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Hands-on with 'Command & Conquer Rivals'

Hoo boy, people are pissed online.

The Command and Conquer franchise made its PC debut all the way back in 1995. In the two decades since, the game has garnered a rabid following with dozens of sequels and spinoffs. In 2018, the C&C experience returns to mobile with the free-to-play Command and Conquer Rivals, which EA debuted ahead of E3 2018 on Saturday. I was afforded a brief hands-on with the title during the EA Play event and this C&C strongly reminds me of the original. In that I had no clue as to what I was doing through most of it and lost almost immediately to a 12-year-old.

Like its desktop-based ancestors, C&C Rivals tasks players with balancing force and resource production against attacking enemy positions, a la Clash Royale. In this case, two opposing players situated on either side of a central missile silo attempt to destroy one another's base. True to its C&C lineage, Rivals players can play as either the GDI or Brotherhood of Nod with each faction offering unique super moves like the ability to set auto-turrets or zap remote targets with an orbital laser cannon.

The goal of each match, which thankfully last just a few minutes at a time, is to control a majority of the three platforms surrounding the missile silo. Control two or more platforms when the missile launches and it will detonate on your opponent's base. Strike their base with these missiles twice to win the match. Easy, right? Not quite.

The pace of these matches is, well, frantic. Your Tiberium reserves, which fund the production of your troops and vehicles, regularly replenish so you don't spend the first quarter-hour of each match mining enough minerals to get going. Instead, you must start pumping out grunts and mechanized infantry as fast as you can, sending them out to either attack your opponent or defend the silo platforms, or preferably both at the same time.

Battles between unit types are essentially a fancy game of rock, paper, scissors with each offering an advantage or disadvantage depending on what you send it out to attack. Turns out that light infantry are comically inept at taking down tanks regardless of what you saw in Saving Private Ryan. Who knew, aside from the 7th grader that wiped the floor with me, that is.

Since the game is free-to-play, EA is of course working micro-transactions into the game. I didn't encounter any of these during my playthrough but a company rep explained that more diverse and powerful units will be available for sale. That said, everything that you can buy in game can also be earned via grinding. There's no word yet on what sorts of rates EA will charge. The game is currently available as a pre-alpha build for Android and is expected to come to iOS some time later this year. The completed game will be released "some time in the future" the EA rep told me.

Overall, Rivals feels like a pretty decent compromise, trading in some of the depth and complexity of the desktop version for a more streamlined mobile gameplay experience. It's no Command & Conquer: Red Alert, but is still a good way to kill a few minutes when you're waiting for your bus. Which makes the nearly immediate and full-throated denouncement of this game from the online community seem just a tad unhinged. I mean, people were flippin' furious.

Damn folks, y'all know that you don't actually have to play this game if you don't want to, right?

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