I've been a fan of the Command and Conquer series since day 1. I remember all those years ago when the original came out - I think it was the first game that really kept me glued to the computer for hours on end. Since then we've gotten Red Alert, Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2, and various expansion packs - and I've enjoyed each one as much as ever. So of course I've been excited about C&C: Generals since I saw the first screen shots. So after making multiple trips to the mall this weekend (and Monday and tues) I went up there again today and after I shifted though EB's extremely confusing method of sorting games (alphabetically by developer, apparently) - I found C&C Generals near the bottom shelf, where no one over the age of 3 would be able to find it if they weren't looking. So I brought it home, installed it, and booted it right up. I always go right to training, so that's exactly what I did first in Generals. (Note that all of the below information is USA specific - but it should give you a basic idea of how all teams function) --Interface-- (1) The Basics Training presents you with the basic options / interface of Generals - which is quite different from its predecessors. You're most basic structures of previous C&C games - The FMV / Construction yard - has, for all intents and purposes, been cut in half. But each of those halves has been supplemented with other basic structures and functions. First, and most important, is your command center. The command center is exactly that - your command center. This is where you deploy most of your "timed" options once you have obtained them - such as paratroopers, spy satellites, etc. The Command Center represents the deployment half of the old construction yard - but it has also been supplemented with the radar station to strengthen it - this building is your radar station from now on. Most importantly though, the Command Center allows you to build your bulldozers. The bulldozer is how you build and repair the buildings of your base. You tell the bulldozer where you want the building (location is not a factor as long as something else isn't already built there), a small fence goes up where you clicked and the bulldozer goes there. When the bulldozer gets there you see a clear ##% that shows you how much of it is completed - theres also various animations as the building gets built. The bulldozer represents the building part of the old construction yard. To strengthen it, though, it has been given the functions of the Engineer from the previous C&C's - Engineers don't exist anymore, outside of the bulldozer. The bulldozer allows you to build the final piece of the skeleton - your power source. Its cold fission power in Generals, and the power plants are, for the most part, the same previous C&C's. You build them - you get power, which is displayed in the usual power meter in your menu. On top of that you build your source of income. In Generals it comes from Supply fields. Basically just boxes laying around the map. A helicopter is your means of getting these supplies - which work the same as previous games. The helicopter goes in, gets the resources, and leaves when full - dropping the resources off at your base. The helicopter will also function as a rooftop troop deployer if you fill it with troops (very cool). With the basic functionality of Generals explained, heres the basics for the military. (2) Military Basics and functionality The Units of generals have also been retooled. Upon clicking any given unit your presented with a new menu in your panel - these can be broken down into three big categories - Buildings, Vehicles, and Troops. Buildings Generally, Building Menus have three basic options - Create x (x being whatever the building does - barracks do infantry, etc), Upgrades, and set rally point. Create x does exactly that - you create the unit and he runs out. We're all also familiar with set rally point - you click the icon then click on the map - where ever you click is where the created units to run to after being created. The Upgrade options of the buildings represent the top of the upgrade ladder - whatever you choose to upgrade will trickle down and enable options (or outright change) the units that building creates. For example, if your on a barracks and you choose the "Flashbang" upgrade you'll see the usual C&C clockwise "timer" begin on the flashbang icon - once it completely circles the icon you get a brief message that the upgrade is complete and that's it. If you click that upgrade again the comp. will tell you that its already been upgraded. You won't see the changes in the building - instead, the changes are on the unit - in this case, its infantry that is affected. Vehicles Vehicles also have upgrade options. When you click any given vehicle you get a menu with two basic options and empty spaces ranging from zero up. The empty spaces represent how many troops you can carry. Broad Upgrades: Broad upgrades to Vehicles come from the parent building (usually the war factory) - these upgrades affect all intended vehicles - (for example, purchasing a TOW Missile upgrade at the war factory will give TOW missiles to all Humvee's.) These broad upgrades can be seen in the vehicles menu - they are represented by an icon that is always on the right...once you buy them they are colored in. Specific Upgrades: Specific Upgrades work the same way, but are specific to the unit you are clicked on. As far as I've seen so far every vehicle can be upgraded with a "Battle Drone" and a "Scout Drone" - Battle drones repair the unit when damaged and also shoot the enemy with a little machine gun. The scout drone extends the sight of the vehicle. Both drones fly around the parent vehicle, But you can only use one or the other - and remember, the drone you pick only affects the specific single unit your clicked on - (for example, if your clicked on a crusader tank and buy a battle drone, that battle drone only repairs the unit you were clicked on, NOT all other crusader tanks.) (As an exception, some vehicles bought though the "Generals" come with a drone - once activated all of that vehicle will get a drone.) Troops Troops are upgraded just like vehicles - Broad Upgrades: Again, these upgrades come from the parent building (usually the barracks) and affect all intended troops. And example is flashbangs - once you get the upgrade your infantry will be able to use flashbangs to clear civilian buildings - a much better alternative to running up and inside the building. Theres aren't specific upgrades for troops - all upgrades essentially stem from the barracks and associated buildings. There are specific troops though, like in previous C&C games. --How's The Game Play?