having to buy more maps to me that sounds like giving us 2 maps free and putting another 5 maps behind pay wall. I’d rather this wasn’t f2p I loved the generals games I still have one of those super thick guide books around those things were awesome.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Jerykk

    I’d say it plays most like Generals. It has actual builder units instead of construction yards, for one. Units are multifunctional and will have multiple upgrade paths, if that part of Generals remains intact. Also, propaganda towers aren’t new. They were in the original Generals too.

    Anywho, the biggest balance issue with Generals was the missile infantry. They were really overpowered. There were some vehicles which could hold infantry and allow them to shoot from it while driving around. The most popular U.S. tactic was to build a bunch of Hummers, fill them with missile infantry and then just drive around and annihilate everything. It made tanks largely worthless. Hopefully that won’t be the case in this new game.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. ItsFade

    @9

    Haha I remember that strategy, loved filling my Hummers with 3 missile soldiers, a flashbang soldier and a sniper. Took out buildings, tanks and infantry all with one vehicle.

    Speaking of this strategy does anybody know if the EU faction has a vehicle equivalent to the Humvee from the original Generals? Every screenshot they have showed so just shows the two tanks and and the APC.

    Honestly looking forward to this game a lot more after hearing it’s more like a classic C&C game. I can’t wait.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. CCsince1995

    It sill looks like cartoons from the older versions of C&C. Leave the orange and bright colors alone. If you play C&C you should know where your units are without having to add school colors like yellow and orange to any battle group. Come on developer you done good but get like the other war games, more realism. NO loud flashy colors!!!!!

    #11 2 years ago

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    Crazy though this may seem, it’s possible that Destiny shipped according to plan. History points to community as a crucial component, far from the contingency that many now suspect. Paul Davies spoke to Bungie for clarity. “The community always engineers the best solutions for bringing players together. While Matchmaking is a great resource for introducing […]

  • Bloodborne works with suspend/resume, but only offline

    PlayStation 4′s newly-added suspend/resume feature works with Bloodborne as you’d expect, but only while offline. PlayStation 4 received the long-awaited suspend/resume feature today as part of firmware 2.50, and people are starting to test it out with various games. Bloodborne does work with the feature, but only if you play offline. Playing online is arguably […]

  • This is what Crossy Road looks like in first-person

    Crossy Road is fun and addictive. But in first-person, it’s mostly frightening. YouTube user Andy Front Films likes Crossy Road so much he decided to show off what it would look like in first-person. If crossing roads quickly and watching around for cars and trains, all of this as the camera chases you felt intense […]

  • Take a small behind-the-scenes peek at Mass Effect 4

    BioWare cinematic director Ken Thain has given us a very slim look behind the scenes at some motion capture work from the upcoming Mass Effect game. The upcoming Mass Effect game, whether it ends up being called Mass Effect 4 or not, will most definitely incorporate some form of motion capture work. How do we […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 8GB day one patch on PS4, 16GB on Xbox One

    Day one patches for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection are pretty hefty. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection require players to download lots of gigabytes to make the experience as smooth as possible. The PlayStation 4 version has an 8.31GB day one patch. The Xbox One version however has […]

  • Get a PlayStation 4 with Bloodborne and The Last of Us for $435

    If you’ve been waiting for the perfect game to get to buy a PlayStation 4, there’s no better time than the present. Amazon is offering a good PlayStation 4 bundle at the moment. For $434.99, you get a PlayStation 4 console, The Last of Us, and Bloodborne. The Last of Us is of course the […]

  • Upcoming Battlefield Hardline patch to nerf the K10, buff battle rifles

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch will focus on weapon balance and a few changes have been proposed. Battlefield Hardline lead multiplayer designer Thaddeus Sasser posted a few of the balance changes that the team is considering for the next patch. K10: reduce bullet damage to 33 Saiga and PTR: reduce recoil to bring more in line […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and a new Resident Evil game coming this year, according to research firm

