Mod Spotlight- Command and Conquer Generals: Shockwave

No, I'm not dead yet. That said, offerings may be sparse over the next few weeks (although hopefully not nonexistent as they have been) before coming back up to speed. In any case, although there may not be as many articles as I'd like to have up here, there are a few in the wings getting ready for deployment, and if you check back over the next few weeks you're bound to find some new stuff. Anyway...

Command and Conquer is a series that has been around from the early days of computer games. As well it should be, it invented the genre of Real-Time Strategy games all by itself. But in addition to being a flagship example of an RTS series, Command and Conquer is also well known for its devoted and well behaved fanbase, one that succeeds in being more tightly knit than almost any other fanbase out there. Command and Conquer fans are a friendly, creative and entertaining group, bound together by a shared enjoyment of the series they treasure. They are also bound together by a shared interest in tinkering with the very games that they enjoy, so it should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the fanbase that among Command and Conquer fans, mods are in high supply.

For many, Command and Conquer Generals is the black sheep of the Command and Conquer family, a C&C spinoff title that eschews both the standard C&C base-building format and command bar for something more similar to Starcraft. Regarded as a curious experiment by the majority of the fanbase (and featuring some of the most cringingly tounge-in-cheek dialogue ever uttered), Generals nonetheless managed to do decently well enough for itself, well enough that an expansion titled Zero Hour was published a short time later. Zero Hour refined a few of the obvious shortfallings of the first title, modified the physics engine, and (most shockingly) added a total of nine new sub-factions (ten if one unlocked the 'boss' general). Although not entirely new factions, each of the sub-factions took a particular portion of the tech tree and ran with it, so China's Nuke General began the game with both nuclear shells and nuclear reactors already researched for his tanks, and had one or two additional tech upgrades in that vein. The U.S. Air Force General couldn't field tanks but had a large advantage with the games most ruthless aircraft, etc. Although most of the changes were fairly simple, the new subfactions gave the game legs to last a little longer.

The Devastator is a new armored nuclear tank that cuts through armor.
Then the fans got a hold of the expansions design docs and saw how much the dev team had been forced to cut in the interests of time. So began the work to finish what the designers had originally intended and improve upon it, adding dozens of new units for each sub-faction, new units for each core faction, and even two new sub-factions entirely. Command and Conquer: Shockwave was born.

In order to install Shockwave, you'll first need a working copy of Command and Conquer Generals and the Zero Hour expansion installed and running. Shockwave is a standalone mod, which means that you can still run the original Generals and Zero Hour after you've installed it, which is a good thing if you plan on playing either of those games, but mostly just means you'll need to give the mod permission to modify General's files each time it runs.

Want superior armor? The US Armor General fields heavy tanks and firepower
In all honesty, Shockwave's dev team might as well may have made the mod a total conversion, having played it I can't see any reason to go back to vanilla Generals save a strange desire to play through Generals less then amazing campaign missions. They weren't horrid, but they weren't anything super spectacular either. Since Shockwave does include an updated version of Zero Hour's "General's Challenge" mode where you choose one of the subfactions and then battle your way through each of the other Generals on their home turf, you'll have that option if stomping computers in single player skirmish matches isn't good enough for you. Of course if you'd rather not play an AI at all, Shockwave is set there as well, with working multiplayer modes, although you can only play against other players who have Shockwave (naturally). Although I haven't had a chance to test out the online multiplayer (although I was told it works fine), I have attempted to test out the LAN play, only to find that Generals still checks the serial key of your opponents and won't let you play if they match. Oops. Make note people, get a couple keys beforehand. Still since I'm assured it otherwise would have worked and I see no reason why it shouldn't, multiplayer seems functionally intact, and for a mod like this that's a major pro.

Now, as far as the game itself, I can't help but feel that your milage may vary based on how devoted you were to the original Zero Hour, but I can't help but feel that Shockwave improves on it in almost every way. Although Zero Hour's sub-factions had their differences, they were for the most part pretty simple. Can't build tanks but has an aircraft that has two additional missiles. Builds Avengers for $300 less. The most radically different was probably the laser general, with a basic tank that fired lasers instead of shells and a laser based defensive turret instead of a missile based one.

Two Tigersharks, an APC and a Battle Fortress move out. All are new
On the other hand, Shockwave's sub-factions are so well developed you could almost claim that the game has sixteen different sides instead of three sides with a dozen offshoots. Take the aforementioned Laser General for instance. The Laser tank and Laser Patriot defense are still there, but joined by a whole host of other units. The Laser Paladin (which fires a constant laser that cuts through buildings). The Orbital Firebase (a defensive structure which calls down orbital lasers to strike at nearby enemy ground targets). The Laser Commanche (which fires potent laser bursts instead of hellfire missiles). A close ground support stealth fighter which circles its targets unleashing volleys of .50-caliber explosive shells. Each and every general has received a similar overhaul, with new units, new tech to research, and even new support powers. Every general has also had a few obvious dead areas from the original accounted for with the addition of new units, such as the Tigershark tank for the infantry general pictured above. Its small and light, and probably a little costly for its low power, but supplemented with the generals superior infantry legions and upgraded with propaganda speakers, the Tigershark gives the infantry general needed light armor.

No Gatling here. The Nuclear Overlord can be upgraded with Tac-nuke missiles
With all of the various tweaks done by the mods developers, Shockwave has a lot more longevity than its originator. The large amount of new units and differences between each subfaction leave a lot of options for new strategies and tactics, and even the most basic units shared between the factions (such as the GLA Light tank) are now different enough that a player switching between two similar factions will still need to make differing choices of tactics.

The GLA Salvage general gives the GLA access to actual heavy armor
The in-game graphics have been given a little bit of a facelift as well. Nothing along the lines of a better resolution or improved textures, but each of the sub-factions units have been modified so that they're slightly more distinguishable then the equivalent unit from each other relate sub-faction, and unit upgrades tend to produce a much more noticeable cosmetic effect then they did in the vanilla game.

The AI also seems a bit more competent (although it will still be brainlessly stupid at times), fielding much larger armies and slowly adapting to your weak points. In fact, the AI can be downright frustrating with it's insistence to beat you, because it often gives no breathing room to make mistakes on the hardest difficulty. And before you ask, yes, it definitely has an advantage over you in the cash department, and it will make it quite clear very quickly.

Overall, Shockwave is an excellent mod that gives the Generals a very good reason to be installed on your computer once again. The deeper differentiation between each of the factions adds much needed replay value and extends the life of Generals in an impressive fashion. Shockwave is a must for any fan of C&C: Generals, and you can grab your copy here to make your Generals experience complete.

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