Tiberium First Impressions - Command & Conquer Goes First-Person Again

We get our first good look at the new first-person shooter based on the popular Command & Conquer real-time strategy series.

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Tiberium isn't the first first-person shooter EA has created out of its popular Command & Conquer real-time strategy franchise, but it is the first attempt in over half a decade. As such, Tiberium will bring all the latest technology to the fray, and developer EALA looks to craft a game that will blend the squad control of the RTS games with intense first-person shooter gameplay. Along the way, Tiberium will also fill in huge holes in the history of the Command & Conquer universe. We finally got our first look at Tiberium recently, and EA showed off some of its core gameplay and features.

The previous C&C shooter, Renegade, was an early attempt at a large-scale battlefield where you could jump into different vehicles or go on foot. It was basically an early attempt at Battlefield-style gameplay, before Battlefield even existed. Tiberium, on the other hand, will focus more on putting you in the boots of a battlefield commander on the ground. As executive producer Chris Plummer explained, the inspiration comes from the way Special Forces troops operate behind enemy lines. A single commando today is a potent warrior, capable of dispatching the enemy himself or calling in reinforcements or pinpoint air strikes. The game will try to build on that idea by giving you plenty of tools of destruction.

You've rarely seen a Command & Conquer battlefield from this perspective.
You've rarely seen a Command & Conquer battlefield from this perspective.

Tiberium will continue the storyline that ended in Command & Conquer 3, as the game is set in the years after the Third Tiberium War. The alien Scrin invaders that invaded Earth have been defeated, but one of their huge towers remains, seemingly abandoned. Keeping an eye on it is Ricardo Vega, your character. Vega is a member of the Global Defense Initiative (the good guys), as well as a Forward Battle Commander in charge of a Rapid Assault and Intercept Deployment, or RAID. Basically, whenever there's trouble deep in a Tiberium-infested area on Earth, the GDI dispatches a RAID, which is sort of like a Special Forces detachment. Your role as the FBC is to call in air, armor, and infantry units and lead them to victory, though you'll be armed with a powerful weapon yourself: a transforming, four-in-one gun called the GD-10.

As the Forward Battle Commander, your job will be to arrive on the scene first and secure the area. The GD-10 can transform into a magnetic rail gun (a futuristic assault rifle), a missile launcher, a grenade launcher, or an energy canon, which also doubles as a sniper weapon. Also, the FBC is clad in advanced body armor equipped with jump jets, which let you leap atop rooftops and other objects. The battle that was demonstrated had Vega battling Scrin units, from basic strike units (which are sort of like alien dogs) to more advanced archons. To bring in reinforcements, you have to seize Tiberium nodes on the battlefield. Each node lets you bring in a squad of your choice, including regular infantry, missile infantry, Titan mechs, and Orca air units. If some of those units seem familiar, they're taken from the RTS game (not surprisingly).

If a unit is destroyed, that's no problem, either. "Your squads are not your health bar; they're expendable," Plummer said. "If you lose a squad, it's not the end of a mission. You can just order reinforcements and bring in a different squad, or bring in the same squad and try a different tactic. This gives the player a lot of choices."

Squads will be tied to the directional pad on your controller. You can control a maximum of four squads (one for each cardinal direction on the D pad). Issuing orders is context sensitive, it appears. Judging from what we saw during the demonstration, if you want your tanks to attack something, simply aim at the target in question and then hit the corresponding direction on the D pad for your tanks. Or if you want your infantry to move to a certain spot, point to that spot and then hit the corresponding D pad button for that squad. There's also an interactive battlefield map that you can call up to issue orders to your squads, if you prefer that traditional view.

Plummer said that the team prototyped the gameplay mechanics more than two years ago, and they've been refining it ever since. It certainly provides a different way of tackling the first-person shooter genre, as most games simply rely on you blasting anything that moves. The challenge of squad control on a chaotic battlefield makes Tiberium seem like a sci-fi cousin to games such as Brothers in Arms, though the former will give you a much wider and more varied arsenal to play with.

You'll command squads when you're not busy blasting enemies yourself.
You'll command squads when you're not busy blasting enemies yourself.

Longtime C&C fans will also be interested to hear that Tiberium will also delve into the lore of the franchise like few games before it. For instance, the roots of the GDI and its rival, the evil Brotherhood of Nod, will apparently be explored for the first time. It is essentially a conflict, as Plummer explained, between science and faith. It all revolves around the arrival of Tiberium, an extraterrestrial element that has the ability to transform any matter that it comes into contact with into itself. When Tiberium becomes a powerful resource, it becomes the source of conflict. Not surprisingly, exploitation will be the theme of the game.

With regard to technology, the game is being built atop a highly modified version of the Unreal Engine. But though the game is still quite a ways from completion, there are still plenty of details to be learned about Tiberium, from the multiplayer component to more details about the gameplay. Still, there's plenty of time; right now, it sounds like Tiberium will ship for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 either late this year or early next. The exact date is still to be determined, and Plummer said that the game will ship "when it's done."

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