A quality computer game has many important prerequisites: great gameplay, a terrific story, really immersive atmosphere, etc. The Command and Conquer games are superb RTS experiences but remain relatively unique among other modern games in that they put a lot of effort into their full motion videos, or FMVs. A good game tells a story, but a great game immerses you in its cinematic presentation. But how do these live-action cut scenes hold up against Hollywood? This week, I look at Command and Conquer: Kane’s Wrath and judge its FMV sequences as I would a full-length movie. I’m not expecting Oscar caliber performances, but this has got to be better than a typical Sci-Fi channel movie-of-the-week. Right?
The first video opens with Kane stumbling into his command center like a cyborg on a bender recently returned home (Look what you kids did to my house! Get off my lawn!). He gives a speech about how the Brotherhood of Nod has been broken but will rise again, and an incarnation of this speech will occur every three missions or so. For those of you playing along, take a shot every time he says “Ascension.”
We’re introduced shortly thereafter to the charismatic leader of the Black Hand, played by Carl Lumbly. You might know him from the show Alias and as the voice of the Martian Manhunter from the Justice League animated series. Thankfully, these emotionally demanding roles have prepared him admirably to play the most depressive space marine ever.
Soon, you must capture him and he’s confronted by Kane. The mild scolding that follows would be more appropriate if Lumbly took the family car out for a joyride rather than inciting insurrection. As punishment, Carl Lumbly is made to watch a fake newscast of himself. His look of utter horror isn’t due to Kane’s surprise return, but to watching himself parade around like a doofus in black plastic shoulder pads.
The second chapter introduces the player to Nod’s Abbess, played by the lovely Natasha Henstridge (now forever known as the “poor man’s Tricia Helfer.”) It’s embarrassing enough for this once high-profile actress to be slumming in a computer game, but Natasha, you’re slumming in a computer game’s expansion pack.