Very few games have ever had the amount of hype and the number of expectations to live up to as Command & Conquer 2: Tiberian Sun. Tiberian Sun is the official sequel to the original Command & Conquer, with the excellent Command & Conquer: Red Alert and a few expansion packs between releases. Unfortunately, Tiberian Sun brings very little new to the Command & Conquer line-up and offers nothing in the way of innovation.
Tiberian Sun will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played any of the previous Command & Conquer games. The interface hasn't changed all that much. Gameplay is still the basic point-and-click type. However, hiding amongst the familiarity are a few new features. A particularly cool feature is the natural disasters. There's a meteor shower which rains destruction and makes tiberium sprout up, and an ion storm which rains destruction, but also knocks out power. These are especially devastating in multi-player modes, where an inconvenient meteor shower could have tiberium sprouting up in your base, damaging units, or an ion storm could knock out your radar, hover units, power-intensive defense structures, and slow unit production to a crawl. There is also a waypoint system which is well implemented, and players can now queue up to five units to be built. While this is a welcome feature, you can ONLY queue up to a total of five units. I don't see how one minute I can tell my Barracks to make its next five units Cyborgs, but later I can only tell it to build two Cyborgs because my War Fatory happens to be building three stealth tanks. Maybe StarCraft spoiled me, but it seems logical enough that the number of units I want my Barracks to build wouldn't affect the number of units I want my War Factory to build.
The units themselves are nicely varied from side to side. GDI has two types of mechs, air superiority and the new addition to the Mammoth family, the Mammoth Mk. II. The Brotherhood of Nod, on the other hand, still has quick attack vehicles (the Buggy and the Bike), the classic stealth tanks, and even two burrowing vehicles; the flame tank and the APC. Unfortunately, the sub-terranian units greatly unbalance multi-player (a Sub-terranian APC full of engineers can turn the favor of any game).
Graphics are mixed. The buildings look excellent and the lighting during the night missions is particularly cool. However, the infantry units are made up of the same old sprites that they were made of in the first Command & Conquer, which means they look like crap. The voxels used for the vehicles make them range in graphical quality. Some look exceptionally cool (GDI's mechs, Nod's UFO Bomber) but others suffered from extreme lack of detail (Nod's Flame Tank). The game's other mixed bag comes in the sound quality. Most of the sound effects are average, with a few exceptions that sound somewhat dull, and even fewer that stand-out as exceptional. The music is all techno and ranges greatly from poor to rather well done.
There is one positive thing I can say about Tiberian Sun without hesitation: the game is stable. Through my many, many hours of single-player and multi-player gaming spent with Tiberian Sun, I only came across one glitch (a rather minor one involving GDI's Orca Carryall and waypoints). This is an impressive feat in today's multi-patch world of PC gaming. Though, while it was nice of Westwood to spend the extra time hammering away at the bugs in the game, it would have been even nicer of them to spend that extra time hammering away at bugs in a game that was more worth playing.
The game itself just isn't all that fun. Despite the big-name actors in the FMV sequences (specifically, James Earl Jones) the stories for the two sides just aren't compelling. I found myself playing through each mission simply because I was reviewing the game. I just didn't care. The acting is better than the other Command & Conquer installments but is still sub-par, and the dialog is atrocious.
The bottom line is that Tiberian Sun doesn't feel like a new game. Obviously the game will have a wide fan base, but the game offers nothing innovative to the RTS genre and adds only enhanced graphics to the Command & Conquer franchise itself. Then again, this familiarity is Tiberian Sun's strongest selling point. Chances are, if you've played this game before, you can easily play through the game's two single-player campaigns and spend some time in multi-player without ever touching the manual. Command & Conquer was a solid game but bigger and better stuff has come along since then, and as such Tiberian Sun feels rather archaic. Fun can be had with the title, and gamers who have been around for a few years will go nuts with nostalgia. They say you shouldn't mess with a good thing, but as much as I loved Command & Conquer, it's time for Westwood to start messing and make some changes. If you think a game sequel should offer more over the original than just improved graphics and a handful of new units, then your time will be better spent with better real-time games like Homeworld or Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.
Graphics: Very mixed. The infantry look bad while most of the vehicles and buildings look excellent.
Sound: Most of the sound is average or dull, and the music ranges greatly in quality.
Enjoyment: It felt like I was playing the original Command & Conquer, and reminded me why I stopped playing that game: I can do better.
Replay Value: Multi-player is rather unbalanced, but it still provides a bit of fun, and the random map generator helps things.
People who downloaded Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun have also downloaded:
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Command & Conquer, Command & Conquer: Generals, Command & Conquer: Red Alert: The Aftermath, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor, Age of Empires III
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