-- Mostly, Generals plays just like past C&C games. You devise a strategy, collect $$, build up your units, protect your base, and hope you can destroy your enemy before he destroys you. That said - there is a big change, and that is the Generals menu and "Upgrade". This kind of encourages smaller skirmishes, not just one big rush. Basically, when a unit is in the fight long enough (actually shooting, etc - not just standing around) he receives veterancy - which each unit can receive up to three times. Each level of veterancy gives the unit more firepower, speed, etc. When your units get a point of veterancy YOU receive a skill point. Once you get enough skill points you get a Rank point - and the "Generals Menu" comes up. Here you can buy upgrades, specific units (with slight enhancements, etc). --Graphics-- Command and Conquer has gorgeous graphics, as we all knew it would. Everything is very detailed, colorful, and nicely rendered in 3D. I have yet to experience any slow down - and I've had a lot of units on the screen at the same time. The vehicles seem to roll right along the terrain, and look generally look very nice. Its also great to be able to zoom to where you want - each roll point on mouse wheel brings you in just a bit closer or further away - with plenty of room in between to customize. You can also rotate your buildings to position them however you want - always welcome. --Sound-- The sound is also up to par, for the most part. The only complaint I have is that its sometimes hard to hear the computer woman telling you your objectives, but its nothing a little sound effects / music volume adjustment won't fix. --Single Player-- I haven't played a ton yet, but with the above notes, its classic C&C. Single player has 7 missions for each of the 3 teams, and the missions are the fun you know and love from C&C games. --Multiplayer-- Haven't gotten to multiplayer yet, maybe I'll update it when I do. ----- That's what I got after a couple hours of play (only on USA). So, heres the scorecard (which may be adjusted slightly as I use more teams and get further in the game). The Score Card: Interface- 9 / 10 Initial confusion aside, you quickly learn how to the base works, how upgrades function, and the like. Aside from that its classic C&C point and go - If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Graphics - 8.5 / 10 - Good solid graphics on the whole. My only complaint is scaling - like seeing a troop right next to a helicopter, or a troop riding on a humvee - they always look just as big as the vehicle, and its slightly distracting. Not a huge problem, though. Sound - 9 / 10 - Whats to complain about? You can hear every troop and vehicle, and with a little adjusting the computer is always clear. Single Player - 9 / 10 - Generals plays excellently. The new features of generals keeps it interesting and even add some strategy. Three specific teams should keep things interesting. Broad Complaints - - The tech tree does seem low. But, you have to consider the fact that its three teams now, not just the usual two. - Another problem I have is the lack of Naval Units. I really hate that - RTS naval units are always such a blast, I always cringe when I hear a big RTS game doesn't have player controlled naval units. - Micromanagement can be a problem. Its a pain when attacking an enemy's base to have to click the mini-map back to your base, find the command center / bulldozer / enter_unit_here, get that unit to do what you want (like deploy troops, spy radar, etc), click BACK on the mini map to the enemy base, find where you want said unit / function to deploy, and click it. - No Walls. . I'm a wall kinda guy. Overall (not an average) - 9.0 - Hey, its C&C. Add good graphics, new innovations, good interface, and the point is its fun. Its not big-time strategy, but theres more strategy then your average dungeon level of Diablo. That said, Generals feels like it is (or should be) the highest level of the C&C franchise - What I mean is, Generals has more strategy and less units then Red Alert 2. And I'm hoping something continues to develop on the Red Alert 2 level - that is, two teams, lots of structures/units - just lots of communist destroying fun. I just hope EALA will keep this in mind and develop Red Alert 3 after / during the Generals expansion. Bottom line is, if you like C&C you'll probably like Generals - and it won't take long to get used to. You're favorite unit or building may not be there, but Generals has a charm all its own. Its ashame Westwood got axed, but I've read at a few sites that most of the team is expected to take the jobs at EALA so they can be a part of the next C&C, be it expansion or not. Regardless, I really doubt this is the last we'll see of the C&C franchise. (I also picked up American Conquest this weekend, hopefully I'll have my review posted tomorrow) JQ [Edit] - Dropped the score a couple points after playing a lot more. Why? - No Random map for Skirmishes. What the hell is that? Random map skirmishes is pratically one of the trade marks of C&C! Granted, the website will have some terrain editing utility avaible for download soon, but its not the same as firing up the old random map generator. - The tech tree is even shorter then I initially thought. Maybe in pure numbers it isn't, but it sure feels pretty short when playing. But it provides for quick battle, so its not that bad.