    According to digital games analyst SuperData, a new Resident Evil game is due this fall and that this year’s Call of Duty is Black Ops 3. In its latest report on digital console games, research and analytics firm SuperData revealed that a new Resident Evil is coming this fall. “We anticipate this month’s downturn to […]

  • Bloodborne: you can add gestures to your messages

    As players get deeper into Bloodborne, they keep uncovering so many of its little new additions, including this one. Bloodborne, like all of the Souls games before it, allows players to leave messages for other players. These messages could be used to point players towards impending doom, treasure, or just be sarcastic and witty. What […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 is now live

    PlayStation 4 firmware update version 2.50 has started rolling out. Reports are coming in saying that Yukimura, PlayStation 4′s firmware 2.50 has been made available to download. The update is clocking in at just 245mb, so get downloading. 2.50 brings with it many new additions, including the suspend/resume feature, backup and restore, accessibility options and […]

  • Harley Quinn DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight is a prequel

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s Harley Quinn pre-order DLC is set before the events of the main game, according to Amazon’s description. Today we learned a few details about the pre-order DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight, namely the Harley Quinn one. According to the description on Amazon, the DLC takes place in the lead-up to the events […]

  • Bloodborne Vicar Amelia summon mystery solved

    Bloodborne players unable to summon near Vicar Amelia: here’s your solution. Bloodborne’s secrets are unfolding by the hour as clever players piece together From Software’s cunning design. Yesterday we reported problems summoning in the Cathedral Ward, before the Vicar Amelia boss fight. It turns out this isn’t a bug – or if it is, it’s […]

  • Steven Spielberg will direct film adaption of Ready Player One

    Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaption of the sci-fi, virtual world, video game themed novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film in June 2010 and hired screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the previous draft written by Eric Eason, according to Deadline. The book takes place in […]

  • Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets shouldn’t forget about the custom audio

    Here’s a friendly reminder for Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets: be sure to download the Headset Companion App from the PlayStation store if you haven’t already. As previously reported, the game supports a custom Bloodborne audio mode which can be uploaded. It contains custom audio created by developers specifically tuned to enhance the audio. This […]

  • EA explains why FIFA Ultimate Team transfer prices are now platform specific

    EA has posted a blog entry explaining its FIFA Ultimate Team transfer market price ranges which now include platform-specific pricing in order to best the coin sellers. EA said it has implemented the changes to FUT over the last several weeks because it should be “fair and fun for every player,” ultimately coming to the […]

  • Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness now available

    In case you forgot, Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness was released today. It is available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The third episode releases on iOS devices and Android tomorrow, March 26. The Sword in the Darkness finds Asher Forrester heading to Mereen […]

  • Bloodborne players are already documenting their crazy antics

    Bloodborne has been available for almost two days now in North America, and already players are posting interesting clips and character customization choices for the game. Below are interesting takes on creating a character and videos of a frustrating death and another full of blood coming from a very painful place – monster or not. […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team celebrates sixth year in existence with giveaways

    FIFA Ultimate Team is celebrating its sixth year in existence with special events running from today until March 29. According to EA, every FUT fan will be handed one free pack every day, and those who play at least one match in the FUT Birthday Cup will have a chance to win rare “tradable In-Forms” […]

  • Halo Online is a F2P PC game in development exclusively for Russia – video

    Halo Online is a free-to-play game which will launch this spring in Russia, and is in development with Saber Interactive. According the reveal event attended by IGN Russia, the game was designed to run well on lower-end PCs and runs on a modified Halo 3 engine. The game is set on a secret UNSC space […]

  • SteamWorld Dig Xbox One release expected in late May

    SteamWorld Dig is coming to Xbox One, developer Image & Form has announced. A firm release date hasn’t been announced, but the studio expects the title to arrive on the system in late May. “We’re preparing quite an elaborate Easter egg for the Xbox One version – a gaming thing that we really wanted to […]

