Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Updated Impressions - GDI Versus Nod in Multiplayer

We get briefed on the Brotherhood of Nod and get an up-close look at the GDI and Nod factions of Command & Conquer 3 in head-to-head multiplayer play.

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With Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, Electronic Arts' Los Angeles studio will revisit and revitalize one of the most established and popular series in real-time strategy history. From the resource-gathering, base-building, and tank-rushing of the original game from 1995, the Command & Conquer name has come to mean fast-paced, brutal gameplay and memorable cinematic cutscenes starring such characters as actor Joe Kucan's Kane, who has been confirmed to return to the series. We had an opportunity to sit down with executive producer Mike Verdu to discuss the recently unveiled Brotherhood of Nod faction, and then sit in on a working multiplayer session.

Verdu explains that while Nod "used to be the generic bad guy" in the original C&C games, C&C3 will be "a little more nuanced than what you saw in the first two games." According to the game's fiction, the mysterious chemical Tiberium, which is highly toxic to biological life but is also an incredible source of energy, has begun to pollute the world, and while the GDI have attempted to safeguard the last few ecologically pristine areas, Nod has attempted to gather support in the partially polluted areas where most of the world's population has settled. The producer describes Nod as a "stateless superpower"--a remarkable combination of religious cult, multinational corporation, and borderless country that actually does provide humanitarian aid to needy people, even though it's led by the megalomaniac Kane.

As a result, Nod is a two-tiered faction whose followers include both mobs of loyal followers with low-tech weaponry and small, highly trained companies of career soldiers equipped with the highest of high-tech weaponry, including powerful experimental weapons technology that hasn't been fully safety-tested yet. Verdu suggests that among other influences, the design of C&C3's Nod is inspired by the Northern Alliance--the joint forces in Afghanistan that opposed the Taliban in 2002.

The Brotherhood of Nod returns to the Command & Conquer universe.
The Brotherhood of Nod returns to the Command & Conquer universe.

In practice, as we saw, Nod tends to be proficient at hit-and-run tactics, while the GDI remains a solid choice for continuously building up successively stronger forces and eventually steamrolling opponents. Nod can build up quickly with militants and fanatics, who can join up with attack bikes and raider buggies for quick raids along with the speedy scorpion tank. Many of Nod's lower-level units seem to have excellent speed--the midlevel stealth tank, which can turn mostly invisible if it hasn't fired on an enemy for several seconds, is alarmingly fast and seems like an almost-perfect raiding unit, except that it's very fragile and is easily destroyed by enemy fire.

Later on, Nod can commission the devastating flame tank, which can burn enemy infantry and structures to a crisp. Nod also possesses several flying units, including the venom VTOL scout and later, the carryall VTOL infantry transport for dropping in heavy infantry units like the black hand and confessor soldiers. Nod's top-level military hardware is the avatar, a gigantic walking mech robot that can use its steely pincers to tear armaments off of other units and attach them to itself--for instance, the avatar can relieve a flame tank of its main cannon and upgrade itself from a juggernaut of destruction to a fire-breathing juggernaut of destruction.

On the other hand, the GDI may not be able to get quite as quick a start on raiding as Nod, though its forces are a bit more durable, and they definitely seem like they can get serious momentum swinging in their favor if they're played correctly. The faction can start matches with pit-bull scout vehicles and various types of infantry and eventually graduate to predator medium tanks and heavy mammoth tanks, which can shell the living daylights out of enemy armor and structures. The GDI can eventually commission the juggernaught, a massive walking mech robot, though the faction also has several air vehicles, including scouts, transports, and even a fighter/bomber.

The developer is attempting to make both the GDI and Nod to be powerful, unique, and balanced sides to play as.
The developer is attempting to make both the GDI and Nod to be powerful, unique, and balanced sides to play as.

Even though Nod tends to use more guerrilla-style tactics and occasionally emphasizes speed over power, the development team at EALA is constantly tuning the factions against each other to make sure they're balanced and equally appealing to new players. Both sides, for instance, have troop transport vehicles; both sides have commando units that can destroy enemy buildings; and both sides have spy units (the saboteur for Nod and the engineer for GDI) that can, when brought behind enemy lines, capture control of enemy buildings. Once you've seized an enemy building and made it your own, you'll have ground control in a small radius around it, and you'll be able to start building new structures around it, including defensive turrets that will automatically acquire nearby enemies (a tactic commonly referred to as "towering" in strategy games).

In all cases, you'll be able to monitor the action with the game's streamlined interface. A sidebar" in the upper right corner of the screen includes both a minimap and a means of selecting your current units and producing new ones without having to scroll around the map to locate your units or your production buildings. You'll also be able to quickly tell, at a glance, any specific strengths or weaknesses of the units you have selected by checking the iconic strengths/weaknesses view in the lower right corner. For instance, if you have a Nod militant missile team selected, you'll be able to quickly and easily tell that the unit is especially effective against enemy buildings but vulnerable to attacks from enemy vehicles.

In all cases, you'll probably be playing a game that looks fantastic. Even though C&C3 isn't coming out this year, the game in its early state already looks great. Aside from pumping some heavy-duty particle effects into the game's explosions, the art team has built dozens of different environmental objects, from groves of trees to derelict buildings, that can pretty much all be deformed, destabilized, and destroyed. In keeping with what Verdu refers to as his team's goal of "fast, fluid, fun gameplay," structures don't even appear on the map while being built--they erect themselves rapidly only once their building time is nearly complete.

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars looks like a very promising strategy game that will offer a surprisingly deep story and great-looking, action-packed battles. The team has vowed to view the game's development as "an update to a classic," but the executive producer was quick to assure us that the team has also observed the many ways in which real-time strategy games have grown, evolved, and improved and is taking all those developments into consideration. Unfortunately, the game won't be out until next year. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates.

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