Saturday, 19th May 2007
Christine, Gordon and the Hungarian prove that Scottish Bloggers do not spend all their time huddled in cellar bars
Gordon in pensive mood
Rosie in blogger mode
Dust to Dust
Hunter Square Warriors
|Abstract: Autobiography or confessional? The title is not plagiarised from the literary offering by a certain Mr. Tim Griggs, but that of a short story that has been languishing in my archives for over ten years, an ironic comment on the requirement in modern Western society for a female to be attached and the difficulties in attaining this state of “bliss”.|
Saturday, 19th May 2007
Christine, Gordon and the Hungarian prove that Scottish Bloggers do not spend all their time huddled in cellar bars
Gordon in pensive mood
Rosie in blogger mode
Dust to Dust
Hunter Square Warriors
Even without the obligatory sign announcing the invisible frontier, the check points long since abandoned (unless the French are in one of their periodic strops, guards peering into your car as you crawl along the lane marked out by traffic cones), you can immediately tell when you have entered Waffleland by the proliferation of caravans and kiosks crowding the roadside purveying the national weakness, frites or frieten, the one element uniting the disparate and mutually hostile communities, the symbol of homecoming. Excavating them with a tiny plastic fork from beneath the more than generous dollops of mayonnaise an art in itself (perhaps if a citizenship test were introduced this should be considered the true proof of successful assimilation).
The streetscape of the city of spires and blackened sandstone has become gentrified, the small chippies with their specimen jars of pickled eggs and onions, their bottles of Cream Soda and competing concoctions with lurid, chemically enhanced hues, ousted by sandwich bars and coffee parlours, forced to seek refuge in the suburbs, slightly incongruous amongst the anonymous rows of bay windows. No pretensions, no freshly squeezed orange proclaiming its purity with a halo, just sizzling fat and the irresistable smell that attracts the hungry hordes to stagger semi-conscious in the direction of the haddock in crispy golden brown batter. Once, crossing the Meadows by the central walkway at night undeterred by the warnings of muggers lurking in the pools of darkness beyond the reach of the harsh orange glow, we flung our coagulated blood and oatmeal puddings against a tree trunk in disgust, having ordered the white variety, more palatable to a vegetarian (in the days when I would carefully enquire what kind of fat the establishment used for frying, although genuine consistency would have dictated abstinence from a dish containing suet immersed in the same oil as the sausages and other assorted items reserved for the carnivore).
The decline of organised religion visible in signs outside the Elim Pentecostal Church where worshippers formerly swayed, hands held heavenward, eyes firmly closed to gaze upon the divine by freeing the mind of distractions, muttering prayers in the tongues of angels where now that the pews have been removed the serious business of dancing is dedicated to the gratification of the flesh in a Frankenstein-themed nightclub rather than an expression of the spontaneous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The sour fragrance of fermentation borne by the wind over the expanses of rubble a constant reminder of the bleak industrial monuments levelled by the bulldozers and cranes less profitable than the conveniently located two-bedroom luxury developments. Even that dingy yet somehow tantalising institution the Fingertips Massage Parlour has succumbed to the relentless pressure for accommodation. With no windows to board up, the sense of desolation invoked by its deserted doorway is absolute, the seedy venues for seekers of cheap thrills and simulated desire displaced to the fringes of the Grassmarket (itself sanitised since the shelter for the homeless was moved elsewhere, the men in multiple layers of greasy overcoats and tangled beards accosting the tourists with slurred requests for the price of a cup of tea presumably too intimidating to the visitor to be tolerated in the long term. We cannot allow the pristine image of our capital be tarnished by its shambling underclass, whose existence must be rigorously denied. Besides, hotels are profitable, whereas hostels represent a drain on the budget).
As the parked coaches slumber does the nightingale’s song still pierce the sombre silence of the hillside beneath Statecraft’s austere and disapproving gaze?
I have recently undergone a sex change, aligning myself with my true gender. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and I admit to some trepidation as to the reception I would be given by strangers. The initial shock of realisation, the double-take (even if only betrayed in the hesitation, or vehemently disavowed yet still manifested, however subtly, in the tone of voice). Only in an environment with no physical attributes on display did I feel genuinely uninhibited, safe in the knowledge that I would be judged on my skill alone, no whispering, no taunts, just the heady thrill of fitting in, the relief of inconspicuousness.
VOIP facilitates communication and boosts your chances of success by obviating the need to concentrate on typing, a distraction for someone like myself who stubbornly searches for the letters on the keyboard (I have always eschewed cultivating such “feminine” proficiencies as cooking, knitting and touch-typing), a perilous (and potentially fatal) distraction in the heat of battle. Gaming is my life. I have come out at last and now sally forth with pride in my Amazon’s armour.
[The short version originally published here. If you cannot read Hungarian, the screenshots are still worth admiring. The tactical analysis scattered throughout is based on playing all three campaigns and over 250 games online at time of posting]
Apart from Pong and Space Invaders, Tiberian Sun was the first computer game I ever played. And how. Trouncing enemies online soon became more addictive than any street-peddled drug, convincing me of the virtual world’s incomparable attraction (forget the marriage break-up scandals surrounding Friends Reunited, if ever there was a guaranteed method of wrecking relationships, it is to produce an RTS so compelling that the only time you hear your partner above the din of battle is when they snore).
It seems incredible that so much time could have elapsed between the second and third instalments of the Tiberium saga that nostalgia can also motivate sweaty-palmed anticipation and an itchy clicking finger, the perennial risk being that no advertising budget, no matter how astronomical, could ever overcome the word of mouth condemnation of a dud. Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining why Blizzard has always, in spite of having one of the all-time classics of the genre, Starcraft, in its back catalogue, shied away from a sequel to satisfy the demands of a massive fan base for a version with state of the art graphics to do the storyline justice.
Tiberium Wars in many respects reminds me of the new Doctor Who: it looks gorgeous and bang up-to-date, whilst preserving enough of the feel and spirit of the original to keep even the most diehard devotees happy. Whilst Russell T. Davies and his production team saw no reason to tamper with the iconic sound of the Tardis dematerialising (although they certainly went to town on revamping the interior), it having become so familiar to the audience’s ears that altering it would constitute an act of sacrilege, the ominous humming of the Obelisk of Light as it prepares to discharge its blinding and deadly ray has likewise been retained (and will send shivers of delight down the Nod commander’s spine).
The parallel also applies in terms of pace. Whereas the old series would spread a plot over several episodes, each ending with a cliff-hanger, action in the new is concentrated in one or at most two parts, with so much going on that the gawping viewer can barely draw breath. In Tiberium Wars, the bullets fly fast and furious and the tiniest lapse in concentration or tactical miscalculation leads to disaster, which is a real pity as a lot of thought has evidently been invested by the developers in allowing for multiple paths to victory. Human opponents, in their quest for a more impressive rank, tend to display a rather tedious lack of imagination, entrenching themselves defensively whilst they build up the technology to unleash a devastating attack with their most expensive hardware as quickly as possible. The irony of the AI employing greater variety and sophistication was surely unintentional.
In his review in PC Gamer (Vol. 173, April 2007, pp62-9), Tim Edwards wrote: “Real-time strategy games have evolved dramatically in the past two years. They’ve been practically re-invented by the innovators behind (…) Supreme Commander (…) We’ve seen games that frighten us with their sheer physical power, and awe us with their scale. Is C&C’s narrow strategic remit and live-action video gimmick still relevant?”
