The second chapter in the Tiberian trilogy of C&C games takes us 40 years into the future where mankind faces a global environmental crisis caused by the unceasing march of Tiberium. Nearly 40% of the Earth's surface is covered in the toxic alien substance. While the governments of the world collapse and the survivors retreat to the poles to escape the unwavering tiberium onslaught, GDI fights another secret war against the Brotherhood of NOD for control of the planet.
The game takes the RTS conventions established in the previous Command & Conquer games and expands on them greatly. First thing you notice is that you now have the ability to queue up troops and vehicles as you build them (i.e. you can click the grenadier icon five times, and five troops will be built.) Standard procedure for RTS games nowadays but this was the first game to ever do it. Basic RTS rules still apply, click on your guy and send him to kill the other guy. As it's C&C you don't have to micromanage past getting enough power to your base and collecting resources.
All of the units have a more futuristic look to them. GDI forsakes traditional tanks for large walking mechs, as well as smaller mechs that act as infantry. GDI also uses hovercrafts that can pass over water as well as the traditional Orca fighters and new Orca bombers. Troopers have not changed much, except now grenadier's throw disc shaped explosives that can bounce over rough terrain for longer range. GDI also gets "Rocketeer Troopers," which are pretty useless (but would return to be far more effective in Red Alert 2,) as well as field Medics to keep troops healthy. GDI's hero unit is the Mammoth Mark II, which is like a large four legged mech that looks like one of the Imperial snow walkers from the Empire Strikes Back. Only one Mammoth can be built at a time. The mammoth II is slow moving but an Orca "carryall" can transport it around the map (similar to the carryalls in Dune II.)
Nod forsakes mech technology for lighter armored, faster moving vehicles. The standard NOD tank is the "tick tank," which can deploy it 'self into the ground for greater defense. Nod artillery has improved significantly and is now able to hit targets over a screen away. Nod maintains it's fleet of Stealth tanks and recon bikes from the first game. APCs and Flame tanks now have the ability to travel underground, which GDI must counter by laying concrete on the ground and building radar towers. Nod retains the Obelisk of light as well as smaller ground based lazer turrets. GDI gets a component tower that can be outfitted with a gatlling gun, surface to air missile, or long distance cannon. Nod keeps the minigunner, engineer, and rocket troops, as well as a cyborg with a chain gun as their heavy troop. For air power Nod gets a "flying saucer" which acts best in surgical strikes of ground units or weaker buildings. Nod's hero is a cyborg commando that can destroy anything in three shots or less. Only one hero cyborg can be built at a time. GDI still has the Ion Cannon while Nod gets a cluster Missile that can also fire a poison tiberium gas that can mutate biological units into visceroids.
The story follows GDI's attempt to prevent Nod from implementing the "Technology of Peace," which is a plan to bombard the Earth with Tiberium warheads gleaned from an artifact called the Tacitous, which is this strange globe-thing taken from a crashed alien spaceship. Behind all this lie "The Forgotten," a nomadic group of people stuck in the Tiberium zones and caught in the middle of the war. As with the first game the story is told via FMV cut scenes inbetween missions, however unlike the other games the story is told in a more movie like quality instead of just a briefing where you're referred to in the third person as "commander." These cut scenes are generally well acted (and star James Earl Jones and Michael Biehn, who was Corporal Hicks in Aliens, for those who keep track of that stuff.) The quality of the CGI is definitely improved over previous games, however the blue screen is still apparent in some of them where live actors are used. For the most part the FMV isn't too embarrassing. Unlike the first game where both mission disks were cannon (Nod's story occurring first before GDI) here it seems it's one or the other.
Graphics are pretty amazing for a game at this time. The game uses some kind of voxel engine, thus each unit moves and rotates smoothly, easily displaying all sides. Tanks rock back and forth when taking fire and undulate realistically over uneven terrain. Little troopers seem to be more in proportion to the buildings and vehicles, and although they're just as small as before they have an amazing amount of detail, with helmets, gloves, boots, and weapons clearly visible.
The setting is like this post apocalyptic nightmare where Tiberium is slowly taking over. There is the standard green tiberium as well as a more rare blue version. In addition there are several strange types of mutated animals and monsters wandering around the battlefield, weird dog things that shoot tiberium shards at your harvesters, floaty jellyfish things that attack with lightning, creeping vines that tangle up your tanks. There are other environmental dangers as bridges that when destroyed kill whatever units are on top of them and ice flows that when fired upon will drop a unit into the icy depths. Also blue tiberium goes up in a ball of flames when fired upon and thus turns into an exploitable trap. Terrain seems to be alterable, fire upon certain ridges and you can blast down a path for your tanks to climb, repeated artillery shells will create huge holes in the ground, giving rise to strategies like blasting holes in the ground of your enemies' base so he can't make new buildings or destroying tiberium fields to cut off his resources. Features like this are pretty ingenious, too bad they didn't make it into any other C&C games.
Some problems: The sides are a bit unbalanced. Nod's ability to cloak their entire base is effective in stopping surgical strikes but not really so much as far as base defenses go. All one has to do is merely blast the entire area with bombers, and the Nod SAM sites are pretty pathetic unless you have like twelve of them. GDI is way too strong in the air department. Orca bombers drop a long line of explosives, thus two or three targeted in a general area on a base can inflict a lot of collateral damage. Orca fighters however seem to have been weakened a bit. Instead of just hovering and unloading their missiles as in the other game they weave around and fire, taking longer and thus are easier to shoot down. I suppose this was done to make them look more realistic. The ability of Nod artillery to hit lone troopers is uncanny (and was something that was actually adjusted in the Firestorm expansion pack as to be less accurate.) GDI armor totally outclasses Nod. A GDI mech rush is pretty much unstoppable unless you outnumber them two-to-one.
Overall the game is pretty awesome, very detailed quality graphics that hold up to any 2D RTS before or since, with a good storyline and awesome futuristic techno music soundtrack. Still it feels as if there were elements they wanted to include that got cut for one reason or another. I get the feeling that the Forgotten were originally intended to be a complete third side, possibly with their own campaign. As it is they serve as window dressing for the other sides, in the single player missions you get to control a few of them while in multiplayer each side gets one mutant, the "Ghoststalker" for GDI which is really just a glorified commando and a Mutant Hijacker for Nod who can commandeer enemy vehicles.
As always, RTS fans will be in total heaven. There has been a resurgence of interest in this game recently with it's release in the C&C first decade pack as well as the recent release of the sequel Command & Conquer 3 (review coming as soon as I get my hands on it.)
Behold! The Technology of Peace!
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