Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath Updated Hands-On - Xbox 360 Interface and Controls

We try out the new interface and control scheme in the next Command & Conquer game for the Xbox 360.

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Do you like crushing your enemies? Sure, we all do. The Command & Conquer real-time strategy series has been all about this fun and exciting activity since the get-go, focusing on quickly harvesting resources, spending the resources to construct a base and an army of tanks and other heavy artillery, and then squashing your opponents flat on futuristic battlefields. The latest game in the series to come to consoles, Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath, will include all of the content from the PC expansion pack of the same name, aside from the Global Conquest mode, which is being replaced by a console-exclusive set of single-player missions known as Kane's Challenge. The Xbox 360 version will also have a new interface and new control scheme designed to let you quickly select, build, and control your forces as you bring them into battle, and we just got our hands on it.

Command & Conquer 3 returns to consoles with a new interface.
Command & Conquer 3 returns to consoles with a new interface.

We had a chance to try out one of the more basic missions from Kane's Challenge, which will offer about 30 minutes of new full-motion video sequences as the commander of the forces of Nod, Kane himself (played by actor Joe Kucan), briefs you. This mode will offer 10 skirmishes per subfaction. The game has nine subfactions (three for each side: the Global Defense Initiative, Nod, and the Scrin aliens), and you'll play certain missions from the perspective of one or more of these subfactions. In our mission, we played as the GDI with the goal of annihilating our Nod foes on a relatively compact map on which we were separated by a large deposit of Tiberium, the game's main resource.

We immediately got started building up a base by deploying our construction vehicle, and then started on some power plants and a refinery. Building just about anything--structures, foot soldiers, tanks, or planes--can be done in one of two ways. First, you can follow the standard real-time strategy method of selecting your construction site. In this case you hover your controller's cursor over your selection and then press the A button, at which point you press and hold the right trigger to pull up the radial menu. This radial menu lets you choose which unit to build from 12 different options, arranged in a ring like the hours on a clock. You just move your control stick to highlight it.

You can also, at any time, choose a secondary radial menu (without anything selected) by pressing the right trigger, which pulls up a more general menu with 12 different options, including build orders for infantry or vehicles. Choosing one of these options will jump to the specific radial menu for that action, such as creating infantry or vehicles, and will automatically queue them up at any barracks or factories that you control, anywhere on the map. The idea is apparently to get you used to the idea of the 12 o'clock radial menu until it becomes second nature.

The game's interface also seems to have plenty of other quickie amenities that should help you get into the action quickly, such as an option that lets you assign specific units or buildings to a control group, similar to how they work in real-time strategy games (control groups let you assign a shortcut to a specific unit or group of units to select them--you can then use that shortcut anytime to jump back to control of them). Here, you can use the D pad to quickly jump between assigned control groups. In one case, you might be giving different group-movement orders to separate squads of units. In another, you might assign one of your buildings to a control group so you can hop from the action on the battlefield to keeping track of the home front.

Is this the face of a man who would lie to you? Expect a console-exclusive single-player mode from Kane himself.
Is this the face of a man who would lie to you? Expect a console-exclusive single-player mode from Kane himself.

You can also select units by pressing and holding the A button and moving your cursor to "paint" any nearby units for selection, and when push comes to shove, you can press and hold the trigger and tap the A button twice to select all of your units if you need to call in an all-out attack or base defense. We found this option handy several times as we acclimated ourselves to the interface, and eventually we churned out enough GDI units to crush the Nod base on the other side of the map in the single-player level we tried. Though we didn't get a chance to try out the multiplayer, we're told that the Xbox 360 version will offer more than 50 different maps to play, including maps from Kane's Wrath for the PC as well as additional maps that have been released for the PC in various patch updates.

From what we can tell, Kane's Wrath for the Xbox 360 otherwise offers the exact same experience and content as the PC game. It's clear that EALA is confident that the control scheme is up to snuff and will let console players compete at the same level and with the same speed as PC players. It seems like it'll take some getting used to, but the control scheme should eventually let console players dive into this fast-paced and visually attractive strategy sequel and start blowing up stuff when the game is released in June.

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