Electronic Arts has promised us an epic conclusion to the current Command & Conquer series, with a grittier, darker tone; no more superfluous monologues; and a more cinematic feel. We got a first look at the recently announced Command & Conquer 4 during a recent visit to EA's UK headquarters.
Command & Conquer 4's campaign kicks off in 2062, over 10 years after the events of Kane's Wrath. The human race is close to extinction from the effects of Tiberium--the mysterious alien substance that the Brotherhood of Nod and Global Defense Initiative have been fighting over for decades. Kane, the enigmatic leader of Nod, has proposed a truce with the GDI in order to save humanity and bring Tiberium under control. Fifteen years later, the Tiberium Control Network (or TCN) has neared completion, and despite extremist unrest on both sides, Nod and the GDI have struck an uneasy peace.
Producer Jim Vessella revealed that the GDI campaign will be titled "The Men That Killed Kane," and Nod's campaign will receive the intriguing title "All Things Must End." EA has promised to reveal everything there is to know about Kane and what his goal is, culminating in a satisfying conclusion for faithful fans. The mission we saw requires you to hold off Nod units while a downed global stratosphere transport (aka dropship) is repowered. One of the biggest changes to the series is the new role-playing-game-like progression system. You level up by earning points through helping allies, killing enemies, activating TCN nodes, and finishing missions. In addition to levelling up as a player, units can level up during missions. Your crawler, for instance, can be upgraded with machine guns and cannons, although this won't persist through future missions.
Outside of the campaign, you'll also be able to earn experience points on skirmish maps and in multiplayer missions. You can unlock new abilities in multiplayer and then use these to complete difficult campaign missions. While were weren't able to see it, C&C4 will feature five-on-five multiplayer, with a greater focus on completing objectives--such as holding control points--beyond merely blowing up an enemy's base. A party system similar to that offered on Xbox Live will also be included, so you can jump from battle to battle with a group of friends.
C&C4 has offensive, defensive, and support class units, and depending on your preference, you might want to head straight to the frontline, hold back and protect your base, or rely on units that can heal and repair. The offensive-class titan mech makes a return with the new MK II. One secondary mission we saw requires you to use a titan to recover a crashed escape pod. We also witnessed the hunter and wolf units, light armoured ground vehicles, and the impressive mastodon. This beast, which bears a striking resemblance to the AT-AT walkers from Star Wars, is a top-tier GDI unit and boasts powerful missile launchers and heavy armour. We discovered one that was ready for the scrapheap, but all it took was an engineer to get it back up and running. Nod has some new units up its sleeve too. The centurion is a defensive soldier, which has a front-facing force field, so you'll need to flank in order to take him down. Meanwhile, the scorpion and stealth tanks make a return and are joined by the new spider tank.
A new set of units, the crawlers, double as both mobile construction yards and war factories, as well as serve to make life more interesting. Each unit class has a specialised crawler with increased weapons, stealth, or flying options to help support your team in that role. The crawler can be redeployed at any time, and if it's destroyed, you can easily call up another from orbit, which results in a massive impact crater and serious trouble for anyone underneath it.
The world of C&C4 is created in gorgeously crisp detail. Glowing Tiberium contrasts with the bleak wastelands of ash, debris, and scorched earth. Highly detailed units feature some cool glowing parts, as well as procedural damage, and break into multiple sections when destroyed. We're told that a new dynamic lighting system will make night missions particularly impressive, with lasers and explosions reflecting off nearby objects, and we saw plenty of satisfying explosions and fires take place.
Kane's days appear to be numbered, and we may finally see him get his comeuppance once and for all when Command & Conquer 4 launches next year. For more details, you can read our exclusive Q&A here. Keep an eye on GameSpot as the year wears on and we get to see more of the game.