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Command & Conquer: Generals - Zero Hour Preview

publisher: EA
developer: EA LA
genre: Strategy

PIII 800MHz , 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1.4GB HD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Sep 22, 03
» All About Command & Conquer: Generals - Zero Hour on ActionTrip

Currently, EA has several projects in the works. Among their numerous releases planned for this fall, we also expect to get our hands on the first expansion pack for Command & Conquer: Generals. Unlike the original, which was created by Westwood/EA Pacific, this add-on was left up to the team at EALA. But fear not; most of the team that designed the original game is now working as part of EALA, as EA Pacific is no more. Building around the popular RTS franchise, EALA introduces a brand new 15-mission campaign, complete with additional 25 multiplayer maps. That's not all, of course. Fans of the C&C series will be pleased to know that there will be a variety of new structures, units, and upgrades available for each of the factions. To top it all off, the developers even refurbished the ambiance a bit with a few visual improvements. So, arm your units, buckle up, and get ready to rumble.

Throughout the new missions players are going to be immersed in a considerably more involving storyline than in the original game. The US won the first war and now the GLA struggles to reunite the remains of its scattered forces. This remainder of the GLA is led and controlled by a ruthless and malevolent gamma toxin general named Dr. Thrax, who simply adores using chemical weapons as a rather persuasive political argument. At the same time, a clever and resourceful Egyptian prince was to take over the scene, skillfully employing the art of camouflage; while the Chinese invade Europe and attempt to expand their territory even further. That's basically all you need to know before you set out on your first mission. By the way, the scenarios are actually relayed through news reports before each mission assignment begins.

The basics of the game should be familiar to most of you out there. Equipped with high-tech weaponry and with the aid of veteran military leaders, players will be able to engage in all-out war, struggling to gain control of the entire modern world. Using various military tactics, your duty is to ensure the dominance of the faction you choose to support. But, this won't be an easy task, since you'll mostly be fighting against top-of-the-line military honchos that are inclined to use deadly weapons of mass destruction on a daily basis. So, unless the proper tactics are used during combat, you'll be history before you know it.

The pinnacle of C&C Generals: Zero Hour is the all-new single-player mode, called Generals Challenge. This mode allows you to select one of the 12 available generals. Relying on their strengths and strategies is the key to a successful outcome of a battle. Rather like in real life warfare, all leaders have a specific way of fighting and taking charge of the battlefield - some of them prefer defensive tactics, while others tend to use a more aggressive approach. Some generals often rely on using a strong defense method of fighting - i.e. the so-called "turtle" strategy. On the other hand, you'd best be on your guard against hot-shots who like to utilize the power of devastating weaponry, which may include nukes or powerful Air Force strikes. But, that's just a sample of what you may come up against as you strive to achieve world domination. There are also generals who enjoy using early tank rushes, so that's another reason why players should assemble their defenses early on. As you progress through the game, you'll encounter more subtle leaders that usually resort to cautious tactics like camouflage, which makes them admirable adversaries. In other words, the Generals Challenge is going to be tough and looks to be a decent test of your strategy skills.

This expansion pack allows players to take charge of one of three unique armies: the U.S., China, or the Global Liberation Army (which will always be a personal favorite). Every faction will demonstrate new-fangled military technologies, which include new units, upgrades, and structures - all of which contribute a great deal to the gameplay. The GLA, for instance, can use a very powerful and devious "Sneak Attack." This interesting option allows gamers to construct lengthy tunnels across of the map, stretching them all the way to an enemy base if need be - then just open it out and set hell loose upon the unfortunate foe. Another strong addition to the GLA was introduced with combat bikes and battle buses, both of which can improve the general performance of your infantry. The bikes help infantry units get around faster and gives them the ability to head down cliffs. If used wisely, combat bikes are able to inflict a great deal of damage to enemy bases. Using the new battle bus unit is also an excellent way of moving your units around the area. You simply load up the bus with as much infantry units it can take and then place it in a particular spot; the cool thing is that when the bus is destroyed it will transform into a bunker, leaving all the troops inside without so much as a scratch. Quite an impressive vehicle all around. Additionally, the GLA now has the option to fortify its structures, therefore solidifying its defenses around the base. Also, the newly improved worker units will increase production thanks to their new and rather stylish footwear; little red shoes to be exact, which motivates workers, intensifies their labor, and stops them from complaining that their poor feet hurt (f*****g wimps!).

The Chinese have been reinforced with the Helix 2 (a heavy chopper that transports five troops and a huge Overlord tank) and Banshee (something similar to the U.S. microwave tank - more about that further on), while also being able to build a new Hackers Internet Center (allowing you to accommodate eight loyal and hard-working hackers to help you penetrate the satellite system). And, let's not forget the brand-new upgrade called EMP mines (similar to EMP burst).

Finally, US forces will feature a new structure called a Fire base, which acts sort of like a bunker that increases somewhat scarce US defenses. When you head off into action, you'll be able to use two new units - the Microwave Tank and the Avenger. The Microwave affects certain structures and infantry units around it and has a longer range than other tanks in the US military. The Avenger is a jeep type of vehicle that can laser tag targets for your missiles to more easily lock on to, carries an extremely effective anti-air weapon and is also equipped with a laser anti-missile defense system (so please watch out where you aim that thing). This unit can be a valuable addition to group assaults, since it increases the power and fire rate of some vessels. The US will also find a helping hand from new Hellfire and Sentry drone units.

At this stage, the game looks excellent. C&C Generals: Zero Hour displays the same impressive-looking 3D graphics, enriched with a variety of new sounds. The developers also didn't hesitate to refresh the scenery with additional detailed weather effects, such as snow and rain. Moreover, EALA decided to respond to the some of the community's demands, consequently working on further performance optimizations and UI improvements. Many hardcore RTS players should be thrilled to know that it will be possible to move units via right-mouse clicking (hell yeah, no RTS should be made any other way if you ask me!). Don't expect any radical visual perk ups though (after all this is an expansion pack). In any case, the few delicate touches and enhancements should make the whole experience immersive and involving as the original C&C Generals.

Additional features have been incorporated in the multiplayer. There's going to be a mixture of new multiplayer maps along with a number of a few familiar ones from the original game. Players will, naturally, be able to use the new units, strategies, upgrades, and structures throughout the multiplayer missions, so it's bound to bring some fresh moments to the experience. You'll also be able to participate in online co-op matches or simply enjoy a standard head-to-head all-out war for global domination, against a multitude of "live" opponents.

It should go without saying that you will need a copy of the original Command & Conquer Generals in order to run Zero Hour. Judging from all the data and media available, Zero Hour promises to deliver just as much fun as the previous game. You only have to wait a month or so to find out yourselves...



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