C & C & C & C.
It occurred to me, as some 35 squads of Black Hands spat firey death over my pitiful handful of defensive units, that perhaps I shouldn't have allowed my Nod foe so much time to explore the battlefield. Maybe I should have had more scouts keeping things in check, or maybe I should have set up some patrols with Hammerhead helicopters. Maybe I should've tried sucking less? I dunno, that last one's a little crazy.
Kane's Wrath is the newest addition to the old Command and Conquer series, built on top of the somewhat disappointing C&C3: Tiberium Wars. Unlike just about every other expansion in C&C history, this one focuses exclusively on one side – the Brotherhood of Nod. If you are a rabid fan of Kane, then you are the target audience of this expansion. If you aren't, well, then be prepared for a conspicuous absence of just about any other personality. Kane, Kane, more Kane... oh, and some blonde chick too. What's with Nod and blonde chicks with frightening similarities to a drunk Sharon Stone?
But if you don't like Kane... then honestly, why are you even reading this review? Also, how can you NOT like Kane? He's intense, hilariously over-the-top in all the right ways, and he leads a cult. So what if he dances like a muppet?
Besides Kane, and a bevy of new scenarios covering several unaddressed links between the previous C&C games and C&C 3, Kane's Wrath brings a host of gameplay tweaks, some new multiplayer maps, and a brand new game mode. On a marketing page, it sounds great. But there's one question you really have to ask yourself before you go any further.
Did you enjoy Command & Conquer 3?
If you answered that question with a 'No', then there's really nothing for you to see here. Kane's Wrath – though very fun if you enjoyed C&C3 in the first place – does not correct any of the gameplay and interface flaws inherent in the original.
The A.I. for your units is still dumb as a bag of rocks and requires you to micromanage every inch of the battlefield. The game still operates at a blistering speed that most mortal men aren't equipped to handle; skirmishes and multiplayer matches still start the absolute moment everyone's finished loading rather than requiring any final acknowledgment of being ready; the U.I. is still cluttered and unintuitive; the game still rewards people for playing the economics more than playing the tactics. In every fundamental sense, Kane's Wrath corrects absolutely nothing from C&C3.
But if you liked C&C3, in spite of its flaws, then Kane's Wrath does have a good amount to offer. The new single-player campaign, though Nod exclusive, is a ton of fun, and represents the classic breadth of gameplay the C&C games have always offered. The new units provide for some great fun, especially the new artillery unit the Nods picked up. I have a special place in my heart for anything that can blow up a column of tanks from a mile away and then immediately activate stealth.
The new world domination gameplay mode is at first fascinating, but quickly proves to be a fairly meaningless distraction. Though initially amusing to learn, the actual gameplay which is built around skirmishes is so simple that it feels like a lame wrapper. Don't think that means you'll be winning every time, though; on hard difficulty, the A.I. appears to be blatantly cheating, pumping out army after army out despite it being impossible to afford forces like that with just one base.
Graphically, Kane's Wrath is up to the same standards that C&C3 was. If any improvements were made, other than new units, they were lost on me. Likewise, the sound hits par without accomplishing anything remarkable.
The new splinter factions represent some momentary amusement as well. Though they operate pretty much identically to their template factions, each splinter faction brings a few interesting unit variations to the table. Some of them come off as a little unbalanced, or just an irrelevant bonus, and the rocket-harvester belonging to the ZOCOM splinter faction of the GDI is pretty damned useless.
The haphazard experience of the splinter factions just underlines the most significant issue with Command and Conquer 3: The game is built for the hardcore RTS gamer, and no one else. A dozen fiddly changes to units in a game, which already shifts with such blazing speed that learning from your mistakes can only ever happen between games, do not make for a gentle experience.
Overall, Kane's Wrath feels like a final opus to the 'good old days' of the PC RTS. It's good solid fun for the hardcore RTS fan, but a huge pain for anyone that wants something more casual. Unless you are one of the RTS elite, this is just another title with more "learning curve" than fun.