They said it could not and should not be done. Real-Time Strategy titles (also known as an RTS) could only be done properly with a mouse and keyboard combination and a high-resolution monitor. The “zoom around the map and click on a tiny fragment” nature of the gameplay in these titles could not be achieved on consoles, it was told, as the lower resolution of the average television combined with the clunky interface of a game controller would seriously hamper the ability to pull off all but the simplest of campaigns, thus ruining the entire experience. Command & Conquer 3 defies all these naysayers with a stellar RTS on the Xbox 360 that looks great and controls beautifully regardless of your setup.
C&C 3 is one of only a handful of current day titles to still be using full-motion video in its cutscenes. In the mid-nineties this became an outmoded and often silly way to do things to drive game storylines forward, so it was replaced by the pre-rendered or in-engine cutscenes we know of today. Where the yesteryear titles fail and C&C succeeds is in the deliberate use of cheesy acting and over-the-top sci-fi dialogue and situations… players end up laughing with the actors as opposed to at them.
Speaking of actors, many players who fire up C&C will recognize several familiar faces, particularly from the weekday evening lineups of FOX and the Sci-Fi channel. Tricia Helfer, Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica) and Jennifer Morrison (House) are present for the “gorgeous women of sci-fi” factor, while Josh Holloway (LOST), Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers, Splinter Cell games) and Lando Cal… er, Billy Dee Williams (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) deliver fine, if not cheesy, performances in this deliberately over-the-top sci-fi epic that you command. Rounding out the entire cast is Joe Kucan, remembered by most fans as Kane himself. The dramatic tension is always fun, always present and always center to the action. It is a bit reminiscent of the drama in the Wing Commander series of games (after the series went full-motion-video), only taking itself just a touch more seriously.
Visually, the game does deliver. Even on a standard definition television it is obvious that the developers were trying to “push the pretty” for the game’s more dramatic elements, including the strong lighting (explosions) and particle effects (items blown to bits break apart into many shimmering pieces). Add to the mix some fire, volumetric smoke and realistic weather conditions and you have quite the immersive experience in the title’s overall visual presentation. The framerate tends to chug a bit when there is a lot going on at once, but this is only a minor annoyance.
The game boasts full 5.1 Surround and all of the sound effects and riveting score (save for the screeching guitars that can become a bit trying to the ear at times) you can handle. The game really does begin to sound like a feature film (or, coincidentally, like an episode of Battlestar Galactica in full swing) once you really begin to get things rolling during the main single-player campaign. Some of the voice messages that come through on a small video screen can be hard to understand and are finished too quickly, but all in all it’s easy to get caught up and lose one’s self in the sights and sounds of Command & Conquer 3. That is, of course, once you’ve got the control scheme down.
Although EA has done a great job, adapting the one-button interface from their Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II title, that is not to say that there isn’t a learning curve to the controls. The way things have been set up for the console version is very nicely done, and those who have not become accustomed to the control schemes from the PC versions of these titles may actually find it easier to get the hang of it. The sidebar is now on the lower left of the screen, and there are contextual “fly out” menus that appear by pulling down on the right trigger. Nearly every action in the game is activated with the A button. Selecting the most miniscule of units can be a bit of a challenge and there seems to be some sort of weird rule set in selecting areas to construct buildings that EA neglected to tell the world about because the game balks at locations that, to the player, seem ideal to place a power plant or a troop barracks. The single player campaign consists of 35+ missions, more than enough to keep any fan happy.
Xbox Live users will be quite happy as well, as the game contains quite a few multiplayer selections including Capture the Flag, Seige, King-of-the-Hill and the standard skirmish mode. C&C 3 is also brimming with achievements and medals to obtain, including zero-point ones for performing miserably.
C&C 3 goes a long way to dispelling the argument that these kind of RTS games cannot be done on a console. The beautiful graphics, relative ease of control and immersive gameplay round out the “expectedly cheesy” storyline to provide an intense gameplay experience that no fan of the genre should miss. C&C 3 can be recommended for a purchase without any fears of having your bases invaded as a result.