previews\ Dec 22, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Command & Conquer: Generals - PC - Preview 2

The constant is erratic in battle, while those who aren’t quick are merely dead.

And on the battlefield, what can start to look like a stroll in the park can quickly descend into a fury of explosions, death and total chaos. And it sure is fun.

Command and Conquer Generals is in the beta testing stage of the multiplayer game, and GameZone was invited along for the ride. So it was time to polish off those stars for the uniform, jump in a command jeep and deploy the troops.

The online game, utilizing a lobby to set up matches of up to eight players, features the old rivals: The U.S. Army, the Global Liberation Army and the Chinese. Each has relatively equal firepower though the names and abilities of the different units vary according the to army it belongs to. Not only do you have ground units, such as soldiers and vehicles, but you can also establish air units at military bases for your strikes against your foes.

This is a game about winning ground, annihilating the enemy units and capturing its structures. You will have to manage resources, though that is not a prime focus of the game and only serves to finance the war machine and creation of army units.

Other features include:
· Three-dimensional real-time strategy with a point-and-command interface that is set up so even the general who has just received a commission can navigate through it with any prior RTS experience.
· As you score victories, you can unlock new units and weapons of mass destruction.
· As you win, you earn medals, which are displayed, next to your name. Medals are awarded for conquering parts of the game or employing a unique strategy so you can show off how good you are or online players will get an bit of an understanding about what they are up against.
· New online features include team quick matching, instant video replay, personal ladders, observer mode and advanced filtering options.

As mentioned, this is a game that is extremely simple to get into if you have ever played an RTS before. Rather than revamp the entire interface and complicate matters, EA Games has concentrated on the look and play of the game. And when it comes to the latter two, C&C Generals scores a decisive victory.

From the whirling little fans on the tops of buildings the movement of your aircraft and ground units, this game is amazing. The environments are diverse and offer tactical players the opportunity to utilize their surroundings, if they can overcome certain elements (like blowing up a dam to wipe out units and structures built near a river). The truly remarkable thing about this game is that even zoomed in all the way, the units get richer in detail and do not dissolve into pixilated sprites.

The sound of explosions and gunfire does sound a little tinny, or forced, but with the game delivering a cacophony of noise during a multiplayer free-for-all, sound is the least of the concerns – grabbing units and ordering up reinforcements is the primary need, and C&C Generals has kept the game simple. You click on a unit, or group several units, click on where you want them to go or units you want them to attack and let them go. Nothing could be easier.

The online game did prove rather formidable with few on there, especially of late, who were neophytes to the genre. Most of those knew what they were doing, though some relied on tried-and-true strategies, and did it quickly. Players should reap the benefits of training in the single-player game before tackling some of these Pattons or Rommels (no, WWII is not in the game but Rommel was considered a tremendous tactician, and Patton knew how to get the most out of the units under his command).

C&C Generals promises to be a smart, fast-paced excursion into the madness of war. This is an extreme form of chess that looks exceptional and plays very well. This game is deserving of a snap-to salute.

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