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Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Review

March 27th, 2010 by

Humanity lies on a razor-edge. Two warring factions, the GDI and Nod must call a truce to face a greater enemy, Tiberium. It is ironic that the mineral resource the GDI and Nod fought over now threatens to kill them both, but in the midst of this crisis, Kane, Nod’s prophetic leader, emerges from seclusion to deliver GDI the message that he has developed a system that can control Tiberium and harness its power. But he cannot build this ‘Tiberium Control Network’ without GDI’s cooperation. Thus, the two opposing factions find themselves in a desperate and unlikely alliance to stop Tiberium from extinguishing mankind.

Skip forward 15 years, the network is nearly complete and Tiberium is under strict control. With the immediate threat subdued the brittle ceasefire is showing signs of strain and Kane’s motivation for co-operation will soon become clear.

Tiberian Twilight is the end of a saga that has spanned 15 years since Westwood Studios released the ground breaking original. Has Electronic Arts created a swan song befitting the series? Or is the final Command & Conquer destined to be full of what-ifs and fallow promises?

Note: Following suit with Ubisoft, this game requires a CONSTANT internet connection. If your connection should drop for even 10 seconds, it will nicely prompt you that any progress made, XP or mission-wise will not be saved. Please bear this in mind when reading this review.

Within the first 10 minutes of playing, TT strikes me as a very confused game. It would be fair to say this title has been promoted heavily as fan service, the end of an epic story. In the past C&C has been a cornerstone of stereotypical RTS gaming; resource gathering, base building and massive armies. Here’s a shocker for you, they are all gone, all of them and many more aspects. Another layer of fidelity removed is the more complex unit controls that OCD freaks like myself love e.g. patrol orders and assists. In a nutshell, a lot of the complexity has been stripped out in favour of a more contemporary RTS style like Dawn of War 2, but not all in good ways. It therefore seems odd that a game largely for long-term fans has radically changed to encourage players to the franchise. But instead of dwelling on the radical changes, let us further explore Command & Conquer with a 21st Century spin.

So base building is out, instead you have your Mobile Command Vehicle, or Crawler. This hulking behemoth is your entire base with the advantage of being mobile. When you want to produce units you simply hunker down and deploy. Now, there are three different types of crawler:

1. The offence crawler. A walking weapon, the units it produces are also deadly, often having thicker hulls for staying power. This class does not offer any flying units, turrets or strategic measures.

2. The defensive crawler. Can build a limited amount of turrets & bunkers. The produced units are normally lightly armoured. Tunnel networks can be used to travel across the map quickly. Basic aircraft are present, not the bulk of your forces though.

3. The support crawler. Airborne (as are many of its units) and with the elements of surprise and espionage as its greatest weapons. Creating several lightly armoured aircraft and striking quickly can often overturn a larger force. Has access to air strikes and other countermeasures.

Your choice in crawler isn’t always dictated by your playing style, more about the type of mission. For example, one of the Nod missions is to take control of 8 anti-aircraft turrets in about 10 minutes, so the wise choice is either offence or support. Another task is to hold off attackers for a set amount of time, defence it is. There is always some flexibility in your choice, though many missions can be completed with either class. If the worst should happen and your crawler is destroyed, no problem. You can re-spawn in one of the approved spawn points and regroup your forces. In the campaign mode you have a set number of re-spawns, forcing you not to be reckless. On the positive side it does allow you to move your base closer to the front line without dire consequences.

Huge forces are a thing of the past in TT and you are allocated a modest unit cap. Each unit is a certain amount of points and you can only build until your limit is reached. This means your army is typically 15 or so units. In Dawn of War 2 this made for intimate encounters, each of your units having meaning and its own specific weight in the battle field. However in this case you often feel short-handed, having a lack of strategic leverage to exact your plan and in addition splitting your forces often causes failure. The most effective tactic I found was to have a selection of units with a couple of repairing units and drag the whole group around, stomping on anything in your path, negating a lot of strategy.

The army you produce is made up of three different classes; light, medium and heavy. Each of these units is also adept at attacking either a light, medium or heavy foe. Most units can attack any type, however attacking a foe’s weakness normally does about double damage. A modicum of success can be gained in the campaign mode by tailoring your units to the enemy’s weakness. However due to the low unit cap and the tendency to keep all of your units together, most of the thinking has been removed.

Crowded house or Lonely Heart's club?

For the past couple of years, the RTS genre has been in a state of flux. Many changes have been made to attempt to bring the tired RTS genre kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Another trope de jour is incorporating RPG elements into the mix to lend a feeling of progression and change. TT is no different, with a persistent levelling system for your profile. All play on campaign, co-op or multiplayer will earn you XP points, these points count towards your level. Each level you gain unlocks new units to build or new abilities you can purchase mid-game. To ensure single player missions don’t become too easy, an XP limit is sometimes enforced, forcing you to use tier 1 units.

