by Chris Barylick
July 14th, 2006
Before we begin, something needs to be said: The title I'm about to recommend isn't the cleverest or most original game ever made. In fact, some might consider it to be the intellectual equivalent of a NASCAR tailgate party (which, unless someone scribbles out the solution to the Unified Field Theory on a napkin while discussing their admiration of their heroes, who appear to turn left all day, won't see a marked improvement in its reputation). Still, two years after its release, it's cheap and unmistakably fun.
I'll make up for the intellectual shortcomings of my selection by winning the Fields Medal in my spare time. Which I will then use to start conversations with attractive women.
First released in 2003 and ported to the Mac by Aspyr in 2004, Command and Conquer: Generals was the latest in the blockbuster Command and Conquer real-time strategy series and provided a radical improvement in graphics and sound than its predecessors. A classic staple of the real time strategy genre had returned in fine style with beautiful terrain, cool physics, impressive sound and a graphics engine that may have had some hefty requirements, but created a captivating image.
Other bells and whistles throughout the game included units that could be zoomed in on and clever audio systems. If one part of the map looked as if everything under control while a skirmish was occurring at the opposite end, the game wouldn't allow the player to be lulled by a sense of false security. Instead, the audio engine would notify the player as to the skirmish by making it sound both distant, yet simultaneously present. Yes, you may have managed things well at a central base, but your units were under fire a few miles away and this needs to be taken care of.
Clearing out a city in Command and Conquer: Generals.
For the first time, a sense of modern politics was brought to the game. The three forces (the United States, China and the fundamentalist/terrorist Global Liberation Army) all fight for control and each provides a fairly interesting campaign. As expected, the United States was powered by more technological backing (additional types of aircraft and flying robot sentries compliment more traditional units) while the Chinese use brute force and sheer numbers (order a rifle or rocket unit and you'll be provided with two units). The Global Liberation Army, which operates without any air units that can be controlled by the player, functions via stealth, clever tricks and anything that could extend their minimal budget (cheap, disposable vehicles can be quickly created while destroyed enemy vehicles can be collected and sold for scrap). Three entirely different types of armies are brought together, with the player choosing a fighting style that suits them best. Command and Conquer:
Generals was heavily cited for its inclusion of national propaganda for each army, and this actually adds to the game. As the game progresses, each side spouts its chosen slogans, the USA illustrating that freedom is being preserved, China mentioning state-centered mottos and the GLA trumpeting jihad-based slogans that decry various heathen enemies. While this is initially disconcerting, it works as an outstanding parody. Here, no side is favored and jingoism is called out on all fronts, which actually makes the game that much more interesting.
A player bombards an opposing base with missile units.
It's the tactics that sell the game and Command and Conquer: Generals pushes the player to simultaneously keep their forces alive (typically by layering their bases in a defense network of patrolling forces and sentry guns) as well as exploring the map and trying to figure out how best to defeat approaching enemies while also whittling away the defenses of their opponents' bases.
This is the kind of game where a level might defeat you at first, but after wandering off for a few hours and thinking over what happened, you come back to the saved game to try a brand new tactic that works perfectly. Experimentation becomes critical and when a cool new trick is found, the game becomes that much better (for example, create about a dozen computer hackers to steal an infinite amount of money for the Chinese army, just be sure to keep them alive to ensure that you own the richest military on the map).
Finally, Command and Conquer: Generals works out to be something that can be enjoyed both solo and online. In addition to campaigns, players can create multiplayer games with multiple computer bots to fight against. Here, the difficulty level for each opposing army can be gradually raised until the player figures out the best play style and build order to both secure a new base as well as capture new supplies with which to last out the battles ahead.
Sadly, multiplayer is still a bit strange, as Aspyr was caught up in the debate over GameSpy's licensing fees to use their browser technology. Aspyr swapped in full support for local, network and GameRanger-based networking, which proves to be an adequate substitute, but not the same thing as an adaptable browser. Still, the game remains just as fun as ever, industry politics aside.
Perhaps the best part about the game is the price. Even though the game stands on par with anything else that's presently out there, it's become online bargain bin fodder, weighing in at a mere $20.00 plus shipping via Aspyr's Amazon.com store. A good deal is a good deal and this fits into a price range that can be splurged on without too much guilt.
Command and Conquer: Generals requires a 1 GHz G4 processor, Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later, 256 MB of RAM, 1.6 megabytes of disk space, a video card with 32 MB of VRAM and a DVD-ROM to run. The version 1.0.3 patch, which clears up several major issues, can be found at macgamefiles.com.
That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,.
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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