Short Version: Command & Conquer 4 fails to capitalize on the success that the series has had in the past. Despite the inclusion of several new features, Command & Conquer 4 is an unenjoyable and easily forgettable experience.
Game Rant’s Rory Young reviews Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight
Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight merely had to stand on the shoulders of giants to be successful. With such forebears as the original Command & Conquer, the spin-off Red Alert series, and a contingency of loyal fans, there was no reason for surprises. Bring back Kane and his Nod brotherhood; bring back Tiberium and the war for resources; bring back the rock-paper-scissors gameplay. It was all so easy.
Yet, easy wasn’t enough for EA Los Angeles and Command & Conquer 4. Kane’s wrath has been spent, and Nod is torn between joining Kane in an alliance with the GDI. Tiberium is in such excess that there is no longer a need to mine it, instead if you need an upgrade you wait for it to fall from the sky. The rock-scissor-paper mechanic remains, with an extra RPG-style class mechanic added, but when you’re able to endlessly produce units any sense of strategy is dulled. How could everything have gone so horribly wrong?
Tiberium Twilight returns us to an Earth beleaguered with the poisonous element Tiberium. Science tells us that unless something is done quickly, Earth will be uninhabitable in only a few years. And so we find Kane, the archetypal antagonist of the series, and his Nod brotherhood forming a thin alliance with the Global Defense Initiative in order to solve the crisis. Splinter factions form on each side of the alliance, and everything spins out of control from there.
You’ll take on the role of a GDI commander who has recovered from grievous wounds. You’ve somehow inherited a set of rare ocular implants with a strange relation to the mysterious Tacitus. After some brief training missions that introduce the Nod splinter faction, you’ll be faced with the extremely awkward choice of betraying the GDI and following Kane, or sticking with the GDI.
Either side of the story will take you through the same events, from opposing perspectives. It boils down to Kane having a plan, and the efforts to support or oppose it. Don’t expect the typical ruthless Kane in Command & Conquer 4; Instead, Kane appears tired or generally annoyed. Of course, that could just be the result of very poor acting. Actually, that’s basically what you can expect from every character.
The game’s conclusion plays out reasonably well, but it will take the completion of both campaigns to truly understand each character’s motives. Despite that, relatively little actually happens in Command & Conquer 4. Each campaign can be completed in less than four hours, and the majority of each campaign is unimportant to any significant plot point.
The majority of the story will be told to you through live-action videos that come between each mission. Let me just reiterate how poor the acting is here. Previous incarnations in the Command & Conquer franchise kept an over-the-top attitude, but something changes in Command & Conquer 4 and everything is taken much too seriously. Your wife and her fear of losing you, the GDI General and her emotional strife, and Kane’s need for ascension, it’s all ridiculously overacted. It’s almost worth watching in that it’s hard to look away from a car accident in motion.
To state the differences between Command & Conquer 4‘s gameplay and previous games in the series is to say enough. Gone are the days of resource harvesting (and Westwood’s Dune 2 rolls in its grave), which allows you to endlessly build your units with no cost. Or at least you can build until you reach the population cap, another feature that’s never been introduced to the Command & Conquer series until now.
Possibly the most dramatic change is the lack of a requirement to eliminate your enemy to win. There are missions in the campaign that require to to destroy specific enemies or buildings, but until you complete that goal the AI can endlessly build units. As a result, you’ll participate in a number of escort, or guard-this-point style missions. Waves and waves of of units will come against you, which makes combat less of a rock-scissors-paper, action-reaction system and instead a battle of position and attrition. You’ll search for that spot where your units will attract attention away from a convoy, or where the AI will wander aimlessly by, and if that doesn’t work you’ll simply pump out the toughest units you can for as long as you can. If you’re unlucky and the enemy overwhelms you, just respawn a new mobile base, called a Crawler, and try again.
Command & Conquer 4 also introduces some interesting RPG-ish class mechanics. As a battle begins you’re forced to decide upon an Offense, Defense, or Support Crawler. Each Crawler produces different units, and has access to different abilities. For instance only a Defense Crawler can build turrets, the only structures you can build in the game. A Support Crawler has a variety of skills you can cast such as an area of effect repair, or an air strike. Offense, naturally, merely produces strong tanks and other units. Of course, if you don’t like your Crawler, you’re able to kill it and spawn a new one at any point of the battle.
While initially intriguing, picking a class quickly become situational rather than strategic. If you’re traveling, attacking, or protecting a moving objective, you go offense. If you’re defending a specific point, it’s defense. Then the support class is only truly strong in a cooperative game, or team-based multiplayer match. Rather than feel innovative, the classes seem like a poor-man’s replacement mechanic for tech trees. A replacement that Command & Conquer fans old and new will find trite and shallow.
And finally, EA has implemented an experience-based leveling system into Command & Conquer 4. It’s built in such a way that you’ll only have access to a quarter of the overall units until you gain experience in missions or matches . As you finished the campaigns and play multiplayer, those unlocked units will become accessible. While I didn’t play the harder difficulties in Command & Conquer, I’d imagine these new units would help immensely. Though the few I did try in multiplayer did not change the experience.