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The newest in the fine series of Command and Conquer computer games. This is the first to be produced by Electronic Arts instead of Westwood. It was released on February 11th, 2003. It has a teen rating from the ESRB for violence.

System Requirements:

OS: Windows XP/Me/2000/98
CPU: 800 MHz Intel Pentium 3 or AMD Athlon Processor
RAM: 128 MB
CD/DVD-Rom Speed: 8x
Hard Drive Space: 1.8 GB
Video: 32 MB AGP video card using the Nvidia GeForce2, ATI Radeon 7500, or more recent chipset with DirectX 8.1 compatible driver
Sound: DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
Input: Keyboard, Mouse

Generals is set in the near future, about 20 years after the "War on Terror" ends. During this time, China has been modernizing it's culture, politics, and military, and are now on equal footing with the United States. Terrorism still exists in the form of the Global Liberation Army, or the GLA.

The game contains three campaigns, or series of missions (one for each team), a "Skirmish" mode, which allows a game against computer opponents of varying difficulties on a map of the player's choice, and multiplayer over a network or online servers.

This is the C&C RTS franchise's first foray into the realm of 3d games. It utilizes the new SAGE engine, which adds some beautiful detail that is only recognized and appreciated after you play it for a while. Some examples would be the dust kicked up by moving vehicles, the death animations of individual units, the shells flying out of AK47s, and the moving treads and tires. Some more time could have been spent on things such as the firearms carried by foot soldiers, which upon close inspection look like shiny black sticks...

In terms of gameplay, this is the best Command & Conquer game yet. The wide field of available and successful strategies for each side is enormous. This is due to a system of experience that can be gained by the player over the course of a battle. You start each game as a one star General, and can place a point into one of many special powers, such as the ability to build SCUD launchers for the GLA, or China's Artillery Barrage, which allows off-screen cannons to pummel the enemy at regular intervals.

As you gain experience through combat, you are given more points and upgraded to two star General, three star General, and so on, up to five stars. More powers are unlocked as you become more experienced, for example, the United States can't order Fuel Air Bomb strikes until the player becomes a five star General. Also, some abilities can have more than one point invested in them. For example, the Chinese Cluster Mine Drop drops more mines for each point you add to it.

This game's interface includes a below-screen bar, a major difference from all the former C&C games, which had a right-sidebar. It is evident that this change over was hard on the developers, because the interface seems clumsy and underdeveloped at times, such as when I wanted to find out the name of an enemy tank and found that clicking on a unit doesn't tell you a lot on the bar, in fact the bar really doesn't tell you anything about the unit but rather allows you to use the unit's special abilities. You have to hold the mouse over a unit and wait for the tooltip to appear before the names shows. This is aggravating for anybody who has just purchased the game and cannot yet tell the difference between tanks that fire shells, and tanks that spew streams of lethal Anthrax(one of my favorite units: the GLA Toxin Tractor).

Whether this game is the Warcraft III killer that was promised is definitely up to the individual player, if only because Command & Conquer games have such a different feel and style to them than the various Blizzard RTS titles

The latest entry in the Command & Conquer series was developed and published by Electronic Arts in 2003 for the PC. This is the first entry in the C&C series to be developed after Westwood Studios was folded into Electronic Arts' in-house development studios; luckily, little of EA's (shall we say) lack of attention to QA seems to have found itself into this game.

This game marks the biggest change from any previous C&C game yet. More than a little of the game seems to have been inspired from Warcraft III. Now, Warcraft III seems to generally be regarded by the community as something of a disappointment. It's a good game, just not the Earth-shattering game people have come to expect after a history of such things from Blizzard. Generals takes a number of elements from the Warcraft III philosophy of RTS's, and these elements are used far more effectively, for the simple reason that this franchise has never seen them before.

The biggest, and most controversial change from previous C&C games is the removal of the sidebar. The biggest difference between the longtime rivals of the C&C series and Blizzard's "'craft" games (Warcraft, Starcraft, etc) was the fact that the C&C games presented everything you could build, at all times, in a sidebar at the edge of the screen. This would allow you to, say, begin construction of a building while fighting a battle away from your base. The Blizzard approach was to present your building options depending on what you had selected; selecting a builder unit would present your buildings, selecting a barracks would present your units, etc. This would allow you to make things simultaneously by having multiple builders or barracks or whatnot.