Although I confess that I take brand loyalty to ridiculous extremes, I would still contend that C&C offers a formula that works (I beta-tested Supreme Commander and found it overblown and bombastic, with too many variables to be weighed up at once). Tiberium Wars delivers with the pinpoint accuracy of the sniper’s laser-assisted sights what the long-standing fans crave, a high adrenaline, quick fix almost clinical in its purity. Unfair though it may appear to blame the developers for the shortcomings of their customers, the former ought to have anticipated the degree of temptation involved and discouraged reliance on Mammoth Tanks. However, this oversight constitutes a serious flaw. Monotacticality is frustrating, especially if you have no choice but to indulge in it yourself as a countermeasure (and this, coupled with the complete dependence on primary and secondary map-based resources with no autonomous income-generation capacity is why, ultimately, I would argue that Generals is the more satisfying game).
As for the linking sequences with the cream of sci-fi acting talent, they are good, clean, old-fashioned fun. Gone is the moon-landing broadcast-quality, chunky-pixel clunkiness of Michael Biehn’s star turn, replaced by the glossy perfection of digital that drives thespians to face-lift clinics in droves and has made personal fitness trainer into a lucrative career option.
The trademark humour has not been forgotten (mostly expressed in the one-liners from the various units, such as the Grenadiers’ “Grab the plunger, we’re flushing ‘em out!”) and there are various small but deft touches that help to elevate C&C above the competition (the sentry tirelessly pacing up and down the roof of the GDI barracks, for instance).
One of the departures for the series, which proved successful elsewhere in, for example, Yuri’s Revenge, is the introduction of a third side (Starcraft’s pervasive influence on the genre once again making itself felt), the Scrin. To its credit, the studio made the effort to draw on the existing mythology (remember the alien artefacts and vessel wreckage strewn over the battlefields in Tiberian Sun and the ion storms that decimated your forces as you tried to fend off Nod and defend the starship crash site?)
Since the previous outing, the world has been divided into three categories of habitable surface: Red Zones, described as “Tiberium-infested hellscapes”, where only the mutants venture; Yellow Zones, where the bulk of the population ekes out a bleak and precarious existence in the Nod-dominated, Tiberium-blighted badlands and the Blue Zones, the “last refuge and hope of the civilised world”, protected by GDI.
Your slightly dour commanding officer, General Jack Granger (Michael Ironside), has spent 28 years fighting Nod and your constant companion throughout the missions is Kirce James (Jennifer Morrison, more widely known as Dr. Cameron in House).
The GDI arsenal has lost its best loved weapon, the Mammoth Mk II, (a blatant and brazen steal of – or perhaps the ultimate tribute to – the AT-AT in Star Wars) having been sent to the great scrap yard in the sky, rendered obsolete by the kind of bureaucratic budgetary constraints your average NASA scientist would be happy to commiserate with you over as well as refinements in adversary responses: “The most elite Commandoes are also trained to use their detonation packs on the legs of large walkers, one of the reasons that GDI retired many of the bipedal walkers that were a mainstay in the second Tiberium war”.
As the plot unfolds you encounter Redmond Boyle (Billy Dee Williams in finest fettle), flamboyant Acting Director of GDI, promoted by default when all his superiors were wiped out in the
The utterly dependable mainstay of the infantry, the riflemen can be sent into the thick of the battle against overwhelming odds and hold the enemy off until only their dog tags are left to identify them. Since the last conflict they have been given specific training in constructing dug-outs for enhanced defensive capability (and, let’s face it, watching them whip out their shovels is highly entertaining).
Lugging their launcher requires the rippling muscles of a Schwarzenegger, but slows them down. In urban settings, sending them into abandoned buildings remains the best way of utilising their firepower, blasting passing aircraft out of the sky and compelling tanks to fight for every inch of ground. Most structures can accommodate up to three squads and it is advisable to dispatch riflemen to eliminate foes looking to oust missile squads once they have been comfortably ensconced.
The Disc Throwers of the original make a welcome comeback, the behind-the-scenes boffins having equipped them with more advanced technology in the intervening years, their grenades complete with inbuilt AI seeking out the windows. Grenadiers come into their own when ordered to eradicate enemy troops occupying blocks of flats or barns (although their aim becomes less accurate when they lob their grenades from inside).
All the bravado about the throwing arm might make you suspect that they employed a less than reputable bicep-strengthening technique initially.
If you leave them idle for a while, they do keep fit style jumps to pass the time (another of the aforementioned small touches).
Composite armour benefits all the basic infantry by lessening the damage inflicted in close combat.
Snipers are invisible to the enemy when lying in wait motionless. His spotter sidekick can designate any target in his line of sight for bombardment by a Juggernaut; thereby increasing the latter’s range by a considerable margin.
“Dismissed!” the elite Commando quips as he mows down those foolhardy enough to believe that they can take him on. His self-confidence knows no bounds as he wields his prototype carbine: “He’s goin’ dirt-tastin’”. As if it weren’t enough that his detonation-packs contain explosives that reduce the most impressive examples of architectural splendour to rubble in mere seconds, he also boasts that staple of male fantasy and fascination, the jet-pack, enabling him to lift off like Sean Connery in Thunderball (though his manner is a tad rougher round the edges and he would indubitably feel ill at ease sipping a Martini in a dinner jacket). A lull in fighting (or indeed a carefully executed decoy manoeuvre) affords the perfect opportunity to slip the Commando into the back of a base and exploit gaps in the enemy’s defences.
Technological advance is a mixed blessing, leading to redundancies in the both the real and virtual worlds, the medical corps having been disbanded since the Second Tiberium War. Toughest of the tough, no expense has been spared on the Zone Troopers, from their lethal portable railguns to their high-tech body armour, which, when supplemented by Power Packs, slowly heals the injured wearer. The drawback of weighing down combatants with the kind of heavy-duty protective gear that would sap the stamina of the fittest is compensated for by issuing the Zone Troopers with the same jet packs as their covert ops specialist colleague. The shrewd commander will not neglect to send them into the fray with Scanner Packs, which increase their field of vision and leave stealth units with nowhere to hide: “Let’s shut this party down”.
Once again the humour integral to C&C shines through irrepressibly in the Combat Engineer’s tips with the eminently sensible yet thoroughly prosaic advice to keep his hard hat on at all times (frankly the least of his worries whilst endeavouring to sneak into the heart of the enemy).
Engineers can recover felled Juggernauts, Avatar War Mechs and Annihilator Tripods from the debris. I found such salvage ops a source of unexpected and inordinate pleasure to the extent that it sometimes proved an almost fatal distraction. Not only is it cheaper than going to the trouble of building your own (the cost of an engineer paling into insignificance by comparison with that of a brand new unit), but it irritates your opponent beyond measure if your engineer arrives on the scene first and snatches away one that formerly belonged to him. If the latter has been foolish enough to scrimp on defences, avail yourself of the call for transport’s airlift service to capture away to your heart’s content.
The Pitbull is a bit of a misnomer for this light and very nimble vehicle ideally suited for scouting an enemy base near the start of the game. Whilst their aggressive reputation amongst pilots is justified, against ground forces they are more reminiscent of Pomeranians than the ferocious beasts they are named after, small, yappy (easily winning the award for the most gung-ho driver) and without much bite. Their reload rate isn’t brilliant either (until they have been promoted). The Pitbull’s stealth detection capacity, however, redeems it (the more so when it is upgraded to carry mortars).
APCs are extremely useful for transporting engineers if you prefer to send them over land (and if you keep a few dotted about your base they can make short work of any Saboteurs or Assimilators intent on mischief). For anti-air purposes they are sturdier and can withstand more pounding than Pitbulls (especially with missile squads on board). They can also lay a minefield to hamper the enemy advance.
Do not underestimate the relatively humble Predator Tank, particularly in the early stages of the game (combined with a handful of APCs it is ideal for overrunning the enemy in a rush). It can take a lot of punishment and can even be fitted with a railgun, which invests it with massive firepower at a fraction of the cost of its larger and more lumbering stable mate.
