Why Command and Conquer Generals Stinks
The last time I used this page to rant on a product was back in 1998 or so. I told the tale of an ISA US Robotics WinModem that liked to change its configuration with every reboot of the system. Heck, it even reconfigured itself to the settings of other devices, creating conflicts that it was support to avoid. I quickly learned the meaning of “plug-and-pray” from that experience.
Today, I am going to rant about EA’s new game “Command and Conquer: Generals”. For those unfamiliar with this game, it’s a 3D real-time strategy game were you can lead one of three armies: USA, China or a terrorist fraction named the Global Liberation Army, or GLA. In single player mode, as the Americans or the Chinese, you fight terrorists and track them down to their central command. As the GLA, you fight US and Chinese armies and steal a ICBM for launch at a Chinese city. (Or is it an American city, I don’t know.)
The concept of the game is sound. The timing of its release could not have been better with the second gulf war in play. However, the game has some severe flaws that I find irritating and annoying. So annoying, that Westwood Studios (now part of EA) should be as ashamed of as much as their biggest mistake-for-a-game since C&C: Tiberian Sun. Below is my ranting of the game’s flaws, which serve as reasons why NOT to purchase the game. I am basing my opinions on Westwood’s game C&C: Red Alert 2, which is based on a fine-tuned and well-polish version of the C&C: Tiberian Sun game engine.
1) Bad AI
I’m not talking the AI of the computer opponent. I’m talking about the AI of the units. Lets say you have a dozen tanks waiting to attack a base. You order them to attack. What do they do? They stream into the base in a single file and get blown-up one by one like sheep at a slaughter-house. They are not smart enough to rush and attach as a group? Apparently not. This feature was somehow lost from C&C:RA2 to C&C: Generals.
Another example of bad AI is how men travel to a location you order them to go. If they encounter an oppstical, they tend to follow the longest path around it. Order a bunch of tanks on one side of a building to go to the other and watch how the move. The guys in the front will move intelligently. The other guys will see the tanks in front, back-up, circle around and maybe turn around and go forward again. Sometimes a tank will leave the area altogether, and opp to go around some other building before getting to their final destination. Even if the tanks in front leave room of another tank to pass through, they ignore it and opp to take the long route around. In all, the screwy AI complicates troop movement.
Might not seem too bad, but the bad AI also leads to units getting killed. I ordered a bulldozer in one level to go to the other side of the map to build something. Instead of taking the direct route, which meant crossing safe terrain with NOTHING IN THE WAY, the dam unit takes the long way up across a bridge towards the enemy base and gets blown-up. What the hell? I have observed that kind of behavior on numerous occasions.
The worse case of bad AI is when units of an army collide. Take this example: I order a bulldozer to go in one direction and a Tommahack launch to another. Their paths meet in the middle of the map. Instead of driving around the other vehicle, the two vehicles meet and became stuck. Like in a Dr. Seuss story, they two units refused to travel left or right and they were stuck there until I gave them new orders. This happens from time to time and is annoying.
You don’t experience this crap in C&C: RA2. Why is it present in this game? Someone mis-ported the code?
2) “War Craft” Gameplay
Can you say “ripoff”? If you ever played War Craft II and then played this game, you can’t but help notice how C&C: General and War Craft are alike. You now need units to build structures. You can only build up to 9 guys in a barracks or in a war factory. You purchase “upgrades” to enhance your units fire-power or armor. You gather supplies from a pile. The list goes on. It’s as if the designers of WC wrote the game to have tanks and guns instead of knights and arrows.
I personal think the gameplay of WC is screwy and confusing, which leads to point 3.
3) Screwy User Interface.
Why oh why did they ditch the useful C&C interface that has evolved into a great and intuitive interface and replaced it with War Craft’s unit/building dependant options? Simple tasks like “building a tank” can only be done by first hunting down where your war factory is located and then selecting what you want to build. Even then, you are limited to only queue of 9 , unless you build another war factory.
C&C: RA2 allowed you to queue up to 30. You selected what you wanted to be your “primary war factory facility”(if you had multiple factories) and use the interface on the side to select what you want built. Why did you guys complicate matters?