Generals uses this context-driven (to make up a term) approach. There are now builder units. As a plus, the various units can now have multiple abilities, simply by reusing the context-sensitive area of the HUD for the unit's abilities as well as the build options. These abilities include helicopters launching missile volleys, snipers taking out the drivers of vehicles, and troops capturing buildings.

With the last couple entires in the series, C&C seems to have been stagnating. All Westwood seemed to be doing was rehashing the old (but actually quite good) formula. This game mixes up many old preconceptions. First, there are three teams (the US, China, and the Global Liberation Army, or GLA), who are each quite different from one another. Also, players gain experience points as they engage in combat. Gaining experience points raises the player in levels (up to a maximum of 5), which allow them to unlock new abilities. For example, the US can have, at level 3, the ability to call in a sizable airstrike with one, two, or three (depending on how many points are put into this ability) aircraft every few minutes. China can get a similar ability with with a massive (the more points, the more massive) artillery strike. The GLA can get free, camouflaged troops, placed anywhere on the map. Each team also has two superweapons. One you acquire through building the needed structure, and the other you can acquire at level 5. There are more upgrades available than you can actually buy; one must choose carefully what they're going to purchase before they waste their points.

The US, much like the Allies in the Red Alert games, is the one with all the cool toys. They have no fewer than five types of aircraft (two bombers, a tank-busting fighter, an attack helicopter, and a troop transport/resource gatherer helicopter), the usual assortment of vehicles (light and heavy tanks, humvees, artillery, etc), and the best infantry in the game. They play like the most conventional C&C team of the bunch. China is your basic war-of-attrition type. When certain of their units are present in great numbers in proximity to one another, they get a "horde bonus," which grants those units bonuses to various things, making their standard troops much more effective. They also get the heavy armor. This game's incarnation of the Mammoth Tank, big enough to drive over and squash smaller tanks, belongs to them, and has a few extra tricks up its sleeve; let's just say it's very good. China also gets a single aircraft: the MiG fighter, a decent tank-buster and queller of infantry hordes with its napalm-equipped missiles. The GLA is the oddest team of the bunch.

The GLA is a terrorist team. Remember the suicide units of Red Alert 2, the Terrorist (a guy with C4 strapped to him) and the Demolition Truck (a truck with a small nuke on the back)? They're back, more or less (the demo truck now uses conventional explosives and can disguise itself), on this team. However, this is far from their most useful skill. For one thing, this is the only team that doesn't need power; that's right, they don't build power plants. Now, they only have one, actual tank, which is a light tank, and no aircraft at all. They do, though, have other vehicles, like a missile launcher and a couple of very good anti-infantry vehicles, as well as some really nice artillery. Their greatest unit (at least, my favorite) is the Angry Mob. When you train a Mob, you actually get a group of a few angry civilians, which will slowly grow in size all on its own, up to a certain maximum. One upgrade (somewhat required for them to be effective) is called "Arm the Mob," which gives your Angry Mobs AK-47's ("AK-47's for everyone!" yells the game when you finish this upgrade). Once so equipped, they can tear through infantry and tanks alike with the greatest of ease; unless those things happen to be adept at killing infantry. The US attack 'copter is particularly effective at stopping the mob.

The most endlessly debated topic in all of real-time strategy-dom is that of Balance. "Is the game balanced?" people ask. And the answer is Yes. The US can rule the air and trample all who stand in their way... unless someone puts up a decent air defense. China can make a horde of tanks to bust up any opposing army... unless someone makes a great deal of tank-bashing rocket infantry, who are much cheaper, and very good at what they do, or unless the US gets its 'copters into action. The GLA can use their Anthrax rockets of various types and take out the enemy troops... but they can't go in themselves until the smoke clears; they can also charge in with their angry mobs, but the machine-gun equipped humvee (US) or the Gatling Tank (China) will make short work of them. After a weekend-long series of 1-on-1 matches (gotta love LAN's, haha) I can attest that no one team can dominate for long. For once, C&C does balance right.

Bugger! I didn't notice until I wrote it that there's another writeup here. Well, here's mine anyway. :-)

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