Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour Retro Review


The Command and Conquer series has had its ups and downs, but  with the 2003 release of Command and Conquer Generals, the series reached a new level. The game’s overall Metacritic score sits at 84 and it won the Game Critics award in 2002 for best strategy game. It implemented new elements in the real time strategy world in a real world environment. Specifically though, this article is about the DLC that came out a few months after the game’s initial release: Generals: Zero Hour. This DLC added new units, new story missions, and cinematic gameplay to the widely renowned game.

Generals has players control three different classes. The USA has high powered units that produce a large sum of money. Specializations include the standard USA forces and the airfield general who has the most powerful aircraft in game and can swarm enemies from above. They also give their unit gatherers (aircraft) the ability to defend themselves with rocket pods. The aircraft have better offensive capabilities. The laser general has laser tanks, laser humvees and so on. They’re the most expensive of the American factions but pack serious power. The “superweapons general” is just as overpowered as it sounds. It has the cheapest super weapon, a particle uplink, and it has beefed up defenses to defend said super weapons, which have less energy cost as well.

The Chinese fit into the middle range when it comes to cost and power. They get a bonus to horde strength, where the more units of the same kind are together, the faster they shoot. The basic Chinese general gets the standard units while the nuclear general has helicopters that shell out mini warheads akin to the Fatboy in Fallout 3. The Chinese get to superboost their tanks, as well, to be nuclear armed and have nuclear artillery. The tank general has supreme control over tanks, as one can imagine. It gets cheaper tanks named Battle masters, the Overlord tanks, which if players have played any of the other series, are much like Apocalypse tanks. These tanks are super powered and pack a serious wallop when in a posse. The tank general gets the nuclear-powered bonus as well. The Battle Masters come out at level two, or elites and the Overlord come out a veteran, or level one. The infantry general uses massive armies of ground troops to overwhelm any and everything an enemy can throw at it. Infantry is a hard counter to heavy units in, so it’s actually quite effective. The infantry general’s base defenses are more powerful as well, and the bonuses to said units are phenomenal. The general units get to start out as veterans right out of the batch!

The GLA, or Global Liberation Army, have the cheapest units but don’t need power plants to power their buildings. The basic general gets the spread of battle APC’s anti-air units, weak tanks, and so on. The GLA do have killer base defenses that can cover everything from air to ground units. The GLA toxin general is specifically an anti-unit general. Using special ground units and toxin tractors to irradiate the ground and decimates infantry. The stealth general can hide all of their buildings from view and has the ability to stealth its units in combat and send saboteurs in to take down buildings. The demolition general gives the ability to have every unit self destruct when charging the enemies, dealing more bang for their relatively low buck. It can also can create dugouts into enemy bases and pour unites out of them as well.

Zero Hour is an overhead command game where the commander makes buildings that do different tasks like create tanks, aircraft or propaganda centers for upgrades. Every faction has a super weapon, as well, which can turn the tide of any match. The Chinese get a Nuke which can be upgraded with damage boosts. The US get the particle up-link which can be guided to destroy structures, and the GLA  get the SCUD launcher, which has a low countdown time but does minor damage. Different parts of every faction counter others and it’s important to keep that in mind. A group of tanks can be EMP’d and wiped out by infantry, or infantry can be wiped out by a single Gatling vehicle. It’s an intensive lattice work of planned out excursions.

The storylines that are added continue the original story from the games. Each faction has a campaign where it succeeds in its own goals. The US’s story continues with the evil Dr. Thrax, (I know, bear with me), the GLA’s leader, working on a super version of anthrax known as Anthrax Gamma. They have to stop him and the GLA after they launch a biological missile at a US base in Northern Europe.

The Chinese storyline begins with Europe needing China’s help. The Chinese army rolls in, ready to get sweep revenge on the GLA, and does just that by nuking a base they capture in Germany and sending in forces to take them out. China reigns in its defenses so the GLA can’t attack again and they deflect a minor incursion when the GLA blows up a nuclear power plant inside their borders.

The campaigns brought back the classic cinematics that the series is so well known for. Let’s be honest, the acting is also the best.

The online multiplayer section of the game really picks up where the game may dip in any other sections. The player can compete against friends random people from around the world and create matches with up to eight players in each. Players can choose maps, how much starting money, enemies, and AI that players can have. The level of the AI can be chosen, as well as locations of the generals on the map, and even what color they are! Matches can be open or private with password locks, if players are into that kind of stuff. There is a map editor mode, as well, that allows players to craft their own levels to play with as many enemies as the map allows.

The Command and Conquer Series has always been one that’s quirky, exciting, fast paced, and pushed boundaries when it came to RTS play. Whether it’s hundreds of men charging at each other while well placed artillery fire cuts them down, or hordes of tanks shredding through enemy defenses, it’s an exciting time. Always make sure to check your blind spots; enemies will always find a way in.



What on earth is this? Why is this 'review' happening 10 years after the game came out?

Kyle Wiggers
Kyle Wiggers

This website isn't necessarily dedicated to the latest and greatest. When we're feeling nostalgic, we choose to do retrospective reviews, reflecting on games from our childhood. Perspective comes with age, and so I see no problem with reviewing games we were too immature to criticize our first playthrough.

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