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X3F hands on: Command and Conquer 3

You may have heard that we had a tough time getting our hands on the Command & Conquer 3 demo last week. Saints be praised, we finally managed to grab the demo this morning. We spent a few hours playing the game and coming to grips with the controls. We also spent about 20 minutes getting owned on Xbox Live. So, is it any good? The short answer is yes. The long answer is after the break.

Command and Conquer 3 uses essentially the same control scheme as Electronic Arts' previous console RTS effort, Battle for Middle Earth II. The A button is the universal "do stuff" button, equivalent of the left button on a mouse. The left stick pans the screen while the selection reticle remains locked in the center of the screen. The left trigger and bumpers serve as selection modifiers. The right trigger opens the task menu. The task menu serves as the central hub of gameplay. Contained in the menu are tabs that give you quick access to construction queues, training queues, powers, and groups. The D-pad quickly cycles through different unit types, groups, and powers.

One of the best changes to the game is a much more identifiable grouping system. Any selection of units (or even buildings) can be organized into a group, which can later be selected simply by pulling up the group menu. In BFMEII, these groups were labeled by drarven runes, which aren't exactly easy to remember. Thankfully, C&C3 uses good old fashioned numbers.

Construction queues are a godsend for console RTS games. Instead of clicking on a particular building to train a specific unit, you can just pull up the appropriate construction queue -- these are divided into infantry, vehicles, buildings, etc -- and set up how many units you want to build. Once the units are done, they pop out of the appropriate building. In short, less clicking equals more playing.

Of course, not everything is perfect, and PC die-hards will want to stick with their trusty mice and keyboards. Selecting specific units, especially single infantry units like commandos and engineers, can be pretty damned difficult. The reticle moves very quickly, so it's easy to overshoot the intended unit. There are shortcuts that allow you to select every unit of the same type or every unit on screen, but that takes away a good deal of the strategy. Surgical strikes can turn into giant mobs very easily.

Still, if you've got the patience and can learn the multitudes of shortcuts and navigate the menus quickly, it's certainly possible to organize a detailed and powerful force in a short amount of time. Of course, learning the ins and outs of every unit and the technology trees will help as well.

All of this brings us to our shameful defeat on Xbox Live. We learned very quickly that building up a respectable force quickly is going to take practice. In the middle of what we thought was a grunt rush, we discovered that our opponent had already constructed Mammoth tanks -- Mammoth ... tanks -- before we had even managed to pump out our first vehicle. It wasn't long before he was toying with us and pulling his forces out just so he could finish off our few remaining structures with an ion cannon. Never ones to take defeat gracefully, we quickly sold our remaining buildings before the ion cannon was charged.

All in all, we got out ass handed to us. The funny thing is, we can't wait to try again. What do you think? Is Command & Conquer 3 the answer to the console RTS dilemma?

Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)


4-26-2007 @ 6:12PM

Tim said...

Well I've never played an RTS before but I've been interested for a while. I've played the demo of this several times since I downloaded it and so far I really like it. Its still a couple of weeks before the game is released, so I'll see if my interest wanes before it hits the shelves or not. IMHO its very very pretty but it does seem to have a bit of a learning curve.

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Matt D.2

4-26-2007 @ 6:25PM

Matt D. said...

I had trouble downloading the demo too. Xbox support tried to tell me that my router wasn't compatible. I finally got it downloaded though. I ran through the demo and single player missions quickly. I moved to xbox live and have played about 10 games. I rolled over a few people and I got rolled over twice. I've had a few people bail on me mid-game and I've had a few games go to the end. All in all, it's a solid game. I've played C&C since the original. Xbox Live will be a great thing for this game, Generals struggled with network issues whenever I tried it.

Gamertag - BlackBeltJones7

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4-26-2007 @ 6:47PM

Wizardly said...

I'll be picking it up on May 8th. Loved BFME2 and they seem to have taken care of most of my gripes... framerate issues and the grouping system.

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4-26-2007 @ 7:00PM

jaysins said...

I have played it quite a bit in the last two days as finals got out and I took a couple days off work. Love the game it's a lot of fun. Also, it helps having a background in Star Craft as after I beat the solo in the demo I consistently was able to win online which is kind of cool.

The controls are sloppy if your used to KB/M but very doable and I'd say downright impressive for a console and I'm very happy with them. The controls just seem a lot better the LOTR to me. The only time I have a hard time now is when I'm moving all over the place and fighting on multiple fronts and grouping can still be a pain in the ass. However, the person I'm facing is faced with the same challenges so it's not really a big deal imo as it's a level playing field and does make me pay attention to little things like where my guys are placed. Though I'd hate to have go against someone on the PC, though I'm sure I could win if they were average or below.

I wish they would change the price of some things as it is extremely expensive to get going and makes you usually have to focus on a particular unit or two. I've found your better off sticking with either two of the land vehicles, or a combination with ground support. This could be solved easily if they have a mode online where you start with a ton of money and I'd assume is included in the game. The only reason I say this is because it's really hard to have a huge battle on the demo and only happened once when the person I was playing against and I agreed to build up our forces to max and just go all out, which was a lot of fun and ran really smoothly for having over a couple hundred guys on screen at once.

