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SummaryFinally, an original and imaginative real-time strategy that brings color back into the fading RTS genre!
The GoodMan, I tell you, I love real-time strategy games. Good or bad, I really do love them all. I like being able to command my own forces and use strategy to destroy my enemy. I like building bases, I just like the feeling of being both God and Commander of my forces. And multiplayer is always fun in real-time strategies. Isn't it great seeing two grand forces clash in one area? Watching the destruction, the fighting...it's great, it really is.
But lately, this real-time strategy genre has began to look like pure crap. I had high hopes for games like Warcraft III and Age of Mythology - I mean, come on. It's the successor to Warcraft, and who didn't think Age of Mythology looked awesome? But both games disappointed me and I doubt I'll ever play them again. Sure, it was fun for a little while, but they were so very flawed that it wasn't worth going another round in.
Red Alert 2 annoyed me, as well. I can't stand that game. I never understood why it was so popular? Well, forgive me if I didn't have particularly high expectations for "Generals". With release after release of mediocre RTS titles I've never heard of before ("Militarism"; "Highland Warriors") and disappointing games I really wanted to play ("Warcraft III"; "Age of Mythology"), the RTS genre as a whole starting to look more and more bleak. Games like Starcraft, Command and Conquer and Age of Empires started to be just a thing of the past, and with each release it was looking worse.
I picked up Generals after having seen a video of it. If anything, the game certainly looked good. Graphically, I mean. But what I got was more than just eye-candy, what I held in my hand (well, in my hard drive) was more than just another dull real-time strategy. This, my friends, is the best real-time strategy to make its way onto the market in years.
Command and Conquer features three different playable "races". There is USA, China, and the germ-warfaring terrorists, the GLA. Each race is different, with different advantages and disadvantages, and they're all perfectly balanced. Do you realize how hard it is to balance three completely different races? Generals did it.
But without a doubt, the greatest feature of Generals is the incredible graphics. No real-time strategy to date has had such incredible 3D graphics. And the engine is absolutely beautiful. Tanks leave trails behind and kick up dust clouds as they move, when they blow up pieces will fly far and tuble down hills, and one particularly early level in the China single player campaign requires you to blow up a damn - the water gushing down the gorge into the GLAs forces is a sight to be seen. Fire looks like actual fire, and the nuclear explosion is breathtaking. Craters and markings caused by missiles, scuds, nukes, and so on will stay there throughout the game. Height is also a factor in this game. Rocket soldiers standing on a higher ground will have a much better firing range than those below, and tanks and jeeps cannot go uphill quite as fast as they could on flat ground.
The game rules are also supurb. Units standing next to an exploding tank will become injured or be destroyed themselves. You can horde units inside civilian buildings to be used as a defense, but the enemy can destroy the building or - if they're American - rapple down from a Chinook and assassinate all your men from the side of the building!
The units for China and USA are fairly standard. The two races get their own set of infantry and tanks, as well as air units and some special units, but they're very distinct. For instance, the Americans prevail in air units, but the Chinese waste them when it comes to electronics.
But the GLA is very, very different than the first two. The GLA is one of the most creative races I've seen in a RTS. They resemble a Middle East terrorist group, using pickup trucks and holes in the ground as some of their weaponry. Their equivilant to a tank is a pickup truck with a guy on the back strapped to a minigun. They can steal civilian cars, load them up with bombs and drive them right into your unsuspecting units! They'll even disguise their own bomb trucks to resemble your own units. They'll take and sell wreckages of destroyed vehicles for extra cash, as well, further making you want to crush them! You spend two thousand bucks on that Overlord, and they just sold its scraps!
Resource gathering, at first, I thought was flawed. Rather than chopping down wood or digging for gold or searching for some mineral in the ground, you simple secure and begin taking supplies from supply locations, which run out rather quickly, so you must build rescource-generating units, such as a black market, hackers, or supply drops, depending on which race you play. This adds a completely new strategy to resource gathering, and it works great.
The super weapons are also great. China gets a nuclear missile, which as I said before, is an incredible sight. Not only does it do massive damage, but it leaves behind a firey cloud that lingers for quite some time. The GLA get scud missiles that leave behind anthrax which kills your infantry almost instantly.
Unlike many real-time strategies, Generals does not have some discouraging low unit limit. In fact, it may not have it at all - or if it does, I at least haven't reached it yet, and I've built up some massive armies.
Your units gain rank as they fight, and their skills increase. Infanry can take more hits and do more damage and hackers will start earning you more cash.
And you gain rank as well, and with every promotion, you get more goodies. From missile barages and emp blasts to paratroopers and the ability to steal cash from your enemies to a massive anthrax bomb...you get stronger and stronger as you fight, and the better you are, the more powerful you become and the more fun the game is. There is never a dull moment in the game, it continuously progresses with every battle.
The entire game is very simplified. Despite all the great things in the game, controls are very simple, and the interface is perfect. Never are you lost wondering how to do anything in the game - it's all right there for you.
The BadThe computer is easy. Really easy. It really isn't that hard to beat three computers set on "brutal" difficulty (the highest difficulty level). If you have a computer ally with you, it's very possible to beat six "brutal" computers. Hopefully there will be a patch that makes the AI a little tougher, because this is the most blaring flaw in the game.
There aren't that many units in the game. Well, there are, but there could have been more. Also, there's not a lot of necessity to diversify your units. Why bother building a squad of infantry when you can build a humvee, stick it full of machine gunners and stick a rocket launcher on it? You'll soon realize that once you've found the perfect unit for your race, that's all you'll need to build.
Since there is no way to defend against the "super weapons" I was disappointed to find that there's no way to turn them off.
The GLA might seem offensive to some people with the current situation in the Middle East.
Very few graphics options. You either run it at full detail or not at all.
The single player campaign is rather short, and not altogether interesting. There are no cinematics in the game, which is another disappointment.