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By the jaded critic
Every now and then a highly anticipated game comes along, sometimes, they even deliver on all promises, meeting or exceeding everyone's expectations. Having spent the last few weeks with Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (TS), I can safely say it is not that game. TS is the proverbial sheep in wolf's clothing. It's fun and amusing, but not worth crying wolf over.
TS does put on a good show. Terrain and lighting effects are excellent, and TS does boast a fairly comprehensive system of destructible terrain. (Blast craters, forest fires, etc). I can't say the same thing for the units themselves; they range from ordinary to downright absurd. (The NOD flame tanks look like cordless shavers). The in-between scenario movies do an excellent job of lending a sense of continuity & story to the game. The story itself is easily forgotten, with mostly cookie cutter characters, which come off as somewhat uninspired. The possible exception is the return of Kane. (He resembles any number of villains from almost any James Bond movie.)
Path finding is excellent. There won't be any units fumbling around confused because there is an obstacle in the way, or they can't figure out how to climb a hill from the opposite side. Give a unit a destination, and you can be assured it will get there ASAP. (As long as it's still alive) Contrary to popular belief, the game does balance well. There are a wide variety of units, that's true, some powerful and some dangerous, but TS will never leave you without defensive options. There is an interesting tactical challenge here. TS will create the "organized chaos" that is the hallmark of real time strategy , and do it somewhat well.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. TS starts well, and fumbles the ball somewhere around the 30-yard line due to a number of control issues. The most serious is that TS breaks the 11th commandment of real time strategy. (thou shalt not force thy players to micromanage) Opposing units will happily march past each other with nary a shot fired on their way to their destinations. Worse, units will occasionally not defend themselves, or each other, unless instructed to do so. The more sophisticated the unit, the more complex the problems. For example, I do not object to sending my orcas back the helipad to reload. I do object to being forced to manually land each orca on the pad, wait for it to reload (which, apparently takes roughly the same time as it takes to construct one from scratch), lift it off the pad, and land the next one. Every successful real - time strategy must carefully tread the line between giving the player options, and forcing him to micromanage (which he does not have time to do). Though the path finding is excellent, TS will force you to baby sit your units. (In order to keep them from doing something stupid or nothing at all.)
TS has a great many awkward, or missing moments that bog you down while you're trying to govern the action. You cannot move and attack targets of opportunity at the same time. In short, when assaulting the enemy base, you can expect to stop and designate each target individually. Though it is possible to queue up stationary targets, units will follow the path without a care for targets of opportunity. For weeks, I was unable to get the guard command to work, but in researching this, I discovered that it's CNTRL-ALT. (Who the heck thought that was necessary? The instruction book lists the command as just 'G'). TS is littered with such finger twisters. To set down a patrol, you use the way point system, but if you would like them to actually defend themselves, you must CNTRL-ALT-left click.
One feature of the destructible terrain is bridges that you can destroy to aid your cause. However, apparently you have to hit the right spot. (At one point I pounded a bridge with tanks for five minutes without destroying it. On another occasion, one stray shell (which I hadn't even meant to fire) did the job). Multiple bases do not allow you to produce troops more quickly. In the end, the allow only for increased income at the same output rate. TS is littered with logic gaps that are symptomatic of its main problem, like it or not, you will have to baby sit your troops if you want to get anything done. TS is the worst handling of the so-called "fog-of-war" phenomenon that I've seen yet. It's no surprise that the map is largely concealed at the beginning of the game. What is a surprise is that apparently every single unit in the game has the line of sight of a deaf, myopic bat. Elevation makes for little difference. Frankly, this makes scouting a tedious chore. (Particularly on the large highly detailed maps that TS gives you.)
In a particularly masochistic twist, there are rules governing what you can and cannot use to scout. Aircraft cannot go into "unrevealed territory". Love to know who decided that you couldn't use aircraft to scout. In short, ambushes are frequent. Expect to set off your enemy's defenses more than once, because you couldn't see them until they were five feet in front of you and firing. TS is not without merit, had more care been given to unit control and behavior, this might have been something, but, as it is, it's little better then a fix for the rabid Command & Conquer fans in the world. If C&C was your all time favorite game, TS is something you should look at. For the rest of us it's probably best left in the discount bin.
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