What is it with real time strategy game expansions and Risk? First we saw Dawn of War's Dark Crusade and Soulstorm add a conquest mode, and now Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium War's first expansion, Kane's Wrath, has followed suit, adding the Global Conquest mode to supplement a 13 mission NOD campaign, six sub factions and a multitude of new multiplayer maps.
Call me a grumpy old git, but I preferred it when RTSs were just that - RTSs. No faffing about with turn-based, territory-controlling madness. If I wanted to play Risk on my PC, I'd play Risk on my PC. As was the case with Dark Crusade and Soulstorm before it, the new Global Conquest mode in Kane's Wrath is a needless distraction - a boring, pointless diversion which won't keep players' attentions for more than 10 minutes following the lengthy tutorial. There's just no need for it.
And that's because the actual RTS bits of Kane's Wrath, you know, the stuff we know and love from the C&C series, are good enough to warrant your attention without the need for a Risk-y (heh) addition. Thankfully, and unlike Dawn of War's Soulstorm, Global Conquest is an optional extra, and doesn't form part of or replace the main campaign. So we can all shake hands and pretend it never happened.
With that out of the way, we can move on to the meat of the game. Story wise, Kane's Wrath's new single-player mode is more plot-hole filler than completely new story. Jumping about the C&C time line like Dr Emmett Brown on speed, it will appear baffling to everyone but the most attentive of C&C fans. But that's absolutely fine - this is an expansion which requires the original game to work. EA can assume you know more than a little bit about the bald-headed one's more than shady background.
Natasha Henstridge is in it. Just thought we'd get that out there, in case you were in the dark. And no, she doesn't get her baps out, like she did in cult sci-fi "so crap it's good" movie Species. But she does deliver about as hammy a performance as you'll ever see from the great blonde one. Again, this is perfectly fine. Anyone who complains about C&C's cheesy storyline, its ridiculous plot and over-the-top acting just doesn't get it. Kane's Wrath delivers a story every bit as silly, and fun, as you could want.
Don't expect any crazy new gameplay ideas either. Once you're done having fun with the new uber powerful Epic units, like the wonderfully named mega tank MARV (Mammoth Armed Reclamation Vehicle), you'll find Kane's Wrath brings little new to the Tiberium-obsessed battlefield. There's nothing here that will require you to rethink any tried and trusted tactics honed in the main game. Kane's Wrath's campaign forces you to employ familiar defence-centred tactics at the beginning of most of its single-player missions just in order to survive the computer's insane rush, even on the easiest difficulty. Then it's a case of managing that rush as best as possible while you overwhelm the enemy base with a mighty tank army. In Kane's Wrath, tanks = win.
I'm not bothered by this at all. C&C3's emphasis on more considered play scratches a different RTS itch than, say, the more action-packed, fast-paced gameplay of World In Conflict or Dawn of War. I don't want gameplay-breaking changes from an expansion. I want variation. I want new toys to play with in a game world where tried and trusted tactics honed through hours of play still result in satisfaction and reward. With Kane's Wrath, I'm getting this, and that's great.
The three main races, GDI, NOD and Scrin, have been supplemented with two sub factions each, but they left me feeling a tad disappointed. While there are noticeable differences, NOD's Black Hand sub-faction, for example, has the Confessor Cabal, which are basically a squad of six Confessor units armed with hallucinogenic grenades. I guess I held some hope of the expansion introducing a brand new race or two into the equation. While Soulstorm's two completely new races, the Sisters of Battle and the Dark Eldar were ridiculed by some (not me, I might add), at least they were completely new races. At times Kane's Wrath's sub factions feel like the GDI, Nod and Scrin with little more than new skins.
Despite my hang-ups I still recommend you get Kane's Wrath if you already own C&C3. The Nod-centred story is sure to please any C&C fan, the new Epic units are ridiculous fun to use and the core gameplay essence hasn't been messed about with. Just do me a favour and ignore the Global Conquest mode, OK?
Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath is out for PC now.