Do you remember the first time you played Command & Conquer? It was probably a long time ago, perhaps before the genre became lost in the game's unending list of po-faced clones, but whenever it was I can guarantee one thing: you thought that the installation process was blinding. For me, booting up the original C&C demo back in 1995, and having a sexy computer woman talking at me through a haze of futuristic green meshes was much like communing with God himself. But the best was yet to come: the gentle tinkle of harvested tiberium turning to cash, the trundle of Mammoth tanks, the distant scream of a grunt caught in a tiberium patch and those FMVs of Kane - marvellous, marvellous Kane. We won't see those days again.
Well not until C&C3, any road. "Really in our heart of hearts we're returning to the first C&C," explains executive producer Mike Verdu. "That crisp, fun feeling of the first one that felt like the military sort of slipped maybe 30 years into the future." Verdu and a nice PR lady are sitting bamboozled in front of me while I explain my love for C&C through the medium of vague impressions of the Commando. "It's a really rich universe and for people like me who really cut their teeth on the original C&C, I can't imagine not doing another game set in that universe," Verdu continues. "It's a very compelling place - I always thought tiberium was incredibly cool and Kane was one of the most compelling villains." So Kane's coming back? The bald, brilliant, bearded bastard is coming back? "Oh yeah," nods Verdu. "Oh, yeah."
When we last left the Tiberium universe in Tiberian Sun expansion pack Firestorm (before returning to the still wackier antics of Yuri and co in Red Alert 2 and the determinedly bullish, grumpy and serious demeanour of Generals), the evil Nod super-computer CABAL (that sounded like a robot Bob Hoskins) was having a shit-fit - and both the goody-two- shoes GDI and nefarious Nod had to team up against it. This uneasy no-score draw seems to have continued beyond the end of the game - until now that is.
"The year that the game starts is 2047, so it's been a while since the end of Firestorm," begins Verdu as he trots out the initial set-up of Tiberium Wars. "When the game starts there's been a period of relative peace, so the GDI have started work on trying to reverse the tiberium outbreak, and tiberium is everywhere. It's gotten pretty bad by the time the game opens; there are outbreaks in a lot of different areas. A good part of the Earth's surface, as much as 20%, is uninhabitable - it's like the surface of an alien planet at this point." Make note of that word 'alien' kids, we're coming to that soon...
"So it's now really nasty and GDI is running the projections and saying: 'Yeah, another 80 years or so and there's going to be nothing left, this planet's gone'. So they're working really hard now that the war has died down to reverse the contamination and start restoring Earth to the state it was before."
GETTING THE NOD
But while the GDI have their back turned, too busy saving whales and sending letters of environmental complaint to the letters page in Metro, the Nod are building up their forces. Seeing as the Nod aren't usually too backward with their warfare, what with their training camps that look like giant hands and gigantic death pyramid obelisks, you might have thought that it'd be easy to spot their fresh recruitment drive in the tiberium-ravaged
Yellow Zone hinterlands of the globe - but the GDI remain blissfully unaware of Kane's resurgence. Until, also unsurprisingly, he strikes. And strikes hard.