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Command & Conquer - Operation Tiberian Sun
C&C coverThe time of waiting for the third installment of one of the most successful gaming series has come to an end: in the last days of August, probably the most anticipated real-time strategy game, Westwood's Command & Conquer - Operation Tiberian Sun, finally shipped. Question is whether the game benefitted from the long period of development and whether it can win against soon-to-be-published competitors like Age of Empires 2 - The Age of Kings (you can read the answer to that question by taking a look at the review of Age of Empires 2). But first things first...
 
Graphics:
Those of you who have played the prequels (likely all of you), will recognize the familiar surroundings immediately. The right third of the screen is occupied by the sidebar and the radar map, the action itself takes place in the usual 2D view, though optimized with a new voxel technology. All units, vehicles, and structures and their respective animations have been renewed as well, although the infantry in particular resembles the prequels quite amazingly. For the first time in the series, Tiberian Sun features different altitude levels of terrain that have a tactical impact on the game: on the one hand, units are slowed down when moving up a slope, and on the other hand, they have an improved sight radius when standing on top of a hill. Multi-coloured lighting effects as well as structures that can be blown into tiny bits, provide additional visual highlights. Nevertheless, C&C's graphics cannot rival with the 3D accelerated battlefields of a game like Earth 2150. But the rendered cutscenes prove once more beyond doubt why Westwood belongs to the genre's vanguard.
 
Story:
Ion CannonTiberian Sun's story belongs to the most atmospheric the genre has to offer. The surprising comeback of the charismatic antagonist Kane (starred by Joe Kucan) of whom GDI had thought that he had perished, makes the sweat pearl on General Solomon's (James Earl Jones) forehead. The conflict between the Brotherhood of NOD and the Global Defense Initiative is about to commence once more, and the player can lead one of the quarrelsome parties to supremacy. Every mission is immersed in gorgeous cutscenes that narrate the story, with real actors copied into virtual backgrounds. During the course of the game, you'll encounter a mysterious alien spacecraft as well as mutants whose genes have been altered by the Tiberium and who are now able to regain their strength while inside a Tiberium field.
 
Gameplay:
Before you can decide the conflict in favour of one of the two parties, you have to accomplish about 17 missions for one side, including those tasks that are yours to choose due to the non-linear mission order. This time, however, you are told your mission objectives before you have to make your decision; some missions even help winning the following one more easily. Although most of the mission objectives comprise a simple "Destroy the enemy", there are often several subobjectives that have to be fulfilled - e.g. capturing a certain structure - before you can move on to annihilate the enemy. Besides this, there are a number of escort missions; tasks inside of buildings have been left out. Another new feature of the game is the so-called dynamic battlefield, i.e. bridges can be destroyed or repaired and the terrain can be transformed through explosions, thus influencing the units' speed. C&C's only resource is, once more, Tiberium which exists in two kinds: green and blue. While the blue Tiberium is more precious than the green one, it is highly explosive as well, converting the (still stupid) harvester into a rolling timebomb.
 
GDI:
GDI soldiersThe "good" Global Defense Initiative relies on somewhat conventional war equipment. Its hovercraft units are able to surmount differences in altitude as well as rivers without difficulty. There are no war ships this time and no super units which might be used against all other units with the same efficacy. It does make a difference if your units are armed with armour-piercing or MG ammunition, so that a sound mixture of infantry and vehicles would be the best way to win the upper hand. Although it is possible to produce the Mammoth MK-II tank at the end of GDI's campaign - the most powerful weapon in the game - the production is limited to one unit at a time to avoid any imbalances. The disadvantage of GDI's infantry (and NOD's as well) becomes evident when crossing a Tiberium field: the hazardous resource gradually reduces the units' hitpoints and after some time they'll perish. Fortunately, both sides can recruit a medic who looks after the infantry's physical well-being.
Details:
Producer:
Westwood

Website:
Tiberian Sun

Genre:
Strategy

Graphics:
good

Sound:
good

Gameplay:
very good

Verdict:
very good

More under:
Cheats
NOD:
NOD soldierThe "evil" Brotherhood of NOD has access to the more devious and cunning war machinery. Strong cyborgs, flame throwers or units with the stealth (invisibility) or "mole" technolgy which can burrow underground and surface in the middle of the enemy base, strike their opponents with cold fear. NOD's great disadvantage, however, lies in its dependency from energy. When facing an energy crisis, the laser fences and defence turrets stop functioning, thus clearing the way for the invading army. But fortunately, there's a new Power Button that enables the player to turn structures on or off that aren't necessary for the base's immediate defense, setting free more energy for fences and turrets. The same is also true for GDI, of course.
 
Bottom line:
Even though the graphics don't really come up to the high expectations and despite the fact that there are hardly any revolutionary changes at first sight, on closer inspection you'll be surprised to discover a lot of new and reasonable details that make the latest part of the much-vaunted series more than worth playing. And it is definitely also due to the game's motivating story and dense atmosphere that help C&C - Operation Tiberian Sun set a new benchmark in the field of real-time strategy gaming - at least for the time being, since it remains to be seen if the upcoming competitor Age of Empires 2 will be capable of giving the genre a new impetus.
© 2000 by CE

 
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