When EA released its first teaser screenshot for Xbox 360 and PC FPS Tiberium, due out Autumn 2008, the gaming world wasn't particularly impressed. But then this week EA unleashed a slew of new, more polished screens on the game, which have ruffled more than a few feathers. But what does it all mean? We thought we'd knock our heads together and take VideoGamer.com's Game Scene Investigation into the murky world of Tiberium, dishing the dirt on all the secrets hidden within the new screens. Time to get those Orcas ready...
Forward Battle Commander Ricardo Vega is not Master Chief
Some people have said Tiberium is a lot like blockbuster FPS Halo 3. We can see their point. You've got a sci-fi setting, scores of human troops, desert landscapes and big old aliens to kill. But what you don't have is Master Chief. Instead you've got Forward Battle Commander Ricardo Vega, who we reckon is this bloke standing heroically on the battlefield dishing out orders with two fingers. We do know that he recently returned to combat after becoming disillusioned with the war between the GDI and NOD, and he'll come armed with an "arsenal of weapons including a transforming personal weapon system, multi-launch homing missiles, capital ship bombardments and tactical ion cannon strikes".
Also revealed in the background of this screen is the mysterious alien tower that seems to be causing all the fuss in Tiberium. We know the tower was built by the Scrin, from Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, and is worshipped by NOD like some kind of religious artefact. According to EA, it "looms like an unholy mountain over a wasteland once known as the Mediterranean Sea (so that's the setting for this game then). The tower was thought to be a relic of the Third Tiberium War; a devastating war fought for control over Tiberium crystal. It is not a relic. It is not dormant. Deep within the tower, plans are in motion for an alien invasion. This is where the Tiberium adventure begins".
Multi-squad based action
Another game Tiberium has been likened to is Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and again we can see why. It's been confirmed that much of Tiberium's gameplay will feature tactical squad-based combat, which will be in direct contrast to EA LA's last Command & Conquer FPS, the not so great Renegade - a game that saw you control a one-man killing machine commando. In Tiberium though you'll be controlling squads of troops and allied armour as much as you'll be blasting aliens into oblivion. We've heard rumblings about the game being almost like an RTS in first-person, with lots of squad management, troop replenishment and leadership and cover bonuses. So we're thinking it could be like GRAW but on a bigger scale. Well, we're hoping anyway. And all this will, according to EA, play out while you're reining capital ship bombardments and tactical ion cannon strikes on the battlefield. Sounds promising.
Vehicles of destruction
We know what all C&C fans want - to be able to jump in an Orca and chew up alien troops on the ground. The screens don't show much, but there are a few with what looks like Orcas in the background, which is good. What we've been told by EA is that "players will control multiple infantry, armour, and air squads as the fight escalates. In Tiberium, Vega is the most powerful presence on the battlefield, and the squads are his most decisive weapon". So we're not sure if we'll actually get the opportunity to climb in to Orcas and Titans. Less exciting is the possibility that you'll only be able to control vehicles as you would a squad of troops, directing their movement and attacks from the battlefield. What is featured more prominently in the screenshots is these ED-209-like mechs, which we're not totally convinced by. Been done a thousand times before if you ask us.
We can't help but feel a little bit disappointed by The Scrin - we've been killing aliens like this in first person shooters for years. They remind us a lot of Covenant Elites from, yes, you guessed it, Halo. We're hoping that EA LA will have some big baddy surprises in store for us when the game is finally released. In so many ways what makes an FPS memorable has as much to do with the originality and quality of what you're killing as it does with the character you are playing. For me, I found the Big Daddies, Little Sisters and the other messed up enemies in BioShock made the game. Here's hoping Tiberium serves up similarly spectacular beasties to sink our grenade launchers into.
Generic sci-fi FPS or unique RTS/action hybrid?
It's fair to say that the FPS genre is pretty crowded at the moment, and with quality too. Who knows what the market will be like when Tiberium comes out though, expected Autumn 2008. There may well be an appetite for new FPS action. Still, we can't help but feel that Tiberium suffers slightly from looking a bit generic, with dark, metallic corridors, war-torn environments and alien brutes similar to those we've seen in a hundred other FPS games. So, Tiberium will live or die on what it's like to play, and what it looks like not in shiny pr-friendly screens, but what it looks like in FPS mode.
Which brings us on to the screen above, which gives us a nice view of Tiberium's HUD. We can see Vega firing what looks like the multi-launch homing missile weapon mentioned above. We can also see an ammo counter, which looks awkwardly placed on the HUD. It looks like the missiles are attempting to lock on to small-ish enemy drones of some kind, although we can't be sure. The HUD looks at this point to be very clean, with no shield gauge or motion sensor. Nor can we see any squad commands. Expect Vega's HUD to look a lot busier when the next batch of screens is released. In other screens we can see other weapons being fired, including what looks like your bog standard assault rifle and a plasma beam weapon. Here's hoping EA LA has some more interesting weapons up its sleeve.
Verdict? It's too early to completely disregard Tiberium of course, but we're a little worried that it might fall in to the "average FPS" trap so many games seem to end up snarled by. Saying that, we're quite interested in the tactical squad-based gameplay EA is promising, and the prospect of bringing that online. If Tiberium does end up providing a solid FPS experience with RTS elements that feel properly implemented rather than just tacked on, then EA LA could have a surprise hit on their hands. EA LA has a lot of pressure to deal with though - C&C fans will be keeping a close eye on this one after the oh so average Renegade.