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01 Apr, 2008

Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath Review

PC Review | Kane's an angry, angry man.
Picture yourself in a tank on a tiberium field,
with juggernauts roaming and rocket filled skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A man with a single red eye ...


with apologies to The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds ...

Kane's back, and he's more than annoyed. Or, so it would first appear in the recently released expansion pack to Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath. The game takes place shortly after the second Tiberium war and leads up the events experienced in Command and Conquer 3, following the growth of Nod and the return of Kane.

With this release, the Command and Conquer universe mythology has probably officially moved into the "epic" category of games - if you're interested in knowing more (or are in need of a refresher), have a read through the C&C Canon. Trust me, you'll probably need it - with around 30 minutes of video content in this expansion, it really does help to know the backstory.

Neon nights.

Neon nights.
Close
Expansion packs are generally about extending the original experience, and Kane's Wrath isn't unique in this. It features new sub-factions (each offering new units, structures, and abilities), epic units (featuring mobile garrisons, large-scale firepower, and purdy effects), and most interestingly of all, a new global-domination play mode called Global Conquest. And, that's on top of new multiplayer maps, a new single-player campaign, and the oh-so-cheesy video that's now a staple of the Command and Conquer series.

The sub-factions offer a level of specialisation within GDI, Nod, and Scrin forces. Offering a total of 17 new units spread across the six sub-factions, these as a general rule provide players with speed or power focus, making the core GDI and Nod forces the "balanced" option. GDI, Nod, and the Scrin also get access to Epic units in the expansion, massive vehicles with various special abilities.

GDI's Mammoth Armed Reclamation Vehicle (known as MARV to its friends) offers mobile garrison capabilities and the ability to instantly convert Tiberium to credits. Nod's Redeemer, a massive mechanoid, also offering mobile garrison capabilities along with the ability to turn enemy forces on themselves. And, the Scrin's Eradicator Hexapod, a spider-looking monstrosity, instantly converts the corpses of its enemies into credits while also offering short-range teleportation capabilities.

However, the biggest functional upgrade is the inclusion of Global Conquest, a play mode that takes things up a notch to a more strategic perspective. Basically a Risk close using the C&C universe, player fight for dominance on a global battlefield by deploying units, building bases, and engaging in either roll-based battles or drilling down and actually fighting the battles manually using standard battle gameplay mechanics.

It's fun, and surprisingly challenging - Command and Conquer's focus has always been strongly on the tactical, and giving players a more strategic option really does fill out the game. As is the case in anything more strategy-based, tactical options don't always translate to global operations, and becoming too married to individual troops or bases is a guaranteed route to frustration and eventual destruction.

Desert days.

Desert days.
Close
The original Command and Conquer was a watershed - it took one of the the most frustrating aspects of RTS games, namely the long lead-times in resource management and construction, and basically said, "forget all that stuff - let's blow things up!" Command and Conquer 3, in a rather unfortunate twist, decided to return to that ethos a little too much, becoming what was basically an engine-upgraded version of the original Command and Conquer.

As discussed in our previous review, some of the levels were even practically exactly the same as in the first game. That lack of originality combined with some clear balancing issues took what would have otherwise been an excellent game and turned it into what was unfortunately just another competent RTS, saved only by the cheesy exploits of over-the-top live-action based cinematics.

Kane's Wrath, while still not quite daring to be truly original, at least resolves some of these issues. In between the patch, the new sub-factions, and epic units, the game has been rebalanced and the economy reworked to try and avoid Mammoth-tank spammage. The inclusion of Global Conquest, a Risk-based approach to macro battlefield management is a welcome one, one that will probably appeal to the more cerebral gamers among us. The inclusion of secondary objectives combined with three distinctly unique unit types helps turn what would have otherwise been a standard Risk clone into a quite unique and challenging experience. And, the increase in multiplayer maps only helps make the package that much more attractive.

However, as always, it's not all good. The epic units, while very attractive, almost never come into play in multiplayer matches, largely due to the resources required and the amount of time it takes to get them. As a final method of completely humiliating your opponent, they're somewhat enjoyable, but as a tactical battlefield option, they're just too hard to get to make them worthwhile. The load times, while probably somewhat unavoidable, make Global Conquest somewhat frustrating to play if you're the kind of person to resolve battles in a more personal (and manual) manner. The single-player campaign is very much more of the same, and to make things worse, only includes Nod missions, a rather red-tinged disappointment for the GDI fans in the audience. And, it's short to boot - there's only about 10 to 12 hours worth of missions which, while not overly bad for an expansion pack, does feel somewhat light.

Is it worth purchasing? Well, that depends - on the balance, it'd be a conditional yes. As an RTS, the changes made in the expansion pack have finally moved it into the solidly "good" category - it isn't a genre defining game, and it definitely doesn't push the boundaries in any way, but it's consistent and competent with few major flaws remaining. While it's still missing the ability to pull the camera out far enough to get a true feel of a global scope of operations, Global Conquest at least provides a greater measure of strategy rather than tactics in the game, giving it a much needed boost in play breadth. If you haven't already played Command and Conquer 3, it combined with Kane's Wrath is enough to make it a no-brainer, assuming you're into RTSs.

If you've already played Command and Conquer 3, there's enough new stuff in here to keep you interested, but only if you're a definite multiplayer fan or are truly obsessive about finding out everything there is to know about the Command and Conquer universe. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a single-player experience, couldn't care less about the Command and Conquer universe, and haven't played every other RTS under the sun already, there's probably better options out there. But, that's probably a pretty small section of the market by now.
The Score
With all the structural changes made, Kane's Wrath is what the original Command and Conquer 3 should have been in the first place. It doesn't re-invent anything, but it polishes what was otherwise a game let down by a number of disappointing flaws. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath Content

Latest screenshots for C&C 3: Kane's Wrath
16 Jan, 2008 My laser goes pew pew!
Command and Conquer: Kane's Wrath announced
16 Aug, 2007 Fear the wrath.
Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath screens
10 Jan, 2008 Feel the wrath of eleven new screens.
1 Comment
6 years ago
Solid enough for me to pick up, especially as i fit into the C&C fanatic category. And i must say, one beautifully written review. Keep it up, Ev.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Publisher:
  EA Games
Developer:
  EA Games

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