The ESPN-style presentation of EA’s new Command & Conquer 3 Battlecast Primetime web TV shows is inherently hilarious. EA’s trying, in that not-quite-getting-it corporate way it so often does, to create the kind of pop culture frenzy that surrounds Starcraft in South Korea [sidenote - if I ever go to Korea, I'd love to find out just what the older population think about their offspring's game mania]. That means making a TV show about just one videogame, and taking it very, very seriously, laying the macho on thick. I know C&C fans love their C&C, but I can’t see this working in the long term.
Today though, it turned out that the show’s not so much about watching C&C3 matches as EA having their own personal news show. It’s enough to send a chill down even the most jaded hack’s hunched spine – EA doesn’t need the media anymore. EA makes its own media. This was demonstrated by Battlecast Primetime exclusively announcing details on the first C&C3 expansion pack. So that’s the way it’s gonna be now, huh?
At any rate, Kane’s Wrath (for that is its name) sounds like it’s had a fair amount of thought put into it, much more so than the average EA dead-horse-flogger expansion. Clearly, cliffhangers will be resolved, Kane will make plenty more high-definition ego-waffle, and there’ll be various new units and abilities. Much more importantly, C&C3′s getting a strategy map, and even producer Jim Vessella’s teeth-aching description of it as “a game like Risk, but on steroids” doesn’t stop this being a little bit exciting.
Total War, with Tiberium. Command & Conquer with persistent units that fight multiple wars, rather than entirely disposable ones. A tense push-me, pull-you of zone-swapping between NOD, GDI and the Scrin, allowing meaningful replay without repetition. Nothing that isn’t already prevalent on the RTS landscape (in fact, Dawn of War did exactly the same thing with its most recent expansion, Dark Crusade), but it’s a big vote of confidence in strategy on EA’s part.
The main criticism pretty much everyone had with C&C3 was that is was too much like C&C. That was both my complaint and my affection for it – that sort of overclocked simplicity had been lacking from RTSes for a long time. Now, it seems like C&C3 was just a cautious toe in the water, and the really big stuff’s yet to come. EA doesn’t have Total War, and that probably makes them very angry. But they do have the other biggest name in real-time strategy – it’s good to see them taking it places.
There’s more – most interestingly sub-factions for the three playable sides, which suggest a further break from the decade-old C&C formula – but you’ll have to wade through a lot of overexcited sports show to get every last scrap of it. It is worth it for the panicked-looking presenter reading aloud horribly detailed patch notes he clearly doesn’t entirely understand from an autocue, though.
We won’t be feeling Kane’s wrath until 2008, incidentally. Boo.