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Command and Conquer Hands On: League of Generals


Command and Conquer has had a rough ride to releasedom so far: it started off as Command and Conquer: Generals 2, but they more or less realized you’d have to be so tremendously old to remember the original Generals — released all the way back in 2003 — that its sequelhood probably wasn’t that much of a benefit. So it was just repurposed into the subtitle-free Command and Conquer, while very much not actually being part of the main Command and Conquer series as you might imagine. Or the Red Alert series. 

It’s a bit confusing.

This new Command and Conquer is really a sequel to Generals that just happens to be free-to-play. Now, explaining what they are trying to sell you was (predictably) not what they wanted to talk about at E3.

But what I can do is speculate based on what they showed. You see, setting their first free-to-play experience in the Generals universe is a benefit to EA as there are, ahem, loads of different generals. While the original Generals was factioned up into the People’s Republic of China, the US and the definitely bloody racist Global Liberation Army (they’re all from the Middle East! They’re terrorists!) EA have seen fit to mix it up a bit in this quasi-sequel. The factions now include the EU (no word on if the UK is “in” or “out”, UKIP fans) the Asia Pacific Alliance and, well, the Global Liberation Army again. But this time they’re not all Middle Eastern types. I mean, now there’s Junkyard! The Salvage General! He still looks a bit swarthy, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.


So even in our E3 demo, there were loads of generals, all with their own unique units and powers as is expected (I stumped for Red Arrow, whose speciality is rockets: anti-vehicle rocket soldiers, anti-everything rocket tanks, and “thunderclap,” a power that fires off a big rocket which disables enemy movement in its splash zone.) It seems very easy to assume that the generals are what you’re going to stump up cash for. WIth generals now able to be “levelled-up” using experience built up in matches, there will be an incentive to pay to keep them playable. It’s up to you if you think that’s acceptable or not.

To be honest, such a path seems like all they really can do, actually, other than the paid-for customization options that by law every single free-to-play game requires. Because this new Command and Conquer is very, very much the classic Command and Conquer multiplayer experience you might remember. There are none of the wild (and hated) changes seen in Command and Conquer 4: this is still the game where you collect resources, build a base, and then loads of bloody units to smash your opponent’s base and hopefully their dreams.

It feels exactly the same, which is probably why it’s so easy to distrust the fact that it’s free-to-play. I might be beating the drum a bit too hard here, but if you’ve ever played a Command and Conquer game (alright, not 4) you know exactly what you are getting here. And that is no bad thing.


In addition, it’s really rather beautiful: probably the most attractive Command and Conquer so far (not as crazy looking as Red Alert, admittedly) running the Frostbite engine which allows lots of lovely little touches like the massively destructible environments — it’s rather a pleasure to watch your tanks not struggle with pathfinding through a shanty town and instead just demolish the whole thing.

(It was probably deserted; the refugees probably have lovely replacement homes.)

If EA are clever and support this title well, this could be the RTS game the cost-conscious gamer has been waiting for. With strong history behind it, Command and Conquer has a better chance than EA’s other forays into the market (poor, poor Warhammer: Wrath of Heroes). Of course: the true test will be if it can challenge the hegemony of Starcraft II. And honestly? Command and Conquer feels like the update to the series that Starcraft II was to Starcraft, so there’s no reason to believe the late-90s battle lines drawn between fans of Command and Conquer and fans of Starcraft might not be drawn again.

And if you’re interested in picking a side: you can apply for the beta now.