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Which October Game Are You Looking Forward To The Most?

Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Alien: Isolation
Sunset Overdrive
WWE 2K15
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel


Game Profile
 Written by Alex Roth  on April 01, 2010

Specials: Kane deserved better.


When I saw that Command & Conquer 4 and Supreme Commander 2 were coming out within a week or two of each other I thought, ?What fun! To compare the latest iteration of two storied RTS series on our beloved Gaming Target!? Little did I know, one of these games is not actually an RTS. Which one? Read on and find out.

Digital Delivery and Network

Supreme Commander 2: SC2 can be bought and played through the Steam network or at your favorite local game store. With their buddy lists you'll have no trouble keeping tabs on all your potential teammates and opponents.

Command & Conquer 4: C&C4 is only on PC, and can be bought on EA's digital delivery service, on Steam, or the old fashioned Best Buy way. I would recommend coupling it with Steam no matter how you do it, so you can use your buddy list. You might as well, because C&C4's DRM requires an internet connection at all times, even to play single player. Boo. The game does at least take advantage of this, crafting a game lobby with extremely well integrated online components. Each player has a profile that he levels up to access new gear a la Modern Warfare. Single and multiplayer games generate experience that allows you to advance in the game's tech tree, but this does mean you can run into a player on line who has much bigger and meaner toys than you. The game's auto matching service doesn't even seem to take this into account.

Winner: Even though C&C4 takes a unique approach to the integration of multiplayer, SC2 wins it for abiding by the KISS rule (Keep It Simple Stupid!) and being the more straightforward and functional game.



Graphics

Supreme Commander 2: In my earlier review of the game I described SC2's graphics as on par with other games, and I stand by that. You're not going to find a level of detail in the units, buildings, or environments that blows you away. Everything is modeled in a very adequate way, and there is no really great design work either. Everything is adequately modeled, nor is there any great design work. Visually it's all very familiar - armies of tanks, planes, robots, and giant bugs abound. Environments are the same way, expansive but repetitive. The game does have some mighty pyrotechnics at work, as well it should, since you can lob a nuke or two with a couple of clicks. When an important unit goes, it does so with quite the bang, leaving a mushroom cloud that can swallow up anyone too close.

Command & Conquer 4: Visually, C&C4 is similar to SC2, as well as past Command and Conquer games. The familiar forms of mechs, tanks, and foot soldiers lumbering toward each other, shrapnel and lasers in their wake. In fact, like SC2, the units may look boring, but the firefights are where the magic is. Bullets have neon tracers that light up the battlefield and napalm scorches the earth. Likely because of a higher budget, C&C4 is the far more animated game. Injured units limp away from battle and damaged buildings smolder and crumble.

Winner: C&C4 takes this category for superior pyrotechnics and a big budget visual style.

Story and Cinematics

Supreme Commander 2: As a sequel, SC2 opens in the middle of a developing space saga concerning a war between three factions: an imperialist military force, an enlightened religious race, and people of organic and mechanical hybrids. At least the story is derivative and easy to follow, because the game makes no attempt to catch you up on the events of its predecessor. While the storytelling is inadequate, at least the accompanying visuals are up to snuff, while uncreative. The cinematics are nicely rendered, but take all their style queues from toy commercials and big robot animes. The lip-synching is also quite bad, but so is the dialogue. The cinematics for the Cybran faction (the man machine guys) featured a talking brain in a jar. He stole every scene he was in, and was obviously unaffected by the game's poor lip-synching.

Command & Conquer 4: The storytelling of C&C4, if you can call it that, commits the same crime as SC2 by plopping the player into the middle of a complex story with hardly any prologue. C&C4 is meant to be the last game in a series that started fifteen years ago; a big sweeping cinematic that summed up the events of the past three games would have been a nostalgia ride worth savoring. Instead, every cinematic is from the first person perspective of your character, a hackneyed and completely unnecessary gimmick. Beyond that it's your typical C&C cinematic, scenery chewing B movie renditions of news footage and military leaders getting loud and angry. Charming performances make the cinematics fun in a campy way, but their lack of scope fails to sell the apocalyptic plot of the game, and I hardly think Kane got the send off he deserved.

Winner: A legacy admission for C&C4, which wears its budget well, and is the fortunate son of three games with storytelling and cinematics superior to both SC2 and itself.

