Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars

Welcome back, Commander

They call it a tank rush for a reason. Leading that charge, ten Mammoths strong, backed up with mobile artillery platforms and swinging, stinging Orca attack craft feels... good. Mighty good.

It's primal. It's vicious. It's a celebration of violence, an acknowledgement of your superiority over a human or AI opponent. Command & Conquer 3, to its core, gets this. It understands just how good it feels to drag-drop from on high, right-click, and watch an enemy position evaporate.

It's just a pity that it doesn't reach further. Real-time strategy games have evolved dramatically in the past two years. They've been practically re-invented by the innovators behind Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander and Rise of Legends. We've seen games that frighten us with their sheer physical power, and awe us with their scale. Is C&C's narrow strategic remit and live-action video gimmick still relevant?

Let's see. We've got a world on the brink of warfare over a precious energy source. A world where leaders run wars unchecked by democracy, where support is rallied by television anchors and soft-ball questioning from cosy journalists. A world where fanaticism, toxic propaganda and acts of terrorism are a daily reality. And in the game. Yeah. C&C's still relevant.

For those keeping up, it's been ten years since the last Tiberium War, and the GDI, the Global Defence Initiative, have begun to mothball much of their armed forces. Their budget is now being ploughed into ecology, cleaning the world of tiberium. For those not keeping up, know this: in 1995, a great big meteorite landed in Italy, bringing with it a precious new mineral called tiberium. It acts like a sponge, sucking up nutrients from the topsoil, and concentrating them as neatly harvestable crystals.

Everyone wanted a slice of the green pie, led by the GDI and the Brotherhood of NOD. NOD are an apocalyptic cult directly opposed to western ideals (government, democracy, processed foods). They and their leader, Kane, preach that the end of the world is nigh. And you might just believe them. After two further world wars, the planet has been ravaged by fighting and tiberium poisoning. Much of the surface is now uninhabitable, and the social order within the safe-havens is on the verge of total breakdown. Even so, NOD is dormant. Sort of.

Within a few moments of the first mission, all hell breaks loose. NOD steam-roll GDI forces, settle into Washington, and take up residence in the White House. Even worse is the fact that they start prepping a 'Liquid Tiberium Bomb'. Egads! The whole world depends on you, Commander! Yes, again!

I'm going to make this really clear. I love C&C's backstory. It makes me giggle. And I love that the game tells its story between missions through live-action and rendered cutscenes, using actors to brief you on the next mission.

This time around, EA have snared geek royalty to play the important parts. There's televisual totty from Battlestar Galactica, Lost and House. Josh Holloway (real name: Sawyer from Lost) plays a NOD field commando. Tricia Helfer (real name: Six from Battlestar Galactica) is a NOD princess-cum-preacher lady. Grace Park (real name: Boomer from Battlestar) is a briefing officer for the GDI, along with Jennifer Morrison (Dr Cameron from House).

Michael Ironside (real name: Sam Fisher) looks preposterous in a GDI uniform. The only actor that really looks like he's enjoying himself is Lando (real name: Lando Calrissian). He's the demented civilian boss of the GDI, and the power's gone to his head. He swans into every scene, owns the screen, and then saunters off, slightly sweaty. Sheer class.

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