Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Xbox 360 Hands-On

EA's strategy sequel is coming along, and we found out how it will deploy on the Xbox 360.

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EA's LA-based studio made some good strides with last year's Battle for Middle-earth II. Aside from the fact that the real-time strategy game improved on its predecessor, the Xbox 360 version made a relatively smooth transition from PC to console and set a precedent that EALA intends to capitalize on. The next RTS from the studio for the 360 is the upcoming Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, which is also slated to hit the PC. We had the chance to get some exclusive hands-on time with a work-in-progress version of the game to see how it's coming together.

If you're unfamiliar with the Command & Conquer series we'll bring you up to speed with a quick run through its lineage. The series started on the PC in the mid-'90s, and, along with Blizzard's Warcraft series, it was instrumental in breaking the RTS genre to the masses back in the day. The game cenetered on the conflict between two global forces, the Global Defense Initiative (GDI for short) and the cultlike Brotherhood of Nod, or simply NOD. World domination was the order of the day, as is usually the case with RTS games, and the game's accessible gameplay gave the franchise a long-lasting appeal.

This new entry aims to give fans of the series what they want with the return of full-motion video sequences--a cheesy staple of the earlier games--along with cutting-edge visuals and refined gameplay. The third entry in the series finds things getting a little dark for the GDI and NOD forces. The conflict between the two military powers has gotten considerably more complicated since they first started clashing. Besides the fact that the mysterious tiberium, a crystal resource central to the game's economy, is starting to overrun the planet, an alien race known as the Scrin has appeared on the scene, adding a whole set of problems to be dealt with. While this is not so fun for humans currently living on the planet, it makes for a good setup for a C&C game.

You'll be able to see the looks of anguish on your opponents' faces as you crush them in four multiplayer modes.
You'll be able to see the looks of anguish on your opponents' faces as you crush them in four multiplayer modes.

While the core game content will be the same as in the PC version and will feature more than 30 single-player missions, EALA has had to adapt the game's control scheme for the 360. Fortunately the team is building on the successful control system used in Battle for Middle-earth last year, which made smart use of the 360 controller. The core scheme is returning, but a number of tweaks based on user feedback from BFME are being implemented, the most significant of which is improved grouping options and quicker access to various functions.

Besides the control scheme, the 360 game will feature exclusive multiplayer modes, as well as support for the Xbox Live Vision camera. We had the chance to check out the modes and the camera functionality and were impressed by how they're coming together. The game features four multiplayer modes: siege, capture the flag, capture and hold, and king of the hill. Siege seems like it's going to be a recipe for the fun kind of multiplayer disaster. A five-minute energy wall will be erected between you and your enemies, preventing anyone from attacking. In that time you'll have to build like the wind to prepare for the inevitable onslaught from your foes. Capture the flag is pretty straightforward and challenges you to find a hidden flag on the map and get it back to your base. Once collected and dropped off, the flag respawns and the process repeats until you reach a set number of points. King of the hill requires you to hold one point in the middle of the map for the longest time. Capture and hold is a team-based variation on that theme and requires a team to hold five points on a map for the longest period of time. The games will play out on one of 20 included multiplayer maps, with more maps likely to come via downloadable content on Xbox Live Marketplace.

On top of all of the above, C&C3's multiplayer game also offers support for the Xbox Live Vision camera, allowing you to see your opponents onscreen as you play. The game will pop up a window with everyone's face (provided that's what they aimed their camera at) in each corner of the screen. At the end of a match, the windows will move to form a virtual "winner's circle" with the victorious player's window growing to suitably large "in your face" proportions. Though the feature doesn't seem totally practical for serious players (we were much more focused on stamping our foes out of existence), it's funny for those watching, and if you get taken out, you can mess with your fellow players by making faces at them (or engaging in other unmentionable camera-related hijinks).

Keep the cameras on your faces, people.
Keep the cameras on your faces, people.

Though our version of the game was still early, and there were a number of "work-in-progress" rough spots, the game looked good and ran surprisingly smoothly. The level of detail on the units was slick--though, granted, we were playing on a large TV, so it was easy to see the details. We were especially impressed by the stable frame rate when the screen was flooded with units in a four-player game, which was something that BFMEII had issues with.

Based on what we played and saw, Command & Conquer 3 is looking like a solid RTS for the 360 and a nifty evolution of EALA's strategy control scheme. The 360's multiplayer modes seem to cover the right bases to satisfy our online rumbling needs, and the Xbox Live Vision support is a fun, albeit goofy, extra to the experience that seems like a nifty way to rub people's faces in your victories. Given how well BFMEII turned out, we're pretty excited to see how C&C3 comes together on the 360. The Xbox 360 version of the game is slated to ship this May. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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