Face the wrath of Kane in this expansion to real-time strategy hit Command & Conquer 3.
Being bad is fun. This won’t come as news to most fans of the Command & Conquer series, who already know that C&C traditional bad guy Kane blows the pants off all the boring, straight-laced stuffed suits and silly aliens in the game’s other campaigns. So it was with considerable pleasure that we installed the first Command & Conquer 3 expansion, which delivers a single-player campaign that’s focused entirely on Kane and his nefarious antics.
Obviously relishing his headlining role, Kane’s in fine form, as campy and bristling as a pantomime villain and with a marvelous array of eeeevil facial expressions. It’s all we can do not to shout “Boooo!” every time he comes on screen – which, thankfully, he does all the time. He’s ably assisted by the easy-on-the-eyes Natasha Henstridge and a special effects budget that’d do a Ron Moore TV show proud.
It’s not an expansion pack without new sides, and although Kane’s Wrath retains the GDI-Nod-Scrin trifecta from the original C&C 3, it fleshes each side out with two new factions. Each comes with units, both new and tweaked, that focus tightly on one particular aspect of that side’s strengths. Nod, for example, gets a Black Hand faction packed with highly-effective shock infantry, all of whom start with a higher experience level than normal troops. In exchange, they don’t get air units or stealth tech.
That’s not how Kane’s Wrath will make headlines, though. No, the starring role goes not to the factions, nor to Kane himself, but to each side’s epic megaunits. Billed as an alternative to superweapons for game-ending decisive strokes, each epic unit is a hulking, powerful monster that’ll literally crush your foes under its feet (or treads, whichever the case may be). Each can be garrisoned with varying numbers of infantry units and gain firepower in accordance with that unit’s weapons, so if you want one flame turret, one missile launcher and one autocannon on your ubertank, you just have to load it up with the right grunts.
Are they as visually impressive as Supreme Commander’s vast units? No, but they’re still not the kind of guys you’ll be inviting over for dinner; watching them roll over an enemy base is the stuff of the finest sci-fi blockbusters. Considering their scale, they’re not prohibitive to build, either, but you can only have one in play at a time. Figuring out your favorite way to take down an opposing epic unit is going to be top of the agenda of most new Kane’s Wrath players.
The game’s single-player campaign is decently long and the underlying plot is compelling enough to see most players through to the end – even if you do see the “twists” coming from twelve lengths of a Mammoth Tank away. The expansion comes with a more creative single-player mode, though: a Risk-like conquer-the-world game that intersperses bouts of real-time combat with turn-based strategizing. Bases, strike forces and epic units all appear on the map, and each side has its own victory conditions. You’ll recognize the concept from other RTS games like Battle for Middle Earth 2 and Star Wars: Empire at War, and here the AI definitely has the stones to put up a satisfying fight. If the AI doesn’t do it for you, though, that’s tough. Although Kane’s Wrath comes with a bulging portfolio of multiplayer maps, you can’t play the global conquest mode with anyone else. Sure, it’d be a lengthy online session, but that hasn’t stopped games like Empire at War from making it an option.
The Command & Conquer series has a history of churning out solid expansion packs, and Kane’s Wrath is no exception. Each side gets its share of love, the new units are thoroughly welcome, and the $30 price tag won’t strain tax-time budgets. We’d have liked to see a little more attention paid to the game’s popular multiplayer modes, but all the same it’d be a miserly C&C fan indeed that would look on Kane’s Wrath with anything less than a grin of evil glee.