The pride and joy of the GDI commander, the Mammoth is not daunted by anything the opposition can throw at it, taking down Planetary Assault Carriers with almost the same ease as venoms. Smaller tanks are so beneath its contempt that it can simply crush them as it trundles forward inexorably towards the trembling foe. Mammoths create the illusion of invincibility, but a fixation with them can lead to unhealthy (and potentially fatal) complacency.
The Juggernaut has overcome the ungainly gait that used to render it both charming and slightly comical when first introduced in the Firestorm expansion, but by way of compensation it does deploy little extra feet to plant itself in the ground and stabilise it as it fires. Once whilst amassing an assault force in my base, I caught a bored Juggernaut scratching behind its “ear”. They can be toppled by commandoes’ explosives and brought crashing down by air bombardments, which probably accounts for their unjustified neglect by many hot-blooded GDI recruits blinkered by their narrow remit to secure victory as swiftly as possible and who are infatuated with the Mammoth. The extra effort required to make provision for the Juggernaut’s weaknesses (by sending it into the fray flanked by Pitbulls and Predators, for example) can pay dividends (beyond the instant gratification of watching the barrage unleashed), particularly when its firing range is extended by camouflaged spotters.
The extreme fragility of this workhorse of the skies can be exasperating (Ox Transports have to be landed individually, even if you have an entire squadron of them waiting to drop off their precious cargoes). A further foible is that they must be perfectly positioned or they refuse to descend with a stubbornness more fitting for a mule (which quickly becomes wearisome as you seldom have much spare time at your disposal to worry about such finicky behaviour). The Ox is indispensable for dropping off Surveyors at unclaimed but distant Tiberium deposits.
The Orca is a highly manoeuvrable vertical take-off craft (the heat haze beneath their boosters another of the satisfying small touches in which the game is so abundant) which darts round the battlefield with enviable speed. It can be kitted out with a pulse scanner array that detects even the most advanced Nod stealth units and can deploy sensor pods (like small landmines), which uncover nearby terrain and/or cloaked vehicles for a limited period (the utility of depositing these within an enemy base for targeting purposes will already have occurred to the astute commander). However, Orcas have no means of retaliation against enemy aircraft (though they can be escorted by Firehawks with Rattlesnake Missiles).
Orcas have a nasty sting and can quickly throw a spanner in the works of any enemy engineer attempting to infiltrate your base, but really give your adversary a severe headache in swarms. They can probe for defences behind enemy lines, undermine the opponent’s economy by eliminating harvesters and harass hostiles as they traverse the map.
A squadron of eight Firehawks with a payload of Hellcat Firebombs load take out a superweapon (probably better to add one or two more to be on the safe side, as any enemy worth his salt will surround the Temple of Nod with SAMs). Their formidable strike power can be augmented further with the stratofighter boosters, which allows them to evade AA.
Looks aren’t everything as this (at first glance) drably utilitarian yet hugely significant structure proves. By opening a subsidiary build queue it accelerates your ability to erect refineries and every other edifice essential to the war effort as well as furnishing a failsafe back-up if by some terrible misfortune your main construction yard is blown to smithereens.
One player in an online bout adopted the anally retentive (yet irritatingly serviceable) strategy of pumping all his money into cranes whilst creeping over the intervening space with power plants. To the astonishment of his opponent, sonic emitters suddenly sprouted like mushrooms, razing his base to the ground (the most popular variation on this theme of cheap, nasty and unimaginative is to dispatch a Surveyor/Emissary/Explorer to the edge of the enemy’s built-up area, or even, in cases where the base creeper is intoxicated with his own “brilliance”, smack bang in the centre and blast it to smithereens. Such cocky attempts can usually be thwarted with relative ease by vigilance and a couple of rifleman, militant or disintegrator squads, which you should always have at the ready on compact maps to cover such eventualities. If, however, in spite of your best efforts such a player prevails, take note of his name, announce his tactic in the lobby to alert all the others and console yourself that he will never be able to catch you unawares again – most of those who employ this trick have no genuine skill – they certainly could not emerge victorious from a fair fight – and lack the necessary mental agility to experiment with alternative routes to a win. Remember that should you frustrate his plan, base creep is expensive so if you turn the tide he will probably have very little to throw back at you. If all else fails you can always send the coded warning to those who come after you by venting your spleen in the vote, the final screen after the statistics, where you can award him one point for skill and a grudging one or even zero for sportsmanship).
The Surveyor establishes an outpost anywhere on the map you see fit to send it, which in most cases will mean in the vicinity of a shimmering green Tiberium patch. It is worth defending with a secondary barracks (Hand of Nod, or Portal) or War Factory (Warp Sphere) as once the deployed Surveyor has been demolished (and, believe me, it will most definitely attract fire) no more building activity at that site is possible until a replacement has taken root (which can be slightly tiresome, as doing so takes what in the midst of an engagement seems like an eternity).
The War Factories for GDI and Nod (and its Scrin equivalent the Warp Sphere) have been revamped with automated repair drones, which swoop to the aid of damaged vehicles (a more elegant solution to the inevitability of shell dents and bullet holes than a costly dedicated station).
GDI has the added advantage of the Rig, a mobile repair platform, which can be unpacked and moved on at will. The authors of the in-mission tactical manual recommend that it be used for “clear and hold” ops at Tiberium fields as it comes complete with Guardian Cannons and a missile launcher.
Whereas the elegant Watchtower is a deadly precision instrument against hapless foot soldiers who stray into its range, the Guardian Cannon has been left standing by the Sonic Emitter, originally developed “…to reclaim our land from Tiberium – and to control and regulate Tiberium growth throughout the reclaimed Blue Zones”. The Scrin invaders are particularly susceptible to the latter’s sound waves, but, be warned, it is useless against aircraft (for which you need the AA batteries with their relentless spew of bullets).
When fired, the orbiting Ion Cannon’s concentrated beam of light elicits a sublime frisson with its ethereal beauty as it levels a base. There is no doubt that this is the coolest of the superweapons – go on, spend the money on one, you know you want to.
Availing yourself of these (realistically) costs money, leaving you more dependent on map-based resources and a steady flow of income than ever before. Even with the cash in hand, quite a bit of time elapses before they are ready for re-use, so intelligent employment is of the essence.
The Radar Scan is self-explanatory, leaving stealth units no place to hide.
GDI Airborne parachutes in promoted riflemen and missile squads for extra back-up once the opponent’s base has been penetrated.
Experienced Sharp Shooters can carry out a surgical strike against infantry in the supposed shelter of the adversary’s base (and can coordinate with Juggernauts).
Drop Pods deposit veteran Zone Troopers in the thick of the action to wreak havoc and knock out barracks and war factories (thereby cutting off the supply of reinforcements).
Bloodhounds (my personal favourite), comprise a lethal APC and Pitbull team to assist beleaguered comrades, perform a hit and run against harvesters or simply divert the enemy’s attention to another part of the battlefield.
Shockwave Artillery can finish off an ailing superweapon before the enemy has had a chance to repair it as well as temporarily disabling structures and mechs in its blast radius.
Orca Strike craft are guided to their target by a beacon, although they can fail in making the desired impact if forced to run the gauntlet of heavy AA.
Bear in mind that away from your main base you can only build in the vicinity of an outpost. If you capture one of the neutral structures and want to hold on to it at all costs you should send a Surveyor (Emissary, Explorer) as soon as you are confident that the expense will not adversely affect unit production.
Upholding the tradition of the previous acts in the drama, blue Tiberium yields more income than the more common green variety. You cannot generate your own resources (as in Generals), which acts as a positive incentive for the forward push.
