Prologue: We all know the pain of the engineer rush. How we cry when your build order is generally buggered because of one small and seemingly insignificant unit. We all know the split in the community over the validity of the Engineer rush. Well I'm here to discuss this very taboo topic. So enjoy, as I uncover the wraps on the "That wee bastard" as one player famously quoted.
Pose this question to yourself first, if an army commander had a chance to take out an enemy position rapidly and with minimal casualties would he do so? Of course he would! I believe the engineer was intentionally created by Westwood to fulfill a gap in the early low-tech battles that often decide a game.
Competition wise, the engineer rush keeps the game in balance, not only does it keep all players on their toes as they build, but also ensures those who want to go out and attack early have that option. It prevents the game from becoming a complete stalemate. Perhaps engineer rushes can also be considered a tactic because of the how easy it is to defend against. A good player can not only defend against one, but also set up one of his one at the same time. A decent Engineer rush can be used as a diversion to what else you may be doing.
There is also and offshoot to the engineer rush tactic controversy. Some believe that by walking your engineer round the edges of the map, you are somehow cheating, or perhaps even "ungentlemanly". Yes it's dirty, but: Is War Fair? Of course not, plenty of rotten and dirty things have been done to people and countries during war: People kill or be killed. (Particularly relevant in the current politically climate) So when was an engineer rush last used in real life? Did Monty use one at El Alamein? Is the American capture of Iwo Jima down to a few geeks and their tool kits? Engineers simulate an aspect of warfare that cannot be worked into a standard RTS title: Cloak and Dagger tactics. Certainly they broaden options for game-play, and yes they are a pain in the arse but, I believe we need to shy away from that type of "Tanks vs. Tanks" philosophy so often used in Games.
Many gamers believe that the only good war is a long one. They want to be able to move up the tech tree without having to worry about getting rushed by a group of engineers. They want a long drawn out war with both sides having vast amounts of resources and units. They believe that Westwood of the game intended battles to be large and drawn out so that both sides could experiment with different tactics. They also believe that an engineer rush is unrealistic - Lighten up! It's a game!
The latest argument I have heard is that engineer rushing scares away all the new players. They believe that by using this tactic in a significant amount of games, we will scare away the new players and cause the fan base to decline. Following this theory they believe people will leave the game because of the lack of players to have games with. Eventually this will lead to a premature closing down of our beloved game. In my opinion, this is utter BS. If people can't take a few virtual bloody noses early on in their WOL careers - We don't want them! Seriously however, if this was true, we are not only causing WOL to die; but we are also breeding a bunch of whining newbies who's first cry after a game will be: Cheat! This leads on to my next point.
Many people believe it is cheap, with several players accused of cheating for implementing this rarely seen tactic. Many new players believe that Engineers could not be out built that quickly and they automatically scream "Cheater" before they have stopped to think that they can be beaten in such a short time. The people who believe in this think this cause the complaint boards to overflow and player's reputations to be destroyed by the accusations.
For example let's say a new player, takes a game against a highly ranked opponent. The engineer rush works and the new player screams cheater. He/she then proceeds to the lobby and begins to scream cheater. We all have seen it, you just want to play a game, you enter the lobby and you see someone screaming that XXXX is a cheater. You may not know it, but your brain has just remembered that player, and assigned them to a blacklist.
Right or Wrong?
The engineer rush has always been a part of C&C, (I particularly like offloading a bunch of them in a Chinook - The good 'ol days!), and I believe that they always will. I am personally am in favor of engineer rushing; I believe it keeps the game competitive and lively. Though used rarely, when implemented properly; the engineer rush can crush an opponent without a single tank.