Hands On With Tiberian Sun

Westwood's long-awaited sequel is finally out, and productivity in the GameSpot offices has plummeted.

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After nearly three years, the sequel to Command & Conquer, arguably one of the most memorable real-time strategies ever developed, has finally arrived. The staff at GameSpot had the good fortune of getting final copies hot off the press, as it were, a few days before the game hit store shelves.

To fans of the original Command & Conquer and Red Alert, Tiberian Sun will seem instantly familiar. Westwood realized that the interface its design team created for the first two games in the series was nearly perfect, and as the old adage goes, "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" - so they didn't. Well, not much anyway. The general layout of Tiberian Sun is almost exactly the same as before. What you'll first notice, however, is that the game is now played from an isometric view - the camera is angled at about 45 degrees - instead of being positioned directly above the action. What this means is that more of the surroundings, including buildings and units, inherently fall into your line of sight, basically making the playing field that much larger.

You'll also notice the new waypoint button on top of the menu bar. The waypoint system is a new addition to the Westwood family of real-time strategies, and it lets you set down any number of waypoints for your units to follow. This makes patrolling a certain area completely automated and much less of a headache than manually moving your units around.

The entire point-and-click interface (which practically standardized the rest of the genre) from the previous two titles has been retained in Tiberian Sun, as well. Units can be grouped, placed into teams, moved around, and ordered to attack in a snap. A new system of keyboard commands has also been added to make maneuvering the camera around the action a breeze.

From there, the changes between Tiberian Sun and the older titles in the C&C series become clear. The first notable difference, obviously, are the game's visuals. All the mechanized units are now rendered using voxels (a three-dimensional pixel), which add realism to the units as they stumble and rotate over the game's often-rough terrain. Other eye candy includes the incorporation of ambient lighting, colored lighting, and a particle system. Tiberian Sun also moves away from the standard tiled landscape and toward a more realistic environment that makes full use of cliffs, waterfalls, forests, rocks, etc., and integrates it all with a full, true-to-life physics model.

According to Westwood, the biggest change to Tiberian Sun is the new set of strategies and AI possessed by each of the game's units. While something as abstract as AI can't really be examined or appreciated in one sitting, we did immediately note that things like the pathfinding techniques used by the ground units are a lot more refined than in the previous two C&C titles.

The bottom line is that… actually, we'll save the bottom line for next week's Tiberian Sun review. For now, know that Tiberian Sun is simply more of the Command & Conquer and Red Alert most of you grew up to love, only better - and that, people, is saying a lot.

Don't forget to check out our latest Behind The Games feature, as Geoff Keighley takes a look at the Final Hours of Tiberian Sun.

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