When confronted with Nod defences, focus firepower on the hub to disable it. Failing to do so plays into the enemy’s hands, giving the hub the opportunity to rebuild the turrets under its control.
Obelisks of light cannot take down air units and quickly succumb to an onslaught from above.
Leave basic stealth detecting units on Tiberium fields (preferably with a tank or two in tow) to prevent Nod from misappropriating your precious resources.
When infantry is under fire, the survival instinct understandably kicks in, leaving them crawling for cover and unable to fight back effectively. Only the Nod Fanatics are immune to suppression, as they have been brainwashed into shedding all concern for their own welfare, ready and willing to take their chances in the afterlife.
Banished to the inhospitable Tiberium-scarred wastelands, the members of the Brotherhood seethe with righteous indignation against “the fascist political consortium of wealthy nations”, guilty of a multitude of crimes, carefully catalogued for the rapt listener: “They unilaterally redrew international border lines, relegating Nod followers into inhospitable Yellow Zones while they claimed the pristine and exclusive Blue Zones all for themselves”.
The injustice is manifest, as Kane’s close associate Kilian Qatar (Tricia Helfer) recounts: “20% of the world’s population – the most wealthy people on the planet – live in the Blue Zones, consuming the majority of the world’s natural resources, wielding their vast military power to maintain the status quo by depriving the downtrodden of their god-given right to mine and exploit Tiberium”.
From the refuge of
Venerating the Tiberium on which its power depends (and channelling its inventiveness into a myriad ways to exploit the simultaneously benign and malevolent mineral), Nod is all about betrayal, back-stabbing and deception. The Brotherhood’s sneakiness, deviousness and downright nastiness represents the mirror image of strait-laced, upright (and a smidgen uptight) GDI. Internal feuds, intrigues and machinations are rife.
Like all fanatics, Kane demonstrates a callous disregard for life, subordinating the welfare of all to the grand scheme, his vision for mankind (which conveniently permits him to ignore the tremendous cost as a means to an end).
Nod is an uncouth bunch, as embodied by Ajay (Josh Holloway) your companion throughout the campaign with his evil smirks and Muttley-like sniggers. Some of the more puerile and embarrassing examples of his tough talk include : “Man, GDI’s gonna brown their pants when they see what happened”; “…we castrate their ability to retaliate. I just love that word – castrate”, and: “Man, I’d give my left nut to see some action”.
Having put paid to challenges to his authority with your assistance, the ongoing war against GDI becomes as good as irrelevant to Kane who ploughs his energies into his master plan connected with the Visitors (a telling linguistic difference if ever there was one, GDI referring to them as “invaders”).
The Nod commander is gradually initiated into the
I leave it up to you to follow the path towards true enlightenment alone.
Even the Harvesters spout Nod ideology: “The Tiberium will set us free”.
Whenever an opportunity arises to put the boot into GDI it is taken advantage of with relish, as illustrated by the Schadenfreude-tinged announcement concerning the Harvester’s on-board stealth technology: “You’ll be able to harvest resources right under the nose of the enemy, leaving GDI logistics officers scratching their heads and asking themselves, ‘Where’d that Tiberium field go?’”
Nod has less of a budget to lavish on its adherents, its soldiers toting antiquated chainguns and the armour plating of its tanks more permeable. To prevail as Nod, the quantity versus quality motto must never be forgotten.
The militants are the army of the disaffected and dispossessed multitudes whose grudge against GDI yields an endless stream of recruits. Together with the Rocket Troopers, they constitute “a vast blunt instrument of war for the Brotherhood”, “Kill or be killed!” their bleak credo.
When led by a sinister Confessor (whose cloak swishes as he lobs hallucinogenic grenades at the foe) both sets of troops’ morale is boosted, which in turn further whets their appetite for carnage. Together with the fanatics, militants and their rocket-bearing brethren can also be administered a Tiberium infusion, which permits them to cross the crystal fields without being poisoned by radiation, putting them on a par with the Scrin and the Mutants (who evolved their immunity naturally).
Saboteurs are engineers with slimily insidious voices, an evil sense of humour and explosive twist – they can lay booby traps on civilian structures and bridges with proximity detonators triggered by the enemy approach. Nod profits from the same call for transport facilities as GDI with all the attendant strategic implications, the Carryall its similarly flimsy Ox equivalent.
These suicide bombers have accumulated so much bile against GDI that their faces have turned green with it (officially their rather sickly complexions are a side-effect of chronic Tiberium exposure). Already primed for martyrdom, they glory in their own expendability and nothing can cow them into aborting their mission.
With its connotations of assassination, the Black Hand with their portable flame throwers are conscious of their elite status: “We are the chosen”. Swathed in protective gear they chargrill enemy infantry holed up in civilian buildings or who are unlucky enough to cross their paths elsewhere. Still, it saves the bereaved families the cremation fees, I suppose.
Well-versed in martial arts mysticism the Shadows are hang-gliding ninjas who can soar over obstacles and blow structures up (the Shadow rush to the back of a base can quickly cripple the enemy’s economy, forcing him to squander money on Watchtowers whilst you pile on the pressure with Scorpions at the front). Permanently poised, they adopt defensive posture, as if about to perform a kata on the spot. If you find yourself cornered, the Shadows can be called in as reinforcements (and their reaction times are as quick as you would expect with so many years of discipline behind them).
Once again, on the subject of their bomb, the intelligence manual cannot resist a dig at their loathed adversaries: “The chemical composition for the explosive was obtained by espionage, stolen right out of a GDI lab working on next-generation chemical explosives” (a fairly empty brag, as the damage done by it is minimal compared to the charge carried by the Commandoes of either side).
With her ennui-laden, husky voice (at its most reminiscent of Garbo’s in Grand Hotel when she mutters “I work alone”) the Nod Commando is a one-woman death squad, a femme fatale in the most literal sense. She might disguise her taunts in the language of flirtation, but don’t be fooled: in her lexicon “Just my type” means “Eat lead, sucker!”
Sporting an eye-patch that Elle Driver would covet, she is concealed while standing still, a very handy attribute if outnumbered with no immediate bolthole. “I like their courage,” she proclaims as she sends her pursuers to meet their maker.
The Attack Bike’s bloodthirstiness far exceeds its size or firepower, “I’m comin’ to get you”. Yet it packs a surprising punch against Orcas and other aircraft. Its diminutiveness ideally suits it for scouting expeditions (an enemy could easily overlook it if positioned at the edge of his base) and it also detects stealth units, such as the GDI’s sniper.
Able to take the roughest of terrain in his stride, the Raider Buggy driver revs his engine like a Michael Schumacher manqué before leaving a dust trail in his wake. The Buggy’s ability to cut down infantry like a scythe makes it essential for staving off early infantry incursions, but its machine guns leave buildings virtually unscathed. However, laser capacitors give it extra bite and the EMP coils, which it can carry on board, temporarily cripple vehicles left behind for defence immediately before your main army arrives. It is best to keep a distance before releasing the burst, as its effects are indiscriminate, disabling your own as well as allied tanks.
“Let’s take ‘em on!” the Scorpion pugnaciously declares, keen to deal out a bloody nose (and much, much worse) to the oppressors. Although not renowned for its robustness, the Scorpion is Nod’s fist to pound the enemy into submission. Dozer blades clear mines and effortlessly slice through even the high-tech protective gear worn by heavy infantry. With Spitfire Lasers, the Scorpion is guaranteed to cause the foe a major headache as you send in wave after wave to cause mayhem with searing crimson beams (and if you really subscribe to the Brotherhood’s villainous ethos that reveres the underhand and the downright wicked you can always use the lasers to destroy Tiberium fields in easy reach of the enemy – a few shots and it is gone, thereby crippling his economy without him even noticing). Its relative inexpensiveness permits mass production to erode the most tenacious resistance to the extent that many Nod commanders become every bit as obsessed with them as their opposite numbers in GDI are with Mammoths.
