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» Zero Hour: Ash's Views

Praise me for such an obscure topic – I doubt anyone would've thought about writing their views on the recently announced expansion pack for C&C Generals.

Its announcement has done both good and bad things; on the good side, it has made a nice flourish of activity in the community, and people are already discussing screenshots and what things could be. The in-between-game lull was leaving many sites with no updates bar maps, replays and community news – but now all the hype is on Zero Hour, and new sections and pages are springing up everywhere.

On the other side of the coin, you have a 5/6 month year old game in dire need of updates with its expansion in the works. And, while many people forget how big EA is, it's obviously leading many to believe Generals will now die from lack of support. Will it? No way in hell am I going to say anything that could be classed as “definite view”, lest angry mobs bang on my door screaming how I was wrong and how my head is too far up some EA Executives ass. However, I do think that 1.6 will be released – and I can only hope the Ladder Kit arrives not long after. As I say, EA is a large company, and I presume the EALA division can handle another title. The lack of a Ladder Kit 5 months after the release is something I am furious about; okay, okay, the Community Ladder didn't exactly take THAT much planning, but we did it: we united and organised it, got hosting from LoadedINC, and were raring to go. Right now, that enthusiasm has worn off slightly.

The other main features are what we assume to be the 9 Generals making a comeback – and the “Generals Challenge Mode”. If you have no idea what that is, here's the info from PC IGN:

The General's Challenge Mode introduces 9 Generals with distinct AI personalities. From what we understand, each of these generals also has distinct armies that he will be able to deploy along with new General abilities. Players will have to pick out from one of the 6 lower level Generals, each associated with one of the major factions (2 for USA, GLA, and China), and take on the other Generals. Once you've conquered a General, you can take his armies and use them in multiplayer over the Internet. The last 3 Generals are boss characters, which will undoubtedly be very difficult, and will only be able to be used again in skirmish mode. It's unknown just how many new units each of these Generals will employ and how different each of them will be from each other or what regular units from the sides might be mixed in as well.

"The Generals Challenge mode adds an exciting new dimension to the RTS play experience," said Mark Skaggs, Executive Producer EALA. "Players will have a host of new units to play with and new strategies to learn as they battle against the top Generals in the world."

Mark Peppin's version of the GLA Attack Cycle. Fear the green coated man!
Basically what Generals was going to be before the idea was changed. Presumably, they've managed to balance it, and as it's an expansion, people won't be worried about not having access to each side's entire arsenal when playing.

New units that a lot of players wanted are the naval ones – while nothing concrete has been said, one of the missions involves “destroying the US fleet in the Mediterranean”, so naturally, it makes sense to assume that proper naval units will be present. Erik'll be happy at least. If it's possible to have them, it's odd that Generals didn't include any, as a lot of players (especially Erik) were disappointed.

One must think, though – is this going to be nothing more than a quick way to get £20 of each fan? New missions, units, using the original Generals system with a few tweaks…you could, quite easily, look at it that way. I don't doubt EA are looking to use the successful sales of Generals to sell an expansion, but two days after its announcement, it does sound like a host of new things are being included and we might not be heading for a letdown – or for you conspiracy theorists/ anti-EA members, a giant ripoff of gigantic proportions. Either is possible: all we can do is hope. And throw things if need be.

I myself look at this from someone who actively promoted Generals for over a year, then found the game uninspiring and haven't touched it in weeks. I now look at "Zero Hour" with cautious hope, but like many others, I'm going to wait to receive feedback from others I trust before emptying my pocket. I advise you to do the same, too. If you're very skeptical about the support, then you're one of many; no-one can say Generals has had the most efficient post-release support. Five patches in six months, but almost two months of waiting for the sixth, which has left records completely useless as a means of identifying truely good players. Waiting to see how Zero Hour's supported could also be a wise idea.

To conclude? Hope for a truely good expansion pack, but learn from Generals - await feedback, support, then buy afterwards. Don't just get swept away by the hype.

» Ash

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