So there I was innocently scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when low and behold there came a knocking at the windows of my soul an image which filled we with an opinion. I know, the thought of little old me having an opinion is quite shocking, but get a hold of yourself, man! I can’t have you going all to pot; I need an audience! I’m a critic, not a doctor!
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, an opinion, but let’s get some background information first. So I have played RTS games my entire life; I still remember trying desperately to get the original Homeworld to work on my old family computer so that I could fend off the hostile locals in the Garden of Kadesh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed; it’s the rush of being large and in charge, knowing that in every battle you can win and that it will be your armies sweeping the field. In a mundane world, it’s a rush of imaginary energy that has been more real to me than all the coffee cup riddled days of my work life, and that’s quite a lot. And when we talk about RTS games, there are really two franchises that I personally believe epitomize what it means to be an RTS game. The first is Starcraft; few games have created such a vibrant online multiplayer community, complete with tournaments where you can earn real money. The second game is collective community Command and Conquer games, a gaming franchise as diverse as it is old.
Now, Command and Conquer has a special place in my heart, right next to Ron Swanson and Bacon, which really does deserve to be capitalized. I didn’t grow up on CnC, though. In fact, I thought it was a silly place, like Camelot from Monty Python, and in many ways, it is a silly place. The Red Alert games are rife with bad acting and, well, acting. I mean, who thought up actually paying people to act out scenes and talk to a camera in a video game? Is that a cheap way to dodge cinematic costs? Maybe, but it felt weird and tacky. Then there are the over-the-top units, like the Armageddon tank, two barrels of pure screw-you-man to wake up any enemy combatant, or the Kirovs, big rigid dirigibles in an era of fighter jets. The Tiberium series wasn’t much better, still featuring subpar acting, though it did try to appeal to a more realistic crowd by crafting a believable futuristic universe. Still, you can take the CnC out of the current century, but CnC will always have certain tropes, right?
Wrong, and that’s what I love about the third foundation series of the CnC games: Command and Conquer Generals. Generals is by far my favorite CnC game. It holds this spot because it does two things well: it represents modern warfare respectably and realistically and its air units act like air units, taking off, landing, and having a limited supply of ammo. I know that last thing sounds like a really weird thing to like, but I enjoy my air units, and I like them being powerful but tactically limited. This adds a whole new level to strategizing that I think is really challenging.
So, by now you’re probably wondering what I saw that gave birth to an opinion. The following snapshot of the Command and Conquer Generals 2 is the culprit of my mental epiphany. Take a look:
Notice anything new or different? No, I didn’t either, and that is exactly why I’m excited for CnC. Every unit in the above picture has a correlation with a unit in the first Generals game, meaning they’re remaking the first game with better graphics and an updated engine. Now, normally I would rage quit right about now, complaining that this is a travesty for gaming and yet another example of how developers are feeding us the same stuff, recycled and repackaged. Yet EA tried to do something new with the CnC franchise a while ago. That new thing was called Tiberium Twilight, and you might not know what that is, and if you don’t, you have absolutely no idea how lucky you are in your ignorance. Imagine something awful, like a life without Bacon, and you’ll come to understand just how terrible this game was. Don’t take my word for it; just look at Steam. Tiberium Wars and Red Alert 3 both got metascores in the eighties. Tiberium Twilight came ranked in the sixties. It was a game that completely reworked the way units, base structure, and overall RTS gameplay worked, and it ended up killing the spirit of CnC. People hated it, I hated it, and I’m pretty sure my neighbor hated it.
This is why I’m excited about the new Generals, though. It’s going to give me back the game that I used to know. Sure, it might be a carbon copy, but that’s what the franchise needs right now. The fans felt betrayed with that abomination that I refuse to name again, but now fans can ease back into the game and learn to trust the developers. EA and Victory Games have an opportunity to prove to the fans that they can still make a CnC game that is, in fact, a CnC game. It’s not laziness; it’s giving the gamers and hardcore fans what they want. I, for one, approve of this message.