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Even the game’s wild card – the inclusion of an extra-terrestrial third faction – fails to add anything truly new to the saga or the genre. The Slinn, as they’re called, are a cross between Spielberg’s War of the World’s Martians and Starcraft’s insectoid Zerg. They get some cool defensive units, like a microscopic buzzing horde that tears through enemy units in a thrice, plus some even cooler offensive units, such as huge floating battle-drones and death-ray firing uber-walkers, but there’s little they offer that isn’t analogous to something in the GDI or NOD armoury. They even sit somewhere between the two tactically, rewarding a mix between the build-then-bash tactics of the more heavily armed and armoured GDI troops and the bash first, worry later techniques employed by NOD.
The surprising thing is that none of this really counts against the game. Some of it, I’m sure, comes down to presentation. EA has gone to town on the linking cinematics, bringing in a host of TV and movie stars in one of the finest cheese-fests in gaming history. Look, there’s Michael Ironside, trying to put a brave face on the script but looking like he would rather be doing something else. Crikey, I’m taking orders from Dr Cameron from House M.D! Blimey, couldn’t Sawyer do something better with his time off from Lost? It’s wonderful stuff, with the big names always a hairs-breadth away from collapsing in sheer disbelief while Kane (Joe Garner) chews the scenery like a guy who knows this has become his signature role, so he had better make the performance really huge. Neatly, EALA still makes all this nonsense feel like an integral part of the game by shoving video into the in-game info scenes and even the menus. It’s all bunkum, but entertaining bunkum nonetheless. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a slicker production than this.
Visually and sonically, it’s all good stuff as well. Tiberium Wars isn’t quite as dazzling as Company of Heroes or Medieval II in the graphics department, but it’s up there with Rise of Legends and the best of the rest. The models, textures, effects and lighting are everything you would expect from a modern RTS. The music, meanwhile, is rocky and cinematic, in the gung-ho tradition of a Michael Bay movie. The effects are also loud and boisterous. “What is that bloody racket?” will be the response from partners, family and friends.