It’s not “Command & Conquer: Tiberium”. It’s just “Tiberium.” At least Dwayne ‘ The Rock’ Johnson has the good grace to acknowledge his true heritage in his name. But what’s going on here? Are EA embarrassed by Command & Conquer now? “Don’t mention the Tiberium war...”
For all my slight prickliness about the ditching of a name often considered synonymous with the PC, it makes a certain sense. Every games publisher is hungry for a big new IP, and by doing this EA get a shiny-fresh sci-fi series full of all the big men and laserguns necessary to sell an Orca-load of copies to gamers at large, and the wallet-votes of the not insubstantial C&C fanbase. C&C can keep on doing its thing, and meanwhile Tiberium can go on to other places whilst enjoying the unspoken association with something that’s already wildly successful. It’s the gaming equivalent of former Sugababes releasing solo records. At least EA don't nick Lenny Kravitz tunes, though.
So, what is Tiberium? It’s C&C: the FPS. It’s been done before, of course, with Renegade, but that didn’t work out so well. There was always this sense that Renegade prioritised fan-service over being a fabulous game in its own right, so perhaps the ditching of the C&C name from Tiberium can be read as a good sign. It's got a job to do, and tipping its hat to Hands of Nod and Zone Troopers can come later.
The PR wagon’s only just started rolling so there’s a limited amount anyone outside of the EA empire knows about Tiberium. Here's just the facts, ma’am:
- It’s squad-based.
- It’s set 11 years after C&C3, on the eve of another invasion by alien baddies The Scrin.
- Earth is in pretty bad shape.
- Its lead character is a GDI veteran commander named Ricardo Vega, hitherto only seen in the C&C3 spin-off novel. He is probably grizzled, or gruff.
- He has a neato transforming gun, the GD-10. (Shades of Codename Outbreak, the shonky 2001 FPS from Stalker developers GSC Game World). It can change mode to deal with men, vehicles, aircraft and suchlike, as the case may be. One mode is a portable version of the Ion cannon, one of C&C’s long-standing superweapons.
- You’re able to call in orbital strikes.
- The iconic camp-o-vision FMV cutscenes are gone in favour of in-engine and CGI exposition. C&C’s tongue appears to have been removed entirely from its cheek for this outing, in fact.
There's only one screenshot out so far, so have a CGI trailer instead. It's like a picture, but it also moves and makes noises, like a dog or an angry duckling.
Let’s go back a bit, though. The phrase “squad-based” suggests you’re followed around by the traditional three dead-eyed AIs. Not so. Vega can command in largish squads of men, which are then controlled with a mix of context-based FPS orders and RTS-lite overhead controls. Reinforcements are called in from dropships – so we’re talking expendable guys rather than overwritten personalities. So while Renegade was (in singleplayer, at least) just an FPS with C&C graphics, Tiberium could be an FPS with C&C mechanics.
The more vocal of RPS’ readers don’t seem to have responded well to Tiberium as yet. That’s understandable – this is an entirely unproven game with a whiff of stale cashcow milk to it, and one that in its aesthetic and tone seems to be blatantly chasing Gears of War, Resistance: Fall of Man et al. Whatever interesting stuff it might do under the hood, its screenshots suggest it’s a dreary archetype of the 21st Century FPS. Along with the C&C name, the bright colours and crazy exaggeration of the series seems lost – C&C3 was already going that way, to be fair, but it is a shame. Let’s hope there’s a Red Alert 3 in the offing somewhere, ready and willing to reimagine the series’ cartoonish heritage for us old hands.
The thing is though, we simply don’t know how Tiberium will play - we've not resisted the urge to say mean things about this book's stern, grey cover. It might not have shown off anything truly inspiring yet, but the videos hint at actually dropping you into and having you command a war, not a mere skirmish – the sort of promise the first Halo hinted at and its sequels didn’t really take anywhere. The lack of visual character won’t matter if the game successfully realises commanding an army from the ground level, and conquering with a targeting reticule, not a mini-map. Or at least that's my hope. Based on the in-game footage (see below) I don't have the greatest confidence of that happening just yet. Let’s wait and see though, eh?
For more details, skip to the relevant bits of the first, hyperbolic episode of "GameTrailers TV", which, it seems, can't be remotely embedded. Gee, thanks, GameTrailers.
EDIT: Though some (somewhat wretched) gameplay footage was lobbed up there yesterday!