The more cautious Stealth Tank (“Any scanners around?” it periodically enquires with trepidation), acutely aware of its own fragility in spite of being cloaked from enemy view, epitomises Nod’s penchant for secrecy and preference for wearing the opposition down with a series of subtle, calculated blows as opposed to the less imaginative all guns blazing, battering ram approach to warfare preferred by GDI. The Stealth Tank excels against aircraft and can be strategically placed on Tiberium deposits to dispose of enemy Harvesters, cutting off the supplies vital to the war effort.
“Purge them with flame!” the Flame Tank piously exclaims as it incinerates the unbelievers, giving them a foretaste of the torments that await them in the afterlife. When the hail of bullets keeps the Black Hand at bay, send in the modified Devil’s Tongue to exterminate the resident pests blocking your path.
Mounted on a versatile, six-wheeled chassis, the Beam Cannon is an artillery platform designed to raze buildings to the ground. In combination with the Venom, which can bounce its shafts of light off a mirror (Reflector Attack), the most dauntingly inaccessible of targets are brought within reach. The Beam Cannons come into their own when supercharging Obelisks of Light, reducing the best-drilled infantry to heaps of ash and blasting Mammoths to oblivion.
Whilst massive walkers have fallen into disfavour amongst the scientists of GDI, Nod has abandoned its experiments in cyborg engineering, concentrating instead on the Avatar Warmech, which, at ten metres tall, impressively towers over friend and foe alike. The searing heat of the Obelisk laser can be complemented by up to four other technologies cannibalised from other vehicles (explaining why Nod units of lesser stature squint up at it with trepidation as it strides purposefully towards them, like a plodding Lennie in search of something to pet and every bit as straightforwardly eloquent: “I want that”): flame throwers, stealth generators, beam cannons and stealth detectors. The conscience of the commander who might balk at sacrificing the donor units (whose crews are killed in the appropriation process) is salved by the injunction: “rest easy in the knowledge that the dead have given their lives for the brotherhood”.
In the days of the Second Tiberium War, GDI reigned supreme as the sovereigns of the skies. The weapons specialists at Nod have clearly been burning the
The manual describes these heavy bombers as “Batwing” and yes, they would not have looked out of place piloted by Adam West had they featured in the original 60s Batman series. They are vulnerable when passing over an AA turret and when dropping their Groundpounder payloads, but re-cloak the instant the bomb bays have closed.
Thus the Nod combat Bible. Three for the price of one must surely be a directive from the shiny-pated Glorious Leader himself. SAMs send aircraft into a fatal tailspin, lasers puncture vehicles and the aptly named shredder turrets make mincemeat of infantry (as well as detecting stealth). A certain degree of intermeshing is recommended for protecting outposts, as any experienced opponent will concentrate fire on the hub, even if this means sacrificing some of their vehicles in the process.
The Obelisk aficionado should never forget the injunction: “Watch the skies!”
Kane’s grasp of how the contaminant of the Yellow Zones can simultaneously be exploited for his gain coupled with the ingenuity of his scientists who have dedicated themselves in their leader’s service to unravelling the crystal’s mysteries has certainly borne fruit. The Seed Tiberium facility allows the player to spray a designated patch with liquid Tiberium for immediate harvesting when resources are running low. Although seeding imparts a shimmering emerald hue even to barren soil, it makes most sense to target the fissure, instantly replenishing the field. Unfortunately new growth on the rare blue gem deposits comes up stubbornly green.
The Tiberium vapour bomb ignites a deadly cloud of droplets reminiscent of the fuel air bomb in Generals, purging the battlefield of any infantry unlucky enough to be caught underneath.
The trio of Tiberium-related specialities is rounded off by the Catalyst Missile, the devastating effect of which is amplified by the crystals in either their pure or refined state, ideally suiting it to the task of paralysing the foe through attrition as it obliterates refineries as well as leaving harvesters on their last legs (health bar red and at absolute minimum). If it explodes on a Tiberium field it initiates a chain reaction, spreading a noxious green miasma and shattering the fragile shards.
The Decoy Army once again betrays the diversity of influences drawn together in the game, this time plundering the back catalogue (in Emperor: Battle for Dune, the Ixian Projector possessed the same ability). Phantom unit clones attract fire from dim-witted defences, which cannot distinguish between insubstantial shades and solid metal, excellent in combination with the real McCoy or to distract from a sortie elsewhere.
The Radar Jamming Missile, deployed at the operations centre, is fairly self-explanatory, temporarily blinding the enemy so that you can send in your shadow teams, stealth tanks or simply induce paranoia about what you might be up to even if you know fine that you can muster no bigger a menace than a handful of militant squads yelling “Down with GDI!”
The Cloaking Field once again delivers exactly what its name promises, conferring temporary invisibility on forces as they move around the map, literally concealing your intentions. In situations of duress, the shroud can be used defensively to wipe out marauding hordes of light infantry.
The Mine Drop proves that the simplest low-tech can suffice to stop even the most sophisticated tanks in their tracks. Blocking entrances with minefields is a convenient method of diverting the enemy from a particular route.
The Brotherhood Combat Operations Manual succinctly summarises the recipe for success: “avoiding direct contact with the enemy until the time and place are just right. Stealth, speed, mobility, force composition and operational flexibility” will stand the Nod commander in good stead.
The Scrin look like the kind of creature you might find crawling under a flagstone, nightmarish creepy-crawlies that thrive perversely in the (for earthlings at least) most adverse weather conditions. The bizarre fern-like fronds of their aptly-named defensive Storm Columns produce a localised ion disturbance (as does the Planetary Assault Carrier, which resembles the Protoss Carrier in more than name, its Interceptor equivalent detaching from its ribs to attack with a speed similar to the lightning bolts that improve its combat efficiency). Once again, this is an element of the mythology that has been successfully transposed – who could forget struggling to contend with the electrical interference, which was always at its worst near the alien artefacts whilst at the same time trying to repel Nod?
Whilst some of the Scrin units remind the player of refugees from the set of Starship Troopers the debt to Starcraft is at its most obvious here, the pairing of skin-creepingly hideous insectoid-organic primitiveness with advanced shield technology positively inviting the comparison, so that the most convenient shorthand for summing up the invaders is as a Zerg-Protoss hybrid.
Their intent is to proceed to Ichor (Tiberium) extraction on a global scale, although the blast of the Liquid Tiberium Bomb prematurely summoned them to Earth (Kane really does have a lot to answer for and, intriguingly, the Scrin foreman is informed – hinting at a sequel – that “This being already exists in the data core”), jeopardising their survival. Confronted with unexpected resistance from the indigenous population, their response is to disrupt, disorganise and divert enemy attention from Relay Node and Threshold erection. The first major population centre to fall victim to Scrin aggression is situated on “the island near Continent Three” and the task awaiting Foreman 371 involves demolishing certain “iconic structures”, including Big Ben and
Let the infestation begin!
No mere insect repellent could hope to deter these angry clouds of sentient razor blades that are guaranteed to give any passing infantry a closer shave than Sweeny Todd. A single squad is indispensable for scouting purposes early on (and I have witnessed games in which they have been allowed to hover undisturbed at the back of a base like gnats on a summer’s evening partly because of a criminal lack of attentiveness on the part of the opponent, partly because they are difficult to spot on the mini map). Likewise, if positioned near a Tiberium spike deep in enemy territory they can at least delay the financial injection yielded by its capture. Compared with rocket troopers and missile squads when holed up in a building, Buzzers are a bit of a disappointment and though they seldom hang about, engineers have been known to take advantage of certain landscape features to outrun them. However, if assigned to a vehicle their frenetic swirling interferes with enemy targeting, reducing accuracy and they make excellent travelling companions for Annihilator Tripods, which can be all too quickly humbled by ant-like foot soldiers.
