The Xbox 360 version of Tiberium Wars preserves the original's large, viewed-from-above battlefields and swarms of miniature units fighting each other in real time. I give my orders and they are carried out immediately. As my forces meet their enemies, the battlefield can become a mass of minute soldiers, tanks and airplanes all scurrying around a miniature landscape.
In videogames, killing someone is simple. Telling someone else to kill someone is much more complicated. Real-time strategy games depend upon fast and accurate selection of many units -- the sorts of things that a computer mouse can easily do with a click and drag. The thumb-joysticks of the 360 controller are very precise, but what they control in C & amp;C3:TW is the view, not the units. I usually select units by rounding them up on my television screen, then selecting them with a button.
The awkward process of selecting, deselecting, and directing swarms of busy little soldiers with just a few joysticks wiggles is nothing new. Real-time strategy games have been tried on early hand-held systems (Warlocked for the Game Boy Color) and the current generation of consoles (Viva Pi & ntilde;ata on the 360, best forgotten). But even the hit PC game Starcraft became cumbersome when it was converted to the Nintendo 64. The best that console game designers have done recently was center the command around a single character in the Pikmin games.
Perhaps the challenges of this hybrid videogame can be better solved by using a first-person perspective for the game's commander, playing to the 360's strengths as a shooter machine. On the PC, games such as Sacrifice and Uprising showed that the blend of shooter and real-time strategy can work. It's time for the next generation of videogame machines to have a new genre.
THE GOOD: Command & amp; Conquer 3: Tiberium War's landscapes are filled with tent villages and crumbling city streets. Innocent people at the edges of the screen flit away from the fighting. The various army units that maraud across this battlefield are equally detailed. While standing idle, one soldier crouches down to adjust his bulky leg armor. Another drops to the ground and performs a one-arm pushup, then stands up, slaps his chest, and resumes his usual cocky, battle-ready stance.
THE BAD: During a lull between battles, an enemy "shadow team" infiltrated one of my bases and began firing upon a power plant. I sent a single squad of riflemen to attack the invaders, and they dutifully mowed them down. Even while my soldiers were firing, however, the shadow team didn't divert their own guns away from the power plant. Artificial intelligence this sloppy makes the game's clunky control scheme just that much clunkier.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Conquering is a riot -- it's commanding that's tedious in the 360's rendition of Command & amp; Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.