It's a pretty detailed game and in the demo alone with only the one race I'm still discovering lots of things even after reading a tutorial online and being in close to 30 online matches. Example would be if you use the snipers to scope out your enemies and have a bunch of juggernauts you can bombard the enemy with the juggies from anywhere on the map if you snipers have them in range. Or putting your guys into the vehicles and they really dish out some damage. Really fun game and I'm glad it's easy to learn hard to master. I would give the demo a 9/10 and it definitely convinced me to buy the game for my 360 as my pc cannot run it well.

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4-26-2007 @ 7:14PM

m0nki said...

Can you play the demo over lan? I don't have a gold account?

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4-26-2007 @ 7:27PM

James said...

I'm divided over the demo. Not so much about the content (I'm a HUGE sucker for practical/non CG FMVs and with Michael Ironside and Grace Park in the cast list I'm pretty much sold), but the controls - I remembering playing the first C&C when it debuted on PC as well as C&C Red Alert, and I'm just so used to mouse+keyboard :(

It's been a long time since I've jumped into any RTS let alone RTS on console. But this might be worth another shot.

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Les Doodis7

4-26-2007 @ 7:37PM

Les Doodis said...

I love how Richard uses the royal 'we' in his posts.

We wants our precious!

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Rami Selim8

4-26-2007 @ 7:41PM

Rami Selim said...

Can you plug in your mouse and keyboard? I think you can use a keyboard for xbox live messages ands stuff. That would make it awesome if you could use keyboard mouse for this game as well.

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4-26-2007 @ 9:09PM

Hmerly said...

I beat the GDI campaign on the PC and tried the demo on the 360 for several hours over the last couple days. The 360 does a fantastic job mirroring the PC version, with some minor interface and of course control adjustments. Of course, the PC's keyboard/mouse combination is infinitely superior for playing an rts, but EA has really done an incredible job designing the controls for this game using the 360 gamepad. It works well enough, and you don't feel completely lost when you transition from the PC to the 360. It is a bit difficult, and the learning curve is pretty steep if you're not going to dedicate some time to this game, but it isn't nearly as bad as you think it is when you initially play the game. I've really enjoyed the XBoxLive quick connect so far in the demo and have played many games without problems, aside from a couple disconnects. It is worlds better than the crap I had to deal with on the PC side, where patch after patch had to come out before you could even play online.

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4-26-2007 @ 10:23PM

Verge said...

As an old school C&C fan (having played every single game on PC except the latest because my computer is just too outdated now) I really enjoyed the demo and kickin some noob ass on that quick play. . (engineer rush! still works?!) i loved the game. Controls def will take some time getting used to.. but as jaysins pointed out.. we're all in the same boat so its not so bad. I'll def put this one on my gamefly Q. But id have to say that PC is still far superior, nothing beats keyboard/mouse on an RTS. (i still say they should have supported usb keyboard/mouse)

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Digital Limit11

4-26-2007 @ 11:49PM

Digital Limit said...

I agree with post 7; It's kind of awkward, heh.

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4-27-2007 @ 1:22AM

DjDATZ said...

i liked the demo...pretty solid game but not worth my money...cuz i dont have any and i just got the wheel and im waitin for forza 2.

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4-27-2007 @ 1:55AM

:( said...

I've been playing the PC version for the past two weeks and by comparison, playing the X360 version is like writing with your left hand when you're a righty... and you only have three fingers...
Sure the scheme is good for the controller, but a mouse is just so much better; I play on a desk with a comp monitor so the idea of using a mouse for the X360 doesn't seem far-fetched if they'd allow it in a USB port and make the PC interface available. :(

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4-27-2007 @ 10:59AM

Wizardly said...

@5 - Nope, it's live only, 1v1.

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4-27-2007 @ 11:24AM

Muffin_man said...

I love this game and although the learning curve is relatively easy (for us console junkies at least) I find that some of the finer points aren't explained clearly and how do you make a support vehicle? and I can't figure out how to use the ion cannon in multiplayer.

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4-27-2007 @ 12:37PM

harveypekar said...

Any info on a skirmish mode?
It is historically my favorite game type in RTS titles. It keeps me going back to C&C Generals after however many years since online play is generally populated by "pros" who refuse to deviate from build orders and other fun-destroying win strategies.

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4-27-2007 @ 5:39PM

James said...

They need to come up with a local multiplayer mode that works for this (though I can't think how...). I would love to get the 360 version, but then I couldn't play it with my wife, and I'm not about to buy a whole console just so we can play one game together. I think I'm stuck getting the PC version...

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5-31-2007 @ 1:40PM

Daniel said...

Check out this video:

Or better yet, hit the "mash" button to embed the video on your blog.

One of my coworkers is a huge fan of the series, and after watching this with him, I'm probably going to go buy it myself.

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