Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Updated Hands-On - Single-Player Campaign

We get our hands on the single-player campaign in the final chapter of the Tiberian saga.


Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight

The Command & Conquer real-time strategy series started back in 1996 and has gone from being a simple game of who can churn out more tanks to rush the enemy to being a campy, over-the-top stage for actors to chew the scenery in live-action cinematic sequences. Now, it's become a more serious military tale of nuanced conflict and environmentalism. (Then, there was also Red Alert 3, which had parachuting Soviet bears shot out of cannons and former world champion pro wrestler Ric Flair, but that's not important right now.) Command & Conquer 4 will be the last chapter in the series, and the story of its single-player campaign will tie up all the loose ends that first started coming undone years ago when we harvested that first patch of Tiberium crystals.

As you may recall, the story of C&C 4 takes place after the events of Command & Conquer 3, which was a more straight-laced game where the energy-rich Tiberium crystals were revealed to be a poisonous threat to the environment. The warring factions of the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod (led by the mysterious Kane) clashed once more but struck an uneasy truce for the sake of the planet, which was being completely overtaken by rampant Tiberium growth (and there was also that alien invasion, but again, that's not important right now).

At the opening of C&C 4, the unthinkable has happened: Kane, the fanatical leader of Nod, has seemingly joined forces with the GDI to combat the Tiberium threat with the help of a mysterious codex of knowledge. While this uneasy truce has staved off the threat for the time being, no one truly knows Kane's motivations (not to mention how he's miraculously managed to survive all this time). However, at the start of the game, various subfactions within the Brotherhood--dissatisfied with Kane apparently going soft--have begun their own uprising to start skirmishes with local GDI patrols in their hunt for their former leader, as well as generally causing trouble. The game opens with a few such skirmishes.

Love the smell of lasers in the morning? You're gonna love Command & Conquer 4.
Love the smell of lasers in the morning? You're gonna love Command & Conquer 4.

We jumped into the campaign's first few missions, which put us in the position of a GDI officer (though interestingly, over the course of the campaign, you'll have the option to defect to and stay with the Brotherhood). In the first mission, your job is to defend a civilian convoy from a band of Nod separatists that will attack relentlessly. Like with all missions in the game, you can choose to play as any of the game's three classes (offense, defense, or support), which determines the type of crawler mobile base you'll begin with, as well as the units you'll be able to build from it. We played as the offense class in this mission and quickly found ourselves swarmed.

As the offense class in a mission that requires you to stay on the move, your job is to churn out units when you can and set your crawler to a mobile state when your VIPs hit the next hot spot. Your crawler base can eventually be upgraded to be a mobile artillery platform that provides powerful covering fire, but it can only produce units when it's deployed as a static base. But as a deployed base, your crawler emanates an aura that repairs any damaged friendlies. This is an important little duality that requires you to pack up and unpack your crawler while pumping out counter units to the ones that Nod pops out (air units, light and heavy vehicles, and various infantry types). It also definitely makes this level more interesting than a regular old escort mission.

We then skipped ahead to the second mission, which required us to capture a key area by sneaking a base-level engineer into a control tower contested by two different Nod subfactions. Because we were after a single, static victory point, we chose the GDI defense class for this mission to dig in and continuously grind forward. It didn't seem like a bad idea because this mission had several different control points along the way, such as neutral artillery bases that could be captured and fortified (and used as repositories for loose chunks of Tiberium that spawned here and there to get us some bonus cash for new troops). A defense player's lowest level GDI units include various types of infantry units and some light vehicles. And their decent ground speed was helpful in snagging control points while we moved our crawler into position to drop a handful of turrets.

The Tiberium saga finally draws to a close. Spoiler: Giant robots are involved.
The Tiberium saga finally draws to a close. Spoiler: Giant robots are involved.

Though C&C 4 makes a lot of changes to the series' formula, they all seem like really interesting new additions that add a lot of depth and replay value to the game. While the campaign will close out a story that has been 15 years in the making, the game's different classes and persistent character advancement will keep you busy for a long time. The game is scheduled to ship on March 16.

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