Now lets talk special weapons. In Red Alert 2, when a special weapon was ready, you selected it easily from your UI. Now, you must hunt the building down, select it, and then scroll to the spot you want to fire it. You sometimes loose the selection of your building in the process and have to scroll back to base and back to the enemies base. Why can’t there be a little button on the left or right to select my special weapons? Even C&C: Tiberian Sun had a more straight forward interface. You guys HAVE this option built in for certain special weapons during certain single player games. Why didn’t you make it consistent through-out the game?
The online play UI is horrendous. I will start by taking about a stupid feature that annoyed me for three days.
I select “multiplayer/online”. It connects to the EA server for updates and downloads them if necessary. I then hit “create new account”. According to my DSL modem, packets are sent and received, but I get a “server could not be contacted” error. “?” I exclaim.
The problem was with IP selection. It was using my Network Interface Card’s IP instead of my Internet connection’s IP. The solution was to manually select the other IP from the configuration menu. The fools at EA though they should use my NIC’s IP address of 192.168.0.1 instead of my Internet IP address. I selected “ONLINE” gameplay , not “NETWORK” gameplay fool. The 192.168.0.x IP range is a reserved IP range for people who want to setup their own private network such that it will not interfere with the Internet. Why was this one selected? Heck, the IP I get from my ISP is numerically the first one in the list and yet you selected my NIC’s IP. Why? Why is it that the software can easily search for online updates and contact your dam server using my PC, but at the same time have a hard time contacting the game server? TO make matters worse, if I exit the game and return, it forgets with IP I selected, so I have to reselect the correct IP each time I login.
I contacted EA Tech support and I have yet to this day get a response.
Once you do connect, you’ll find more frustration. Messages to teammates can only have a certain length. The backspace key does not always work. The delay from a keystroke to when it is registered can take half a second. The UI is less responsive. I could go on and on. C&C: RA2 and C&C: Tiberian Sun, even C&C:RA1 had a better multiplayer UI. Why did they gum it up and confuse things?
4) Screwy Manual.
You might be saying, “Well, did you read the manual?” My answer is, yes, I did. The manual is crap. EA thinks they can make an extra dollar in profit by including a crappy manual. Do they think their customers are illiterate? What even happened to good, useful manuals? EA’s Simcity 3000 Unlimited had a nice color manual with a binder! The manual for this game talks a little about the hierarchy of units and has some general trouble shooting tips on the basics. Sections about details of how to play the game are omitted. Heck, info about how to use the partial cannon are not discussed. They don’t talk about how you can make the particle cannon move around quickly so you can affect a wide range of enemy units. I still don’t know how to control it.
When you play online and type something to someone, it is filtered for profanity. Type a four letter curse word and watch it appear as a serious of four stars. I don’t mind filthy words being filtered out. In fact, I welcome it. However, the programmers at EA when over board with what for 4-letter words they filter out. When did the word “crap” become an offensive, forbidden word?
But it does not stop with 4-letter words. Oh no it doesn’t. They also censor 3-letter words like “ass” and even “gay”. I can see why they censored them, but when did these words become “forbidden”?
However, they crossed the line by censoring one word I find important. Censorship of this word offended me. That word is “God”. The mastermind censors at EA have decided that “God” is a forbidden word. When did “God” become an offensive word? Are you guys trying to enforce a certain belief on people? Do I have to refer to “God” from now on as “Allah”? Oh wait, that word is censored too. Is EA atheist or something?
I find the censorship of the word “God” highly offensive. If the first four reasons don’t make you want to avoid purchasing this game, then perhaps the fact that EA is enforcing their religious believes (or lack there of) on you should.
In all, the engine for C&C General is good, but it needs some fine-tuning. The UI needs serious rework. I feel the programming for this game was rushed to market to take advantage of a looming opportunities. I do feel that they might be able to fine tune it for another release in a manner similar to how C&C: Tiberian Sun’s engine was redone for C&C: RA2’s release. Until then, I suggest you save your cash and stay away from this game. I hope EA takes what I said to heart, else they will loose a faithful follower of the C&C series.
In the mean time, I’m returning my copy of this game. Nintendo makes some good games and they could use my business. Perhaps I’ll trade this game in for a used GB Advance. Or perhaps I’ll get a game from Sega. Or pre-order Doom III. Either way, EA is not getting my money for this product.
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