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Strategy Review
Command & Conquer
Westwood has really raised the bar with this one
by Peter Smith
Westwood Studios
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Shot1 he hype has been building since last spring (and yes, we were part of it) and fans of Westwood Studios' Dune II and Blizzard's Warcraft have been drooling in anticipation. So here at last is Command & Conquer. Now the question is, does it meet our wild expectations?

Shot2 In a word, yes. Command & Conquer is an adrenaline rush in a box. Let's back up a bit. In case you've been living under a rock for the past six months (or you're new to computer gaming) we should tell you that Command & Conquer is a game of combat played in real-time. Not really a wargame in any sense of the word, C&C forces you to scroll around a map, building new installations, commanding troops, and searching for tiberium (more on that later) while the enemy attacks you relentlessly. At the same time, though, it isn't all action. It requires thought to come up with sound tactics.

Shot3 In the future, a new material called tiberium has fallen to earth via meteorites. Tiberium has a curious quality. It sucks all the precious metals out of the ground, and deposits them as a crystal on the surface. It then remains for some capitalistic individual to merely pick up these crystals and sell them for big bucks. Needless to say, there is some competition for tiberium fields. Out of the dark past emerges The Brotherhood of Nod, an ancient organization bent on world domination. Kane, the leader of Nod, sees tiberium as his chance to build the Brotherhood into a world force. Opposing Kane's plans is the Global Defense Initiative (GDI). You step into the shoes of a recruit on one side or the other. Unlike the earlier real-time strategy games, the two sides are quite different. Each has a different selection of installations and units it can build, and each campaign takes place in a different part of the world.

Shot4 The GDI fight is in Europe, Nod's goal is Africa. In a scenario, you start with a handful of troops, some cash, and a "mobile construction vehicle." This gizmo converts into a Construction Yard which you'll use as the cornerstone of a base. Various installations need to be built, and each one costs you cash. Among these installations is a tiberium refinery that comes with a harvester. The harvester will collect tiberium that is converted to cash when it is returned it to the refinery. In this way you'll have income to support your war effort. While you are building your base, you're also giving your troops orders to move and attack. Therein lies the tension, since this is a game where mayhem is the rule rather than the exception. Westwood has given us an interface that is as smooth as glass. Shot5Units are selected by "lassoing" them (and if there is a limit to the number of units you can select at one time, we haven't encountered it) and the cursor then becomes intelligent. If you click on open terrain, the selected units get a "move to" order. If you click on an enemy, they get a "fire at" order. There are certain advanced commands that require a keypress, but these strike us as strictly optional, and many players will never use them.

Shot6 Any flaws we have to report are minor. First, the AI can act dense. If you want to move a unit a long distance, you're better off doing it in short hops, lest it decide to take the long way around an obstacle. Second there are times when a unit is hidden behind a tree or building. Third, your troops will often drop to their bellies and crawl when they come under fire. This is normally fine, but when a harvester is heading for them (harvesters have no offensive abilities, but can squish infantry nicely!) you'd like to be able to order them to stand up and RUN, for pity's sake! After you've played both campaigns, there are multi-player options to explore. Two players can go head to head via serial cable or modem, and four can play over a network. There are specially designed multi player scenarios, and some special rules as well. You can choose to have the battlefield littered with crates that contain toys of destruction, including those normally used by the other side.

Shot7 Everything about this game shouts quality. The digital audio sound effects are superb. The music has a techno beat which fits the game perfectly. The sound options menu has a CD player-like interface that allows you to choose which music you want to hear, and in what order! The storyline is solid and involving, and is told via many mini-movies that mix rendered and digitized video footage. Game play is totally intense. Heck, even the install program is cool! If you absolutely hate real time games, you may be excused. All the rest of you, though, get out there and check this game out. We seriously doubt you'll be sorry you did. Westwood has really raised the bar with this one, but they aren't standing still. They've already announced Command & Conquer 2: Tiberian Sun. The battle continues!
©1996 Strategy Plus, Inc.