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C&C returns to the Xbox 360 carrying Kane's Wrath and a bunch of other goodies...
- Decent game length for an expansion.
- New sub-factions add depth.
- "Radial Interface" is an improvement.
- No Conquest Mode from PC version.
- There's nothing particularly new here.
- £30 is expensive for what is an expansion pack at heart.
Released during May of last year on the Xbox 360 (March on the PC), C&C3 had a lofty task in front of it. After a seven year break in the series (discounting the 'Renegade' FPS spin-off), Tiberium Wars had to satisfy a grabby fan base with something that was fresh and original, but didn't depart from C&C's trademark accessibility and 'tank rush' gameplay style. In hindsight, it didn't do too badly in that sense, with the impetus remaining on rapid base building and bludgeoning your opponents with wave after wave of units.
A big challenge for the Xbox 360 version was grafting PC based RTS controls onto the control pad of a console. EA Los Angeles' solution was by no means perfect, but let's not forget that it was a damn sight better than most other attempts of its kind. You at least got the sense that C&C3's developers had worked hard to create a bespoke solution for the Xbox 360, even though the holy grail of seamless RTS controls on a console remained elusive.
In a similar manner to the PC and Xbox 360 release dates of C&C3 last year, Kane's Wrath is being released some three months later than the PC version. While Kane's Wrath on PC was an expansion pack demanding the usual £20 of your hard-earned cash, the Xbox 360 is a standalone game that can be played without last year's release. As a result, it'll cost Xbox 360 owners £10 more to get hold of it than PC gamers, so exactly how much bang for your buck do you get and is it worth it? The short answer is no and the long answer is possibly, depending on your level of fandom and whether you played C&C3 last year.
With a total of 13 new missions spanning three separate acts, Kane's Wrath certainly offers 10 hours of gaming in the single-player campaign alone and in a similar style to Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, these three acts are split up as a prequel, parallel story-arc, and sequel to last year's Tiberium Wars. In terms of gameplay, it's the same general experience as C&C3, although a closer inspection of the game's interface does reveal some nifty improvements.
The most significant addition to the interface is the "Radial Interface". While C&C3's build queues were supplemental to the HUD at the bottom left of the screen, all of your production can now be accessed and controlled by a reel in the middle of the screen. Pulling the right trigger button brings up the reel, which you can then scroll through with the right thumbstick. It controls everything from build queues on individual resource structures to technology upgrades, and you can even group selected units into specific regiments from the reel. It's a simple solution that brings together all of your main commands into one, user-friendly interface that's certainly more seamless than the offering in C&C3.
Another feature that adds to the gameplay is the new sub-factions in the game or, more specifically, the new units that they bring to the fray. A total of six new sub-factions are available in Kane's Wrath, which are drawn from the three main C&C3 factions (GDI, Nod, and Scrin). You'll often notice these new sub-factions being revealed as you play through the single-player campaign, with their introductions having been neatly tied into the storyline.
For example, you're introduced to the Black Hand (a Nod sub-faction) in the third act of the campaign. Kane orders you to do battle with the Black Hand as he has earmarked its leader, Brother Marcion, to act as a decoy figurehead for Nod. In turn, this keeps GDI unawares of Kane's seemingly miraculous resurrection. As an armchair general of the resurgent Nod forces, your job is using force to convince Brother Marcion to join the Nod cause.
As you face-off against the Black Hand, new units are introduced on the battlefield allowing you to figure out their various strengths and weaknesses before facing them in the multiplayer game. The Black Hand uses fire as its ally with various infantry units, as well as the new Purifier mech, unleashing pretty devastating flamethrowers whenever you're in close range. The obvious solution: ranged units and aircraft attacks. Just make sure you don't get your infantry involved - it will be a swift end to their tours of duty.
There are 17 new units throughout the six new sub-factions in Kane's Wrath, which is what you'd expect from an expansion pack-come-standalone Xbox 360 game. EALA has applied a decent amount of imagination in creating these new units and their various introductions in the single player game are a welcome addition, rather than simply packing them with the multiplayer game, but you'd expect this from what is, at its heart, an expansion pack. Without new units and armies, it would simply be an additional 10 hours of the game we played last year, which hardly warrants a £30 price tag.
While we are enthused by the 10 hours of campaign, what hasn't impressed us is EA's decision to take out the Conquest mode included in the PC expansion pack. This mode worked around the principle of a turn based world map in the style of Risk. You could organise your armies at a global scale, and then send them into battles over specific territories that were played out in the game engine. This has been replaced on the Xbox 360 by Kane's Challenge, which amounts to little more than a library of skirmishes scenarios to complete. It does offer the chance to play as any of the nine factions/sub-factions now in the game, but shipping the Conquest mode would definitely have been preferable and we've no idea what was behind EA's decision not to do this.
As far as the multiplayer game is concerned, Kane's Wrath offers the same features as last year's title. You'll have a large selection of 50 maps to battle it out in, with the usual modes on offer (e.g. King of the Hill, Versus, Capture and Hold, Capture the Flag, and Siege), as well as support for up to 4 players over Xbox Live. Having said that, the new options that the additional sub-factions bring to the table is certainly a major selling point for C&C nuts. They add an additional six sides to take command of and more tactical awareness is required to master both attacking with them and defending against their forces.
The live action cut-scenes make a welcome return in Kane's Wrath. Joe Kucan returns as Kane, while Alias' Carl Lumbly plays the religiously inclined Brother Marcion. There are times when their performances boarder on the style of a classically trained Shakespearian actor, which tends to be more comical than it is enthralling, but it's all part of the C&C fun. Nineties femme fatale Natasha Henstridge (of Species fame) also graces the cast list once again, which certainly adds to the experience (because she's a talented and versatile actor, of course). Other than this additional content in the cut-scenes though, the visual presentation is the same as C&C3, which certainly held its own as a console RTS game.
Sound hasn't been changed much either. You'll still get the same repetitive chatter system when units are built, which can get particularly grating when you've stacked a production queue with rocket soldiers. "We've got the rockets!" are certainly not words I want to hear again any time soon, thereby crushing my dream of becoming a firework technician.
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