The Scrin foreman’s four-legged friends may be small, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in gleeful viciousness. Detonating when crushed, they cheerfully fling themselves, lemming-like under tracks of Predators and Mammoths (as well as gleefully tossing the corpses of vanquished Shock Troopers high into the air as if in training to compete against Michael Jordan) and can even overrun bases in sufficient numbers. The little blighters become so carried away by their own enthusiasm that they have acquired the annoying habit of running off in pursuit of a retreating foe whether you want them to or not (in fairness, this irritating propensity to show more initiative than is strictly good for them affects all units. One of my allies, for example, brought down a Planetary Assault Carrier by firing on it with a single Pitbull and withdrawing the latter to his AA-Battery-studded base – the Carrier could not resist giving chase, which proved its – literal – downfall). Some players deliberately unit-bait, picking off the assembled attack force one by one. Be aware of this potential for insidious decimation that to my mind belongs to the category of Dishonourable Ploys for Disreputable Dummies, Volume Two.
The Scrin engineer is stealthed whilst motionless. Its progress as it snakes its way towards its destination is painfully slow in spite of its multiple legs. It does not have the luxury of the call for transport enjoyed by its GDI and Nod counterparts, but it can be teleported by a Mastermind.
When upgraded with Plasma Disc Launchers Shock Troopers spit balls of light, which are carbon copies of the Protoss Dragoons’ Phase Disruptors and every bit as lethal against aircraft. Blink Packs rematerialise them beyond the reach of pesky perimeter defences, the famous command attributed to, but never actually uttered by Captain James T. Kirk, “Beam me up, Scotty!” springing to mind. Whether guarding Tripods from impudent Venoms or protecting the Drone Ship against ground incursions no invasion should be contemplated without them (apart from manifold military merits, the vigorous way they applaud their own feats of valour with their wing cases is reason enough to recruit them).
Nimble and fleet of foot (so fast indeed that they can dodge a watchtower’s bullets), the Mastermind runs rings around the opposition. Whereas in Yuri’s Revenge the identically-named disembodied brain in a vat could take over more than just a single unit, the Scrin’s elite mesmeriser shares the Yuri Prime’s ability to requisition structures (particularly handy for reviving cash flow), substituting brains for brawn for a more subtle campaign of demoralisation. If money is no object, however, rather than selling off the buildings, plant your own Photon Cannons around a commandeered War Factory whilst pumping out tanks in the heart of the enemy base. The Mastermind’s control is not diminished by distance, so if the enemy is in hot pursuit it can vacate the scene post haste with impunity. Nothing triggers the turtle instinct better than a Mastermind, as your opponent knows full well that if he fails to focus on counter measures he can kiss goodbye to his base within minutes, diverting his thoughts in a subsidiary form of telepathic tyranny. Even if he ultimately manages to foil your takeover bid, it will have cost him dear. If, however, you are forced onto the defensive yourself the Mastermind can hijack the promoted Mammoth (or, for that matter, Planetary Assault Carrier), turning it against its comrades or teleport Tripods to attack from in front and behind. Although superweapons are immune to its hypnotic charms, the Mastermind can transport troops to the small unshrouded area around the Ion Cannon or
Not the sturdiest of vehicles, the Seeker is geared towards detecting stealth, clearing mines and bombarding air units. In sufficient numbers they can bludgeon their way through the most elaborate array of Obelisks and Shredder Turrets and, when accompanied by Shock Troopers with Plasma Discs are practically invincible. I always manufacture them en masse for defence purposes together with Disintegrators (if cash reserves are running low) or their aforementioned beetle-like companions.
The range of these spindly-legged, rapid-spitting death-dealers renders them peerless when it comes to disposing of Masterminds (against which even Buzzers are too sluggish). Carefully positioning a few towards the rear of your base can likewise stymie Shadow and Engineer infiltrations. If you suspect that your opponent is planning an infantry rush Gun Walkers are perfect for fending it off. Their anti-air capability is admittedly not in the same league as that of the Seeker, but their firing rate makes them more effective against Storm Riders.
On a small rush-oriented battlefield the Devourer (so dubbed because it supercharges its already impressive beam by gorging on Tiberium) is too expensive to be worthwhile early on. At full intensity its ray makes short work of Obelisks from far enough away to escape retaliation (a salutory sickener for base-creepers). Similarly it can deprive the foe of harvesters and ground attack units from a safe distance.
Their jaws oozing with putrid green slime, which they disgorge through windows to rid apartment blocks of holed-up Missile Squads (Buzzers do the same job, but too easily succumb when caught in the crossfire), the cumbersome Corrupter’s corrosive juices act as a restorative cordial when belched over your own forces.
I quickly developed a real soft spot for these awe-inspiring triffids on speed, with their waving tentacles, so heavy that they leave deep dents in the soil wherever they walk. Size isn’t everything, though, and no matter how intimidatingly they might tower over infantry they can be brought to their knees by the rawest recruits, nor are they able to swot aircraft. When in close proximity to structures they emit a disabling EMP pulse. In homage to György Pál’s 1953 version of The War of the Worlds they can be shrouded with a force field (as can the Devastator Warship and Planetary Assault Carrier), which shimmers like a soap bubble, but is infinitely more resilient.
The manic speed with which they circle tests even the most honed of reflexes (forget the hammer on the knee test, ask a patient to shoot down one of these instead), bestowing them with the accolade of being the ultimate in hair-tearing harassment. Twelve are enough to lay waste to an entire base (and if you spot a base-creeper abandon all other production to concentrate on Storm Riders alone and bombard him into capitulation, Construction Yard and Cranes first, followed by power plants). Twenty are unstoppable even if Mammoths are advancing on your position.
The extensive splash damage wrought by Devastators ensures that they not only clear a path where the overland route is blocked by sonic emitters, but they can evade anti-air. In clusters they can stave off the most persistent of ground assaults, but Venoms and Firehawks can shoot them down even with their inferior weaponry.
My affectionate nickname for these massive starships is “forkytails of death”. Don’t be fooled by the sedateness with which they float towards their targets, the prowess of the Carriers against ground and air units alike (the ensuing dog fights can fill the screen, blotting out the engagement below) is without equal. Even if the entire complement of Fighters has been lost in action, the Carriers can still inflict destruction with their self-generated ion storms (which have the added bonus of boosting the performance of any other Scrin vessels in the vicinity).
The Buzzer Hive is home to a never-ending supply of the nasty little creatures and should be strategically placed near critical structures (such as the Drone Ship or Foundry) to deal with any Engineers. A couple of Hives towards the front of the base is usually adequate to humble infantry rushers and if by some miracle your adversary succeeds in sneaking Rocket Troops into a shack on the fringes of your base and starts taking pot shots at your Harvesters or Warp Spheres a Hive affords the swiftest remedy).
Of the three sides’ anti-air defences, the slender Plasma Missile Battery is the most elegant as well as the most potent.
The bolts from the gently swaying Storm Columns scorch all comers regardless of whether they approach from land or airside. The rapidity with which they summon inclement weather from previously clear skies would certainly qualify them as Michael Fish’s worst nightmare.
The Scrin’s superweapon resembles Dark Reign’s Imperium Rift Creator (right down to the swirling vortex when activated). Opening a portal at the flash point, it sucks in everything beneath to be summarily ejected into deep space.
Reconstruction Drones can be called in anywhere on the battlefield to repair battered Tripods or any other units slightly the worse for wear.
