Some games have a legacy where the mention of the title sparks memories of fond gaming hours passed overtaking your enemies’ bases with sheer firepower blasting across the screen. Command and Conquer Generals was one of the first strategy-based war games that allowed network play with advanced 3D graphics while putting players against each other in head-to-head matches involving huge multiplayer maps.

Originally released in 2004, Aspyr has updated the game to run on the latest MacOS and re-released it exclusively on the Mac App Store, including the Zero Hour expansion. And while the game mostly looks as good as ever, factors somewhat out of Aspyr’s control mar the experience a little bit.

Mac App Store Badge

Enter Command & Conquer: Generals for Mac

The Story

C&C: Generals is an RTS base-building game featuring three different factions: the United States, China, and the fictional Global Liberal Army (GLA.) As with previous C&C games such as Red Alert and the factions of Nod and GDI from the first edition, each side has strengths to balance their weaknesses. The general idea behind “Generals” is to make your base strong enough to gain General Points which is where the “endgame weapons,” such as nuclear warfare and other higher-end tools become available. The more kills and experience you gain, the better and stronger your army becomes as the battle finishes.

Graphics

C&C Generals employed enormous 3D graphics showing the canyons, mountain ranges, dipping roads and beautiful terrain in gorgeous 3D isometric perspective. At the time, this was revolutionary and a huge computer cooker due to the high system requirements. However, that was in 2003 when computers were different beasts. Today the biggest push involves “K’s” and how many of these will appear on a screen. Aspyr upgraded C&C Generals to the latest iMac’s 5K resolution, making the 3D gameplay amazingly detailed and crisp to behold on a giant screen.

Command & Conquer Generals Mac

The biggest problem I have with Generals isn’t with the game itself, but rather with the modifications Aspyr performed to bring the older title up to date. The game itself, I’ll admit, is amazing. The details in the graphics, terrain, weapons, and firepower, all feel like they belong and they almost have to be seen to understand just how detailed and intricate these appear.

The problem I have is something entirely out of Aspyr’s control. Aspyr takes existing games for Windows and perfects them by improving the existing code for other platforms. They take DirectX framework and port it over to OpenGL. And – this is important – they’re damn good at their job. The problem with Generals is the stuff Aspyr can’t improve: the videos. When you launch C&C Generals for the first time you view these amazing 3D battle shots with a detailed menu system, and all the while the screen rotates around the city square under attack.

Command & Conquer Generals Mac

Unfortunately, as soon as you begin a game in any format, those gorgeous high-definition graphics switch over to a Quicktime video rendered in full-screen at 320×200. And it looks exactly like someone took a video clip and smeared Vaseline all over the lens. But then the game pops back up with its brilliant graphics again and all is right with the world. It’s jarring – it’s annoying – but that’s the worst part of the game by far.

Command & Conquer Generals Mac

Multiplayer

Unfortunately, the current version of C&C uses Apple’s Game Center for multiplayer access, making the strange little feature of “playing with friends” an impossible thing to do since traditional cross-platform play does not exist. If you have a different version of Generals or Zero Hour, this makes playing against friends a giant pain. However, leave it to the magic of social media to solve this matchmaking issue. The trick is to sign up to Facebook and use this link below to connect to random people.

That’s the link to the Facebook group that Aspyr set up to link like-minded individuals to play Generals against each other. The ironic thing is the client for setting up multiplayer games within GameCenter is very easy and much more convenient than the traditional way of IP matching or host serving.

The only annoying thing about using Apple’s GameCenter is the seclusion from the other platforms Generals connects with over the Internet. Unless the OSX players go to that Facebook group and find friends to play online with, it’s a single player game.

C&C Generals Performance

One of the requirements of C&C Generals is OSX 10.9.5 or higher, but as long as the computer runs Yosemite or the newer patched version of Mavericks, it’ll run without an issue. Generals also requires a decent video card (Intel HD3000, which is the one stuffed in the 2011 MacBook Air, or newer) and runs on all of the latest iMacs, MacBook Pros, and Mac Pros.

C&C Generals System Requirements:

  • OS:  OS X 10.9.5 (Mavericks)
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz
  • Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 3870, NVIDIA GeForce 330M, Intel HD 3000, with 256 MB video RAM
  • RAM:  4 GB
  • Hard Drive:  5 GB available space

My System:

  • 15-inch, Mid 2012 MacBook Pro
  • OS:  OS X 10.10.3
  • CPU:  2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB
  • RAM:  16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3

Final Word

C&C: Generals is great and shows the Westwood design from the pre-EA acquisition. However, the updates in the graphics department, engine, etc, fall flat when there is nothing to do after the single-player campaign finishes. I would have been more impressed with an iOS port. We appreciate the gesture, but honestly, you’re better off with Company of Heroes 2 or the free version of Starcraft 2.

Also, I would recommend NOT playing with an Apple Magic Mouse because the already annoying-as-hell zoom problems keep getting worse.

The Good:

  • A nice refreshing strategy game from years ago.
  • The single-player campaign has the well-geared components of a solid story.

The Bad:

  • Many of the graphics are from 1999. It feels like a mod for Starcraft. The first one.
  • Matchmaking and multiplayer are after-thoughts at best.
  • ENOUGH WITH THE VHS CUTSCENES. We get it – you’re old.

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