Gameplay

Supreme Commander 2: SC2 is absolutely a game made from the mold of the traditional RTS. Build units, build lots of them, expand your base, harvest those resources, build more units, upgrade your units, build bigger units, etc. It's all about building the biggest force you can and getting access to your baddest units as quickly as possible. The way SC2 builds on its predecessor, and expands the RTS genre in general, is by increasing the scale. You can have up to three hundred units in force at a time, and a great interface keeps it all manageable.

Command & Conquer 4: I have to ask, what were they thinking when they did this to C&C4? Take a beloved RTS series and make its final entry a half-baked Tactical Strategy game? Ditch all the familiar base building, Tiberium harvesting elements of the series, give players a force that goes between eight and twenty units (which they will be forced to micromanage constantly) and call it a Command and Conquer game? Tiberium Twilight is not the series' swan song, it's a funeral dirge.

Winner: The hands down winner is SC2, for expanding on a winning formula rather than scrapping the whole playbook late in the game like C&C4. C&C4 has me examining the line between bravery and foolishness. I admire it for trying something new, but it feels like a bait and switch when the last of four games in an RTS series is suddenly a Tactical Strategy game. EA, I would love for you to make a good Tactical Strategy, there really aren't enough of them, but start a new series around it, don't go off half-cocked like this and sully the good name of Command & Conquer. Can you imagine what people would feel like if they brought home the new Medal of Honor and it was a 3D platformer?

Sound

Supreme Commander 2: The soundtrack and sound effects in SC2 are both perfectly adequate. Bullets whiz, lasers zap, and things go boom. The soundtrack is an unmemorable mix of military fanfare and generic rock music. The voice acting is just fine as well, but marred by bad lip-synching.

Command & Conquer 4: This is another category where a bigger budget really helps C&C4. Sound effects have just a little more bang than in SC2, and the voice acting is stronger. Also, every unit has a few things to say when you click on it and order the unit around, a familiar RTS trope I always enjoy. The music in C&C4 is quite outstanding, if a bit too overzealous at times. The GDI missions have a typical mix of military marching music and distorted rock music, but the music for the Nod missions has a really unusual Middle Eastern flair that gives it a rare glimmer of originality.

Winner: The music and noise of C&C4 outshines SC2 in every way.

Single-player

Supreme Commander 2: While the campaign of SC2 doesn't offer much in the way of a story arc, it consistently delivers varied and challenging scenarios. It hits all the usual RTS mission types, as well as some that feel akin to famed Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients, where you combine forces with a steadily advancing AI teammate to overcome the enemy. Typically, the first few missions of the game are built to familiarize you with your units, but it would have been nice if the game did this for every faction, not just the first one you play as. There is, of course, a skirmish mode, and lots of maps.

Command & Conquer 4: The campaign of C&C4 is a real wreck. The missions are long, tedious, and require you to constantly micromanage your units for any hope of success. Because your unit cap is so small, losing one or two units is a real blow to your war effort, usually calling for a full retreat. Some players may enjoy the challenge, but I felt it destroyed the pacing of the game. Also, with base building and resource gathering removed from the game, the combat becomes quite repetitive. Skirmish mode is the singleplayer's saving grace; it's more fun than campaign but that's not saying much. Also, the game makes very little effort to teach the player how to play this newfangled Tactical Strategy version of C&C, which is unbelievable. EA already played a bait and switch on their customers; not having a full tutorial is a mind-blowing oversight.

Winner: SC2. Obviously.

Multiplayer

Supreme Commander 2: Multiplayer on SC2 is just like singleplayer, fast, frantic, and a blast; but having a real live player to conquer is always more fun and satisfying. Players who completed the campaign should feel aptly trained to take on the online, and as I mentioned, having the game coupled with Steam makes things very convenient. With talk of a map editor coming down the pipes, SC2's multiplayer gives the game the legs that make it worth an asking price of $50.

Command & Conquer 4: Saddled with obnoxious DRM that requires an Internet connection at all times, C&C4 takes its lemons and makes lemonade by having a seamlessly integrated single- and multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, it's too little too late, because while it may be incredibly easy to set up a match for you and your friends, everyone will probably lose interest pretty fast. Also, given the crummy quality of this game, and EA's penchant for shutting down servers of less popular games (i.e. Mercenaries 2 after only two years) makes me feel that C&C is already circling the drain.

Winner: Another landslide for SC2.

Oh Command and Conquer, how the mighty have fallen. As brave a choice as it was for EA to desert the core fan base for a fifteen-year-old game series, make the final game in an RTS series a Tactical game, and send one of their most beloved characters, Kane, out to sea with little or no fanfare, this comparison is not about bravery. Giving the player what they expect and a little bit more makes SC2 hands down the better game.



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