  • SMITE celebrating first anniversary with a sale on skins, Ultimate God Pack

    Hi-Rez Studios is celebrating the first anniversary of SMITE with a sale. From today through Friday, March 27, the Ultimate God Pack, which includes all current and future Gods, will run you $19.99. Alll individual pre-launch skins are 50% off, and all Gem Packs will award bonus gems. In addition, from March 27-29, all SMITE […]

  • Borderlands 2 has sold around 12 million copies, says Gearbox

    Speaking with Microsoft’s Major Nelson in his podcast, Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford stated Borderlands 2 has sold somewhere around the 12 million mark. As of August 2014, it was announced by Take-Two in its financial report the 2012 game had sold-in 10 million units. Pitchford noted in the podcast he learned of the figures […]

  • Broken Age releasing on PS4 and Vita same day as Act 2 on PC

    Double Fine Productions has announced it will release Broken Age on the PlayStation Store next month. Act 2 will also be released on PC. The full Broken Age adventure will release on PlayStation 4 and Vita on April 28 in North America and April 29 in Europe. It features cross-buy and cross-save. Broken Age Act […]

  • Star Citizen earned another $1 million within two weeks – total hits $76 million

    Star Citizen continues its funding streak with backers pumping another $1 million into the game’s development in the last two weeks. The total earned for the space sim has now reached $76 million ($76,015,532 to be exact) with 851,395 backers contributing to the staggering figure. Star Citizen’s latest update was version 1.1 which included two […]

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline top Media Create charts

    Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline were the big ticket debuts during the March 16-2 period in Japan, with each game claiming the top three slots on the Media Create charts, respectively. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD moved 92,094 on PlayStation 4, while Resident Evil Revelations 2 moved 73,373 units on […]

  • You can now learn English or Spanish on Xbox One with the Rosetta App

    Want to learn English or Spanish? Rosetta Stone has an App for that on Xbox One. According to the language teaching firm, Rosetta Stone’s Discover Languages, the new application teaches English and Spanish by way of immersive simulation. Users will virtually travel to learn vocabulary and grammar “necessary for real-world interactions.” Here’s how it works: […]

  • PayDay 2 and PayDay: The Heist have sold over 9 million units combined

    The PayDay franchise is a lucrative IP for Starbreeze and Overkill, as both games combined have sold over 9 million copies as of November 2014. The company has also sold over 8 million paid DLC packages since PayDay 2 was released in 2013 (via NeoGAF). In its Q2 half year report issued in February, net […]

  • Nintendo wants to “surprise” customers with NX, not expand upon existing hardware

    Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has firm wants to “surprise” players with its new NX system. Speaking in an interview with Nikkei, translated by Kotaku, Iwata wouldn’t go into details on the new system, but stated expanding on a current gaming system would be “dull.” “In the past few years, the idea of what [encompasses] a […]

  • Kojima Station show suspended

    In another episode in the the ongoing kerfuffle between Hideo Kojima and Konami, the publisher has suspended the Kojima Station web show. Recent tweets from the newly created Japanese Metal Gear Solid account confirm that Kojima Station will not be broadcast tomorrow, but would not provide a date for the next episode. The Tweets were […]

  • Watch Battle Royale for free this weekend on Xbox Live

    Square Enix is celebrating the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD by offering Xbox Live members in the UK a free rental of Battle Royale. Starting Saturday, March 28 and through Sunday, March 29, Xbox Live members in the UK will be able to rent Battle Royale through the Xbox Video Store, for free. The […]

  • Bloodborne journal, part 1: managing anxiety on the path to the Cleric Beast

    Bloodborne is both like and unlike the Souls games. Brenna descends into Yharnam with reluctance and trepidation. Need help succeeding in Bloodborne? You need our Bloodborne walkthrough and boss guide. Bloodborne isn’t Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. Let’s get that out of the way right off. I enjoyed both Dark Souls games, but it was […]