As you increase in level, more units are available

No Command & Conquer game would be complete without the full motion video scenes between missions and I’m pleased to say they make a gracious return. As it is the final stage of the saga, high drama is injected into the scenes but unfortunately I think Dr. Nick from the Simpsons performed this drama-booster because the scenes aren’t intentionally funny, but still make you laugh, kind of like that drunk bloke at the bus stop…

The main game is standard fare graphically. One problem I did notice is that the chunky interface coupled with a lack of ability to zoom out very far gives a claustrophobic feeling where you can’t quickly see all the action. A nice inclusion are the extra map details on some of the levels, miners in the background going about their business, a police van cruising around a war-torn city and other incidental effects. In-game communications are shared through a holographic window in the top-right of the screen and it’s a nice touch to have this professional looking detail. The minimum GPU spec is a 256MB card with shader model 3 which should cover any desktop computer from the last 4 years. Laptop users may want to check their on-board GPU for the shader 3 part as you might come aground there.

Sound is, again, nothing to write home about. Lasers fizz, rockets bang and huge AT-AT-like vehicles make nice stompy noises. When you click on each unit, it only has a stock of about 10 different phrases, which can get old quite quickly, especially considering you’ll be clicking on the same units about 20 times a minute. The classically inspired music rises and falls in time with the action, but it’s the same piece of music each time. As you cannot fully zoom out, there isn’t a huge amount of sound panning from one ear to the other to follow a majestically arcing rocket. I can’t criticise too heavily in this department though, as compared to other RTS titles, this TT doesn’t fare too badly.

During the menus, even in offline mode, there is a chatbox at the bottom of the screen. I’m sure the intended use is for like-minded players to form relationships and team up for the co-op campaign mode or one of the multiplayer options available. At the moment though, unless you speak Russian or want to read disparaging comments on the game, it may not be for you. As mentioned above, you can take on the normally single player missions in co-op with a buddy. If you invite someone to your party beforehand and start you will probably have more success than the sometimes shaky auto-matching system. Once in the game though, everything runs quite smoothly, I’ve yet to experience any major lag issues.

In the PvP part of the multiplayer, only one game type is available. There are resource nodes placed around the map and your team’s task is to secure these nodes and hold off enemy attacks to accumulate points. These points go into a central reservoir where a set goal is being chased, taking down another player’s units and crawler will also earn points. It’s basically an RTS version of a game of control-point, like you might find in an FPS, and is a big let down when this is the only competitive multiplayer available. Of course it could be said that the whole premise of the re-spawning mobile crawler, lack of a base and low unit cap heavily impacts any sort of game they could’ve created.

Tiberium Twilight has clearly seen all the other RTS games in the playground and thought ‘I’m going to try to be like them’, but I think EA have taken the changes one step too far here. One bad decision is compacted by another and another to truly break any real strategic involvement in the entire game, so to summarise;

A. There is no resource gathering, you have infinite money, if it weren’t for the unit cap you could build indefinitely.

B. The low unit cap is supposed to give a more intimate feel to your units, however, due to point A you can just rebuild any unit destroyed within 10 seconds.

C. The mobile base is a good idea on paper, however in practice it is somewhat flawed. Compounded with points A & B, the common outcome is for you to stomp up to an enemy crawler, burrow down and keep knocking out units while they do the same. It just becomes a battle of attrition, spamming 60 tanks into your build queue to eventually wear down the crawler standing between you and your goal.

On a positive note, there is some really nice work done with the interface here. If you have a unit selected that is good at attacking medium foes, all medium foes in sight will have a large cross-hair hovering over them, allowing you to maximise your damage output. Also, if you select an enemy unit that is proving troublesome, it will suggest which of your units will do the most damage. It is small touches like these that are genuine improvements to the RTS genre instead of change for change’s sake.

It is such a shame it all had to end this way and while there are few flaws, those flaws Command & Conquer: Tiberian Twilight has are fatal. I’d only recommend this for hardcore fans once it has hit the bargain bins, and if you want a true modern RTS fix I would recommend going for the far superior Supreme Commander 2.

MLG Rating: 5/10
Platform: PC  Release Date: 19/03/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight for review purposes by the publisher. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a high spec gaming PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

One Response to “Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight Review”
  1. avatar Martyn Hackett says:

    Yep, I’ll wait for a price drop on this one.
    Looks like Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising’s going to have to keep me going for a while.

    That DRM’s a piss-take, too.

    A shame, really.

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