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8 Reviews

Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight

Alec Meer takes on the mightiest of slapheads

Kane sounds like he's got a bit of a cold. He doesn't sound authoritative, he doesn't sound frightening, he doesn't sound like a omnipotent being from beyond time. Hell, he doesn't even sound like a mad dictator with hair issues. He just sounds like an overworked guy with a blocked nose. This, then, is how 15 years of the Command & Conquer universe takes its final bow.

Lest that sound a bit cruel, C&C4's failure to reach the heights of its predecessors is not face-of-Kane Joe Kucan's fault. If anything, he's the only tolerable actor in this, who, in the few moments the script makes sense, tries to add a little subtlety to a character who's previously been a pantomime villain. His distractingly less-than imperious voice is just the final straw in a massive haystack of lousy production values and even lousier plotting.

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This is the end of a long-running C&C storyline. EA promised us we'd find out who Kane is and what he really wants. We don't. We get some more hints which simply repeat what's gone before, and a big dumb cliff-hanger which doesn't give any closure. The supporting cast, all newcomers to the story and actors you won't recognise, are either a) annoying, b) terrible, c) constantly crying, or d) annoying, terrible and constantly crying.

RET-CONNED
If you've been following C&C story, in all its campy, contradictory and clearly made up as it goes along glory, since the early '90s, then you may not have the highest expectations of its storytelling ability. Even so, this so-called conclusion will leave you thumping your desk and readying angry letters containing the repeated use of the word 'disgusted' as it comes to its final, woeful cutscene.

Long-running sci-fi has a habit of ending unsatisfyingly, but unlike, say, Battlestar Galactica (which, in music and in sets, C&C4 borrows hilariously liberally from) and its silly religious finale, this doesn't even try to give answers. It's poppycock of the highest order. You heard me: poppycock!

There is, of course, much more to this game than videos starring a bald guy with a small beard. C&C is the populist father of real-time strategy games, and the longest-running series in the genre. Presumably, this is just the same-old build a base and go bash another guy's base routine, right? Absolutely not. This isn't so much throwing the baby out with the bath water as it is drowning every other baby on the street in the process. Take away the cutscenes and there's no way you'd guess this is a C&C game. Base building and resource collection is gone, replaced by a class-based system centred around re-spawning Crawlers.

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These huge machines are both factory and major unit, varying in build options and ability depending on if you opt for Offence, Defence (Ss and have changed to Cs to protect innocent British minds) or Support class. No tiberium or power is necessary to spit out their pitifully small armies of soldiers, tanks, planes and robo-suits - simply time. A bafflingly small population cap means you'll very rarely field more than a dozen units, so 5v5 multiplayer matches are your only hope of seeing anything like the scale of olden C&Cs.

It's important to be clear here: this is not an inherently bad concept, and EA LA's intentions are worthy. You don't need to memorise build orders or make constant beelines for tiberium fields. You just need to build an army and throw it at various prescribed points on the map.

The strategy comes from ascertaining which units are best for any given fight - pretty strict rock, paper, scissors stuff - and which capture point to send them to. The simplicity of building, and the fact your Crawler can re-spawn, means pretty much anyone can manage to kill some stuff, and in doing so earn some experience points.

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