Articles & Editorials: The Abusive Bitter End

It’s not something I usually do everyday. But I decided to actually complete the USA campaign in C&C Generals: Zero Hour… and the final mission was certainly a disappointment. The lead-up was certainly enjoyable. If you can cast your minds back to the mission where the USA secures a landing strip, then it is your task to weaken the GLA by taking over their oil fields? Pretty good mission wasn’t it? Their wealth certainly kept you on you toes until you could even the score. Hard, Brutal and certainly a mission with replay value.

Then we come to the final mission. Capture 4 rocket installations that are aimed at Europe… Looks like a tough one, but then, it happens! The one thing kicked in that drives me nuts with every single player RTS campaign on that final mission. Watch out commander, you have limited time to complete this objective! Banging my head against my computer desk was my only option. A good slug-fest was no longer possible. I had to remove the anti-aircraft and airlift soldiers in to secure these missiles.

No sooner had I done that, that I was faced with a mission accomplished splash Screen. It’s a sight all too common in RTS game endings. That moment you realise that it’s over, and you still have half an army to blow off the face of the earth. Instead, they get away, relinquished! I mean, for heaven’s sake!!

It’s not just Zero Hour though that has this problem. I could name many a game that suffers the same problem. 2005’s Act of War was another RTS title that suffered from the premature ejaculation of the “Mission Accomplished” screen. Although the odds were balanced where if they destroyed the white house, you were toast. But when I played this game, I decided to launch a couple of nukes into the enemy base. It seemed a fun idea at the time. That was until I destroyed the enemy HQ, and was presented by the end movie. Great! The penultimate mission was harder.

It seems to be a flaw in RTS design. Developers will spend hours coming up with an enemy base layout that is seemingly impenetrable. But drop a super weapon in, or do something that these developers didn’t think about. Then it’s job done… and you are left feeling that more could have been done to make the experience more enjoyable.

It’s a far call from the early C&C days in C&C 95. Those with the strategically imposed minds back then, would have sent in a few orcas to the Temple of Nod and blown it off the face of the earth with the Ion Cannon. But that wouldn’t be game over. You’d still have to hunt down every living soul on the map. Even that Nod Soldier defecating in between the trees needed a few thousand pounds of explosive matter before you could be successful. Those were the days.

But I’m not going to let C&C get off the hook here entirely. The final missions of Tiberian Sun and even Red Alert 2 were crimes to the RTS genre and an insult to our well hard earned cash. Tiberian sun was deploy or destroy ICBM missiles within 3 orbits of the Philadelphia to win. Red Alert 2 was to destroy the Kremlin or Wipe structure X off the map to win the final mission.

Why do developers seem to do this? Is it to heighten the players senses so they combat their way through the map to ultimate victory? Or is it to insult our intelligence and allow those of us with strategically implemented minds to conquer the mission in less than 30 minutes. And all because there is a much easier way to win.

This seems to relay echoes of my RTS Article in which I discussed how poor RTS games have become. But my point is not to attack the genre as a whole… I just can’t get my head round the reason why the second to last mission is always harder than the last in the campaign. Anyone care to enlighten me? Because I’ve certainly not found the answer!?

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