Tiberium Wars picks up on the long-running conflict between Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and Brotherhood of Nod forces on a Tiberium-infested Earth. Over the course of three-dozen missions, you side with each of the game’s three factions, waging war to protect the citizens of Earth, spreading the word of the prophetic Kane, and freaking everyone out with an alien invasion. Independence Day, eat your heart out.
High-quality cinematic cutscenes (in HD resolution) and plenty of in-game scripted narratives and informational videos kept us absorbed in the plot and made mission objectives more compelling. The B-list actors give adequate performances, but it’s Joe Kucan’s reprisal of his role as Kane that sells the show. His over-the-top performance sets the perfect tone for the action and TNT-powered gameplay.
Most of the missions are of the typical assault-and-capture design that requires blowing up the opposition’s base and capturing key points, like the White House or a nuclear missile silo. We liked that many of these battles feature story-relevant countdown timers (i.e., a missile launch) to hasten the pace and create a sense of urgency. The game also has plenty of hold-and-defend missions in which you’re required to repel a massive assaulting force or escort a VIP across the battlefield, which necessitates building garrisons and scouting terrain (while still blowing stuff up along the way). Finally, commando missions give you only one supersoldier to infiltrate an enemy base—and blow it up. Our favorite is the GDI commando, an impressive one-man wrecking crew able to wipe out entire strongholds alone.
RTS veterans will feel the missions are a bit dumbed down, but the game’s excellent map design, brilliant environment models, and snazzy visual effects sufficiently amp up the gameplay. We love the way the tumultuous future is rendered—crumbling cityscapes from every part of the world are meticulously detailed with dilapidated buildings and abandoned superhighways. The Red Zones (areas where Tiberium has engulfed the landscape) are especially cool; the glowing green crystals make the environment look almost alien. The only problem we faced was that the buildings and terrain sometimes affected unit pathfinding, splitting up control groups and infantry squads midmarch. The solution: Blow up the obstacles.
Speaking of units, we were pleased to find a diverse selection of build options for each side, which gave each faction a distinctive flavor. The GDI rely on tech upgrades to overpower their enemies through brute force—a dozen rail-gun-equipped Mammoth tanks and Zone Trooper–garrisoned APCs will easily overrun any defense. The suicidal Nod units are cheaper and weaker, so you’ll have to use rush and raid more often to win rounds with them. A third faction, the alien Scrin, appears near the end of the game and utilizes futuristic tripod walkers of death and beefier damage potential to vaporize the enemy. Since games are brief (each lasts about 20 minutes), strategy boils down to building your force quickly and overwhelming your foe with superior numbers.
We fully enjoyed the explosive action of Tiberium War’s single-player campaign—the game has a Hollywood blockbuster look and feel. Unfortunately, the visual flair comes at the cost of tactical depth and innovations in strategy. Tiberium War is the best Command & Conquer game to date, but it can’t hold its own against the hardcore likes of Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes.
Breathtaking visuals anchor the fun single-player campaign.
Simple strategic options and small maps limit complexity