Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to check out some pre-release footage from Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath at an Electronic Arts convention in Singapore.
To be honest, at the time it seemed a little strange to be releasing an expansion pack for C&C 3 so close to the expected release of Red Alert 3, and with the news that copies of Kane's Wrath were shipping with beta keys for Red Alert 3 it all seemed a bit of an excuse for a marketing exercise. After all, what exactly can you add to Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars to make it stand out?
Well, as it turns out, simply heading back to the Tiberium Universe and throwing a very angry Kane in front of a camera is a pretty good start. Missions are introduced in the customary fashion - wonderful cinematic events full of well scripted angst - and through these we learn important history behind the epic new single player campaign spanning 20 years from the rebirth of the Brotherhood of Nod (after the Second Tiberium War) through to the the Third Tiberium War. Oh, and Natasha Henstridge from Species makes an appearance too!
For those out there bent on world domination, Kane's Wrath has introduced a Global Conquest Mode, which plays out a bit like a game of Risk. Or Empire Earth III for that matter. Basically you can create bases and move units around a realistically detailed map of the earth on a turn-by-turn basis, pausing periodically to smash your enemy by either clicking the auto-combat button, or by getting your hands dirty in a full-on skirmish. If Kane's Wrath consisted solely of the Global Conquest Mode alone, it would still be a fairly entertaining use of your time - especially considering LAN conflicts can take hours and the level of strategy required is enormous. It can be a little slow paced for die-hard RTS fans however.
Fortunately, in addition to this well constructed Global Conquest Mode, we get a Brotherhood of Nod Campaign Mode, which consists of 13 missions played out through the history of the franchise, pretty much from Tiberian Sun: Firestorm to well past Command & Conquer 3, so those who love to get involved with the rich tapestry that is C&C lore will practically get a nosebleed with the attention to detail. Just remember it is entirely Nod based, so for GDI or Scrin people the biggest changes come in the way of extra units and modifications to existing units.
Speaking of which, perhaps the most significant additions to the C&C world come in the form of Epic Units. These are enormous, powerful and unique constructions capable of moving about the battlefield at a relatively slow pace, destroying pretty much anything in their path. They take a long time to build, are expensive, and take a long time to destroy. If used correctly however, they can be used as "game breakers" to really push your army forward.
You can't miss them - not only are they enormous on the screen, their construction is announced to all players. Each faction has their own:
[indent]MARV (Mammoth Armed Reclamation Vehicle): This resembles a massive tank, and is the largest vehicle in the GDI arsenal. The MARV comes with a giant sonic cannon and can harvest Tiberium directly from the battlefield, which is a massive advantage. Infantry can also be permanently garrisoned in the MARV to upgrade its weapons.
Redeemer: A massive combat mech equipped with shoulder-mounted garrison pods, an Obelisk-derived tri-part laser and a "rage generator". In Global Conquest Mode, the Redeemer can increase the unrest of nearby cities, gaining a tactical advantage for the Brotherhood of Nod.
Eradicator Hexapod: A mobile lifeform recycling system, the Eradicator Hexapod gains resources for enemy units destroyed in its radius. Like the MARV, this Scrin unit can also garrison units to upgrade its firepower.[/indent]
Along with the Epic Units, Kane's Wrath throws in a bunch of so-called "sub-factions", designed to beef up the gameplay and provide a bit of diversity. Generally speaking though, most are fairly evenly matched, so you only ever really end up using the same ones, and they're really only tailored towards the Campaign Mode. Still, it's great to see more content included, and although there may be balancing issues with the sub-factions, everything evens itself out nicely and the final product is wildly entertaining. Many games provide you with the ability to totally crush your enemy, but few make it as fun as the Command and Conquer series.
Command and Conquer: Kane's Wrath is an excellent example of an expansion that does exactly what it should - iron out deficiencies and add a bunch more content without ruining the gameplay. Any fan of the Command & Conquer series will definitely want to get their hands on this, and I wouldn't be surprised if it picks up a few converts from other genres as well. Highly recommended.