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Aspyr Media
Strategy & War
Release Date

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

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We got your weapons of mass destruction right here
No one who’s ever played a Command & Conquer game will ever forget their first Tesla Tank — and wicked-cool destructive technology remains a core appeal of the series in Generals. Each faction packs superior firepower that never disappoints. Expect to enjoy double-barreled tanks, crack shot commandoes, nuclear missile solos, car bombs and cascading clouds of atomic and chemical waste. The latter two are particularly nasty for their tendency to hang out and eat away the health of any units in the vicinity.

A neat addition to the above is the multiple talents of certain troops. Chinese hackers can both disable a building and steal money over the Internet. A U.S. soldier can both lay a demolition charge and then go on the attack with a sniper rifle. The flexibility makes for a more enjoyable game, but it’s marred by the control mechanism: you have to make the adjustments from the control bar at the bottom of the screen, which is a bit labored. A better approach would have been a right click on the unit bringing up a list of options — but no one asked me.

What’s missing from all this is any naval power — strange given both its significant role in the real world and previous C&C games. If there’s an expansion pack, let’s hope it corrects this oversight.

Party time, battalion style
Going to war in Generals is made easier by a greatly refined resource management system: no more manually mining gas plus ore plus this plus that. Instead, U.S. choppers, Chinese supply trucks and GLA laborers automatically collect generic supplies from various depots. Strategically, it’s possible to boost those numbers (and accelerate your ability to churn out more units) by capturing oil derricks throughout the game.

Resources equal the ability to build up your forces, and it’s best to be quick about it. Slap down a manufacturing center and start that assembly line. The pace of any mission is fast, and the enemy will be moving against you right from “go.” You’ll quickly learn that barricades you can construct are flimsy (you may accidentally knock them down with your own units), and your buildings are large and vulnerable. Going at it too defensively will probably result in your complete and utter destruction. Your better off favoring an aggressive style of play.

With massive super weapons throwing out deadly force from both sides, battles tend to be quick and decisive. You can try to micro-manage individual troops. But with particle beams blasting and screaming civilians flooding the streets, melee fighting is more the rage.

The Chinese and U.S. tend to get more orthodox assignments, along the lines of “Build up a decisive force while holding off enemy raids.” The GLA objectives are a bit more imaginative, such as “Blow up a dam,” or “Take out a civilian target.” In all cases, the missions are simple to understand, although the execution can get involved depending on the mix of forces you bring in (or leave behind).

A good strategy in any battle is to cut off an enemy’s supply line. Take out their gatherers with no mercy. A lack of resources can hold off their advances just as effectively as a well aimed Tomahawk missile.

The single player game is 21 missions across the three factions. At the normal level, it’s challenging, but not a killer. More experienced players may want to ramp up to the “brutal” setting to extend their game time.

Promote yourself
The “Generals” aspect of the game’s title refers to an experience ladder, not unlike the “Hero” concept in Warcraft III. Enemy kills and technology research help your “general” to accrue points. In turn, those points can be used to “purchase” special tactics: air strikes, emergency repairs, the ability to earn a bounty on enemy kills, EMP bombardments, bio-weapon attacks — good, wholesome stuff like that. It’s not a revolution in gameplay, but these five levels of extras can provide a strategic advantage in a tight spot. There appear to be no limits on how many times you can trigger one of your bonus tactics, but it’s important to keep two things in mind: 1) A pretty long cool down time between each use; and 2) The effects are not immediate — you can call in a bombing run, but there’s no guarantee your enemy is going to be at the same coordinates when those fast movers come in over the horizon laying down death from above.

Unrelated to the name of the game (but still worth noting) is the fact that your individual forces can gain experience, too. Kills and other successes ramp units and troops up the ranks from veteran to elite to heroic — with higher levels resulting in improved performance and resiliency on the virtual battlefield.


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