Although conceived as a fall-back defence, the Lightning Spike can provide invaluable assistance to your ground forces as they penetrate enemy lines. Personally, I take perverse pleasure in adding insult to injury by beaming them in when my adversary is already on his last legs and can offer no real resistance.
The Swarm consists of six buzzer squads and can come to the rescue of teetering Tripods by slicing and dicing riflemen.
The Vibration Scan is most useful on unfamiliar maps, revealing the whereabouts of all Tiberium deposits as well as any vehicles or buildings close by.
In dire need, the stasis shield can immobilise enemy forces by trapping them inside a blister similar to the force field, impenetrable to fire from within or without. It can also shut down production facilities and stop the countdown on a superweapon. If a full-scale offensive appears to be on the brink of failure because your units are ailing, you can call in repair drones to patch them up in peace beneath the shield.
By way of an alternative to the battering ram school of conflict, the Phase Field can be employed to grant your troops safe passage where they would otherwise stand little chance of punching a hole in the defences.
The Wormhole allows for instantaneous travel between two points, no matter how far apart and, as such, is crucial for alleviating the pressure on your allies with backup. Choose your exit spot with care, however, as the gateway makes no distinction between friend and foe so that careless use could seriously backfire on you.
The criminally expensive Mothership, although awesome to behold, could easily be overtaken by your average snail. Moving targets will always evade it and its maddening slowness extends to firing (four beams have to converge on the central hub before the weapon can discharge), but when it does it is truly spectacular with an enormous blast radius. I have never yet taken part in an online match where the Scrin player was actually able to show what it was made of.
Although their hunger for Ichor can never be sated (and they therefore have no need for silos), the astronomical expense of warping in Scrin military hardware is such that I would only counsel the player skilled in accumulating large sums at speed to try them out. Having said that, I find them completely compelling and very rewarding beyond the risky initial phase and have never played any other side online.
Like the oil derricks in Generals, Tiberium Spikes provide a continuous, though modest, drip-feed of cash. Initial capture yields a hefty 750 credits (even if you wrest a Spike from the enemy’s grasp the bonus is a one-off). Spikes have differing rates of extraction depending on the size of the underlying deposit and if knocked down a miniature Tiberium field marks where it once stood. If map resources are scarce, it may be wise to send a Surveyor (Emissary/Explorer) to erect defences around it. AI players waste no time in taking over all of the neutral structures (though they subsequently tend to forget about them). In keeping with the sense of fair play inherent to the side, the GDI intelligence briefing admonishes: “Commanders are encouraged to provide compensation to the legitimate owners of commandeered Tiberium spikes in the form of GDI vouchers that can be redeemed in
One of the letdowns of the sequel is that the Mutant storyline so integral to the original has been all but dropped. In the Ayers Rock Nod mission we learn that: “Six long years have passed since the once burgeoning mutant nation picked up stakes and disappeared into the Tiberium wastelands, their tragic, self-imposed exile continuing to this day. Yet now, as humanity struggles to find its place in an ever more blighted world, thoughts again turn to our horribly disfigured brethren – who were they, and why did they leave?
In a show of goodwill towards the vanished mutant population, G-330X habitat modules were deployed on the borders of Red Zones in 2042. Since then there have been scattered but unconfirmed reports that mutants have taken shelter in the habitat modules”.
Mutants can be enlisted from the hovels. Not only can they saunter across Tiberium fields without harm, but their chain guns riddle aircraft as well as tanks with bullets.
Only infantry can enter the hub (it would be ever so slightly unrealistic to expect Mammoths to fit in through the doorways let alone negotiate the stairways) before leaving through any of the various subsidiary exits, crossing enemy lines unscathed to ambush the unwary.
Again self-explanatory, this bay can be handy in making available a steady trickle of extra tanks.
The tactical significance of these building platforms should not be underestimated as it is always far cheaper to send in an Engineer (Saboteur/Assimilator) than to purchase a Surveyor (Emissary/Explorer, which takes an eternity to deploy into the bargain).
EMP Control Centre
The stress factor involved in watching an Ion Cannon or Rift Generator (any Nod commander worth his salt will have anticipated the eventuality by installing Master Computer Countermeasures) countdown in the knowledge that not enough time remains for you to pummel your way through before it unleashes its wrath can be relieved, albeit not for as long as you might like, by switching it off with an EMP pulse. For me, however, its chief strategic value lies in its ability to shatter air units – I have seen two dozen Venoms and even Planetary Assault Carriers transformed in a split second into a shower of red-hot debris.
These tend to be located on vantage points overlooking Tiberium deposits and will aim at your harvesters. They are fairly fragile (and are at the mercy of airborne strike forces), so bringing them down should not prove too much of a headache.
For a quick injection of capital grab a silo as soon as possible.
Garrisoning cityscapes vastly increases the range of vision as well as impeding ground-based hostiles in their forward push.
Everything about the look of Tiberium Wars is grown-up, slick and polished, so much so that summarising the overall experience of the game as compared with its predecessor Tiberian Sun is a bit like being asked to rate the respective merits in terms of comfort and aviation specs of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer and the Airbus A-380.
The replay of the GDI opening sequence in miniature in the screen on the right whilst you select your maps and opponents sets your trigger-finger itching.
The developers have triumphed with the AI and its five distinctive personalities: Balanced, Rusher, Turtle, Guerrilla and Steamroller. I pitted my wits against the Hard Steamroller before so much as glancing at the campaign, familiarising myself with the units or figuring out the best build order and the school of hard knocks awaited me, the perfect tutorial if you want to learn and learn fast.
When the AI is set to Brutal, expect a relentless onslaught. It will pick up on the tiniest flaws in your brilliant design for victory, for example, hammering you with Firehawks and Orcas if you stint on anti-air (take it from me, on Brutal you cannot afford to sit back and relax even against a so-called Turtle). Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the retreat into shell appellation. It employs every trick in the book previously only mastered by wetware (humans) and for the first time in the venerable history of the saga really does put you through your paces.
If you are utterly determined to beat a Brutal and want to even the odds slightly, you can impose a handicap on it (a feature you can also make use of online and no doubt appeals to the show-off in you when gauging your flesh and blood opponent’s likelihood of inflicting defeat).
In keeping with my assessment of the level of professionalism that permeates the game, the crisp graphics also deserve praise. In a nutshell, this is what you always dreamed Tiberian Sun could look like. Whereas in the past the Tiberium deposits looked more like a moss-infested lawn after a rain shower than the weird, unearthly crystals they are supposed to be, you can now count the individual emerald shards and even the smallest units (such as the Disintegrators) withstand the close scrutiny of the zoom-in.
The background music is unobtrusive and pleasant enough (perhaps slightly on the insipid side), mercifully free of the tinny and tooth-grindingly repetitive quality of the amusement arcade entertainments of yesteryear, neither grating on the nerves nor distracting from the game, matching the mood of the on-screen action, which is exactly as it should be.
There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for EA not to have gotten its act together by now to root out problems with setting up a LAN. In spite of this, even with a great deal of fiddling and coaxing it still doesn’t work, an entirely superfluous blot on the copybook.
It is not as if EA is incapable of taking criticisms on board, as demonstrated by the ease with which it is now possible to network and communicate with friends online. In the past you could lose a game through being plagued by (well-meaning) interruptions from your clan mates and more casual acquaintances clamouring to play, to which you felt duty-bound not to ignore for fear of giving offence. Now you can engage effortlessly in private conversation by clicking on the handy envelope icon at the top right of the screen where you will discover immediately whether they are online and if so, their whereabouts. You can also invite a friend to join the game you are hosting and if he is otherwise occupied you will be told that he is unable to accept (thereby avoiding all sorts of grief), although this feature requires some serious tweaking as it seldom works in practice.
