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Aspyr Media
Strategy & War
Release Date

Command & Conquer: Generals
March 30, 2004 | D.G. Chichester

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Sound off, one-two
Generals delivers equally devastating ordnance in the auditory department: battles are punctuated by booming explosions , the searing roar of cannons, and panicked screams. Hook up the subwoofer and crank it.

Each of the three factions in the game sport their own distinctive musical score, adding an appropriately cinematic feel to the action. The U.S. wades in alongside a triumphant military march, heavy on trumpets, horns and snare drums. The Chinese lay down fire with an appropriately Eastern beat and instruments. The Global Liberation Army (GLA) do their damage while grooving to sitars and Middle Eastern flutes.

The voice acting is similarly distinctive, although the approach here strikes me as less unique and more stereotyped. Americans responses are a staccato Rambo-esque bark. The Chinese sport fresh off the boat accents that are one step removed from “No tickee, no shirtee.” And the GLA hiss out death threats with a decidedly Arabian feel. These can either be interpreted as consistent with the (cheesy) comic book approach of all the Command & Conquer games — or bordering on the disturbingly racist. I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the former…but with topical episode titles like “The Siege of Baghdad,” I can’t discount the latter.

It’s kind of odd that the “Unit lost” announcement is the same soothing female voice across all three factions.

Know thy enemy
The world of Generals is divided into three factions that matter: the bombastic U.S. of A; the overwhelming (very) Red Chinese; and the cunning, murderous terrorists known as the Global Liberation Army.

The motivations of each aren’t really the point here. Mission to mission is pretty much “win at any cost.” Don’t expect dramatic twists or turns as you make progress or finally transition from playing as one faction to the next. Essentially, the GLA are all about making a nuisance of themselves, looking to undermine the oppressive Chinese authority with little distractions like setting off a nuke in downtown Beijing. The Chinese have no intention of ceding their territories to terrorists, and declare hunting season. The U.S. would prefer to stay above the whole mess, but get drawn in out of self-interest when its clear that they’re next on the GLA’s hit list.

While the storyline is lost between thin and non-existent, there’s plenty to keep you occupied with the hands-on (or hands-on keyboard and mouse) application of much available firepower. Each side have clearly defined advantages and tactics, which makes playing as any one a decent, different experience. (Versus some RTS games, where the names and graphics on a particular piece of ordnance may differ, but it’s pretty much the same tank (for example) from side to side.)

The Chinese are a slow moving bunch, and at first seem like a mediocre choice. But there’s a lot of them. This is a strength in numbers operation, and when you get big numbers going at once you can easily overwhelm your opponents — in fact, you can score bonuses for attacking in hordes. Plus, as you push them up their technology tree, the Chinese gain access to devastating nukes and nearly unstoppable tanks. (Some so large they carry their own defensive towers on top.)

The U.S. relies on technological superiority, much like in the real world. A diverse and powerful air force is a key part of any American plan for war. Fast and deadly is the order of the day, with the expectation that it will all be over quickly in favor of the red, white and blue. So target your firepower to maximum effect — but be mindful of the fact that your defenses are relatively weak in comparison to your first strike capabilities. And like the real world, all those shiny toys cost money. They can give you the edge, but it’s too expensive an operation to simply unleash untold numbers of stealth bombers and flash-bang grenade rangers at a problem.

At first, the GLA seem the worst of the lot. Saddled with the most culturally insensitive representation (terrorism in this world is all about turbans and mosques), the group has no aircraft and no skill for a sustained gun battle. But they are sneaky and ruthless. They can upgrade using the scrap tech left behind on the battlefield. Hit and run tactics are especially powerful, as in drawing enemies into an ambush of suicide bombers, or a hijacked truck rigged with explosives. Chemical and bio weapons can take out multiple troops with ease, and leave the area toxic. And secretive tunnel networks can unload swarms of GLA sympathizers into the infidels’ backyards for all manner of mayhem. (So long as we’re being politically incorrect, playing as the terrorists is probably the most fun in the game.)


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