Command & Conquer’s premise is dead simple: set in the near-future, a terrorist attack results in a landscape with no order and a world of complete chaos. As part of the Generals, players are tasked with putting an end to global terrorism in a familiar old school environment Command & Conquer fans will love. The graphics look fantastic, the factions each have their own unique abilities and the Real Time Strategy element is in full effect. I saw a developer take on someone from the media. The developer won.

The game is different this time around because it’s being offered as free-to-play, which is a model that’s sadly being adopted outside of the mobile landscape. But the gameplay is just how Command & Conquer fans remembered it: you build bases, create forces and attack your enemy. It couldn’t be more simple—yet if you don’t have a sound strategy you’ll easily be overrun by a more experienced player. I saw that happen first hand.

RTS games have evolved slowly over the years, but this new C&C sticks to the yesteryear tactic of overpowering enemies through brute force. Tanks are immensely important components; use those to good effect and you have a pretty solid chance of winning. There is, of course, strategy involved, and you have to balance the experience with building the right structures and putting your abilities to good use.

When C&C hits later this year, the game will no longer have a faction that implies generals from the Middle East. Instead, Victory Games is adding a new faction called the Global Liberation Army that’s much more ambiguous. One of the game’s developers told our group that the company designed the new faction to simply be an unaffiliated group of mixed races that were bad. They’re just bad—leave it at that.

The gameplay is frenetic—matches shouldn’t last a particularly long time—and there’s emphasis on taking an offensive approach. This time around, defense won’t win you championships, but merely prolong the inevitable—you’re going to be defeated. The pace seemed almost overwhelming for newbies at times, as managing the game against a more experienced player seemed nearly impossible. You’ll need to have a firm grasp of what everything does before getting good, I’d imagine.

Since the game runs of EA’s Frostbite engine, there was a fair bit of destruction, but not as much as you’d expect. One of the cooler parts of the demo was when soldiers from two opposing faction dug into a building, basically have a shootout. When tanks arrived from one faction, it slowly pounded away on the building until finally being destroyed altogether. It was a satisfying sight.

This game is being sold as a “platform,” meaning it’ll constantly evolve after its release to balance and tweak gameplay. But that core C&C experience is there, and the free-to-play model will no doubt entice more than a few newcomers to hop onboard. I’ve never been particularly adept at RTS games, but C&C definitely had me intrigued after seeing it live in person. Maybe instead of constantly play StarCraft here at the office, we’ll move on to something a little less alien when C&C hits in the coming months.