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Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars

Review: An untouchable formula

For anyone who truly knows PC gaming it's impossible to sit through an FMV speech from Command & Conquer's infamous Kane without smiling like a stupid man's idiot. His over the top theatrics, colourful vocabulary and that famous bald head all work together to create a villain super-unit that's more charming than the royal family covered in erm, Lucky Charms.

It's good news for the long, long awaited Tiberium Wars then that Joe Kucan's character is back on form, along with those other C&C veterans the harvester and clicking money noise.

In a way it's all very much part of a return to focus for Electronic Art's Los Angeles studio, who took a chance veering from the series path with the last instalment Generals, much to the eventual outcry of the community.

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In contrast, Tiberium Wars is whole-heartedly C&C. Every aspect of its design chants the series mantra; oozing the simplicity, instant playability and out-right entertainment value that C&C has always been about. How EA LA forgot that when conjuring up the last instalment we may never know.

Welcome Back, Commander

For veterans, the solo experience isn't going to bring too many surprises. Base building, commando raiding and sieges are the name of the game, and pretty much anything else C&C can get away with without rewriting the formula. It just about hits the right mark, providing an enjoyable and compelling experience.

It also gets pretty challenging later on in the campaign, when you're left to defend your base from relentless hordes of enemy attackers. Most of the time the predictable combination of middle-end tanks and infantry are easily dealt with by placing the appropriate base defences.

Mess around with your own invaders on the other side of the map for too long though and you'll soon return to a base half destroyed, because the AI decided to send an Avatar Mech through the entrance that only had puny watchtowers to defend it.

In a way it's the laid-back, entertaining ying to Supreme Commander's epic and demanding yang. Tiberium Wars doesn't have the thousand-unit, multiple-front battles of THQ's effort, but it does provide a more laid-back, immediate RTS experience that doesn't require multiple limbs and a science diploma to perform successfully.

Watching idly as sonic cannons and watchtowers fend off the latest rush of Nod flame tanks, it's apparent that C&C3 is the sort of strategy game you can play whilst half-munching a Burger King (if you're American) or with a cup of tea (if you're English).

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As always, the rock-paper-scissors nature of the gamplay (vehicles destroy other vehicles but are rubbish against infantry, who are in turn rubbish against aircraft etc...) brings the strategy right back to it's simplest form. Usually simple flanking and combinations of the right units can win the day, or even more primal tactics like waiting for the nuke countdown to trickle its way to zero.

EA has also done a fantastic job of ironing out the clunkyness of the RTS experience. Every delay, bit of lag and hurdle between clicking on your tanks and telling them to blow crap up has been smoothed out with a slick, minimalist sidebar interface combined with BFME-style context-sensitive elements. Extra brownie points should also been handed out for combatability; C&C3 will happily run on even our arse-slow office PCs, which probably goes without saying seeming as Tiberium Wars is running a near-five-year-old game engine.

Intermixed with the tank-clicking antics as always are the excellently-cheesey live-action cut-scenes that have been sorely missed from PC gaming. This time around the story comes acted out by nerd heroes such as Billy Dee Williams, Michael Ironside and that bloke from Lost, who manages to crack more penis references than your average Games Radar article.

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