Making friends is far harder than adding them to your list (all it takes is a click on the plus sign, whilst screening out unwanted torrents of abuse from a disgruntled loser is likewise a mere click on the thumbs down icon away) and, similarly, setting up a clan has never been easier.
You might take for granted being able to view a player’s combat record (win/loss ratio etc.) by putting the cursor over his nick, but if you would like to satisfy your curiosity further, you can consult a detailed breakdown of the person’s match statistics (and experience counts in terms of progression through the ranks).
The atmosphere in the lobby has the buzz of a busy newsroom, complete with bulletin texts along the bottom of the screen.
In-game, I recommend the VOIP option as opposed to laborious typing because of the fast-paced nature of play. You need to be careful to make sure you are discussing strategy with allies only or be prepared to suffer the consequences. A certain degree of confusion over whether the globe indeed meant allied VOIP chat (when you type remarks, the enter key prefaces the text readable by all with “Global”, so that the allied chat symbol is counter-intuitive) could have been avoided with a minimum of foresight by the developers (as it was we discovered that the image of three players standing behind each other signified VOIP to all when a barrage of rude comments greeted us to the bottom left of the screen).
Playing online is not the hit and miss affair it once was and the game retains its stability even with several applications running in the background. In spite of its not being marred by repeated involuntary crashes, some individuals continue to be so paranoid about defeats being registered that they deliberately disconnect to circumvent their being officially recorded.
In closing, I would like to highlight two innovations, the vastly improved observer option and the Battlecast feature.
Provided the host allows, you can sit back and enjoy the contest at a safe remove as an observer. You can choose whether to watch through the eyes of a given player or have a God’s eye view of the whole map, the free roam (and you can switch at will between these perspectives). Far from being a poor substitute for actual play, I found that observing yielded a fascinating insight into the minds of the participants and how they tailored their style to the strictures of the maps. For clan recruitment purposes, moreover, observing a would-be member to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses is a must.
The concept of the Battlecast perfectly captures the Zeitgeist of the big-screen era where sports and concert audiences grin and point when their faces are plucked out of the crowd for a few ephemeral seconds of fame (15 minutes an eternity these days). Two categories of match are broadcast on the C&C website, spontaneous live and pre-scheduled bouts. If you have ever harboured a secret desire to get in touch with your inner David Coleman, you can provide running commentary on the action via VOIP. A tape delay safeguards against partisan viewers taking a hand in determining the result. The telestrator appeals to the overgrown adolescent side of the commentator by providing a box of coloured crayons to draw with (you can circle strategically important Tiberium fields, point with arrows and so on to your heart’s content).
I am torn between whether the Battlecast is designed to bring out suppressed Narcissistic tendencies in the player, giving the cream of the crop the chance to blind lesser mortals with their tactical genius (such individuals may equally prefer not to reveal the secret of their winning form) or whether it can be genuinely useful for the novice seeking advice on how best to counteract a rush. I for one would not be arrogant enough to assume that my modest accomplishments merited being held up for public admiration. At any rate it represents an astute marketing ploy (anyone can download the Battlecast Viewer for free and if authentic footage is not enough to coax them into buying the game, nothing will) as well as taking the community and its dedication to their leisure pursuit seriously. At long last.
The various minor defects alluded to above detract from the overall game experience to the extent that I cannot award the perfect score I would otherwise have given. Having said that, Tiberium Wars demonstrates beyond all doubt that when properly executed, nostalgia can be successfully harnessed as a sales factor. I would therefore join the chorus clamouring ceaselessly for a revival of Starcraft, the comparative depth of which would surely sustain (and reward) further exploration. Blizzard take note!
Overall Game Experience: 9.5
Welcome to the 116th edition of the Brit Blog Round-Up brought to you this week from that backwater famed for a diminutive statue of a urinating boy, chocolate and plays host to certain sprawling institutions, hence its delusions of grandeur in styling itself as the capital of
pity is an appropriate response to disability
if you’re not disabled, you’re very lucky
disabled people can’t do the things the rest of us can do
all disabled people are chirpy and brave, and they do their very best, bless them
disabled people AREN’T normal” [emphasis in original].
Natalie at Philobiblon reports on a merger of three schools enough to make any parent shudder in
Hamer Shawcross, at The British Bullshit Foundation, despairs for our future, with an amusing demonstration of how the same set of events can be described from diametrically opposed vantage points.
Escaping from the radiant sunshine and relentless din of the traffic outside, I took refuge in the British Library café, the perfect backdrop for a serious and stimulating conversation where, over a medium latte, I had the great privilege of talking to Professor Liz Kelly of
Chameleon: Could you tell me a little bit about your background and the research you have been involved in?
And: “Most of the women were raped by men they knew. Of these, more than half were friends, colleagues, neighbours or casual acquaintances – men with whom they had never had consensual sex. Most assaults appear to have been carefully planned. Men approached the women in a variety of situations, but most commonly in the social setting of a pub, club or party. Many women were taken unsuspectingly to a place where the rapist would not be disturbed. With regard to the men the victim knew well or fairly well, first contact with the victim was most likely to be made in the man or woman’s home (60 per cent), or an inside public place (17 per cent), and least likely to be made on a date (3 per cent). Yet many people believe that a woman who goes to the home or flat of a man on the first date implies she is willing to have sex. Others believe that it is the woman’s fault if she gets herself into the situation where she is likely to be raped”, p11]. These myths are really very tenacious and persistent so how can we overcome the prejudices contained in the misconception that rape, “real rape” or whatever label people want to put on it, has only happened when it involves a stranger that jumps on you from the bushes? What can we do about counteracting that, because to my mind that’s the undercurrent in all of these articles in the Daily Mail when they cast aspersions on the victims. There’s a chronic problem of the justice system not believing the women: when it comes down to her word against his, it always seems to be his word that prevails.
The crime of rape is not committed against the victim, but against the state, the victim is Exhibit A in the case of
It is not women who have decided that rape is so heinous, but men. The only weapon that counts in rape is the penis, which is conceptualised as devastating. Yet a man can do more harm with his thumb than he can with his thin-skinned penis. But it is his penis that is to him the symbol and instrument of his potency. The notion of rape is the direct expression of male phallocentricity, which women should know better than to accept.
If you talk to raped women, they usually resent all the other insults that accompanied the rape more than the unwanted presence of a penis in the vagina. The forcing of a penis into a mouth, for example, is not rape but sexual assault, yet a victim may resent it more; likewise forcible buggery, ejaculating on to the face or breasts, and so forth. In some cases, what remains in the memory and continues to perturb years after the event are the words a rapist forced his victim to say”.
Her article continues: “There is a solution, but it is not recognised as such by feminists or legislators. That is to abolish the crime of rape altogether, and instead to expand the law of assault to include sexual assault in varying degrees of gravity; so that, for example, mutilating assaults on children would be recognised as many times graver than penetration of a grown woman”]. She thinks that rape legislation as it stands at the moment should be abolished altogether. I guess that when she wrote the piece she wasn’t aware that this had already been done in
‘However, where the complainant has voluntarily consumed even substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remains capable of choosing whether or not to have intercourse, and in drink agrees to do so, this would not be rape’.
The judge said it would not be right to lay down rules – ’some kind of grid system’ – that say a woman who has reached a set level of drunkenness is incapable of consent.
He added: ‘Experience shows that different individuals have a greater or lesser capacity to cope with alcohol.
‘Provisions intended to protect women from sexual assaults might very well be conflated into a system which would provide patronising interference with the right of autonomous adults to make personal decisions for themselves’”] introduced to the law about capacity to consent, deliberating on one particular case.
Chameleon: It’s cold-blooded, isn’t it?
Chameleon: Thank you so much!
Powered by WordPress Words, Audiotexts and Images Copyright © Chameleon 2004-2009