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Command and Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour is the expansion pack for the computer game Command & Conquer: Generals. Zero Hour added several new abilities to each side, and a new mode of play called Generals' Challenge. In Generals' Challenge the player takes on the identity of one of nine generals (three representing each faction) and does battle against most of the other generals, eventually confronting a powerful "boss" general, General Leang.
- Main article: War against the GLA#Zero Hour
Zero Hour also contains three new campaigns of five missions each instead of seven in the last game, one for each side, with their chronological order being USA first, GLA second, and China last. Unlike the previous campaigns, which were noted by Command and Conquer fans for not having full motion video cinematic sequences during mission briefing, the Zero Hour campaigns return to that Command and Conquer tradition, each showing a live-action video of a news reporter of the respective side giving details about the situation behind the current mission. The plot behind the Zero Hour campaigns picks up where it left off at the end of the previous campaigns.
At the beginning of the USA campaign, the Global Liberation Army (GLA) launches a biological weapon using a refitted Soyuz launch station from the captured Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at a USA military base located in Northern Europe. The United States Army retaliates quickly, destroying the launch platform, before the GLA can fire another missile. As the campaign continues throughout Somalia at the harbour, Russia where a GLA research facility is held for both Black Lotus and Colonel Burton to destroy it and the famous airbone operation at the Amisbad oil fields in Iran, the United States learns that a GLA general codenamed "Dr. Thrax" (who was the man behind the research factory in Russia and oil funding in Iran) has been developing a more lethal variety of anthrax known as "Anthrax Gamma". When the USA locates his base of operations, they discover that he is planning to launch several missiles loaded with this toxin at major population centers within the USA itself. A swift strike by the USA, with the help of rogue GLA forces, succeeds in preventing this atrocity, and brings an end to "Dr. Thrax".
In the GLA campaign, the GLA, though disappointed by the death of Dr. Thrax by that American victory, receives a boost in morale with the successful appointment of their new supreme commander, General Mohmar "Deathstrike" (who needs to escape by plane). The GLA first attempts to reunite its splintered factions under Deathstrike's command, which it succeeds in doing after eliminating the defector Prince Kassad's forces in Egypt, who went rogue against the GLA and the Americans, and then begins a fervent mission to drive the Americans from Europe. Despite their lack of technology, the GLA succeeds in inflicting tremendous harm against the USA, by capturing an American Particle Uplink Cannon which they then use to destroy the USS Ronald Reagan (splitting him in half from starboard to port, as shown in the game's cover) and infiltrating the US West Coast to steal toxins from a chemical storage facility which the USA and the United Nations didn't notice, a wake-up call to homeland securities and defenses with GLA hero Jarmen Kell. This reaches its climax when the GLA overruns the USA’s European central command base in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, partially with the use of captured Chinese weaponry, later US technology from a UN outpost. The GLA's primary objective accomplished, they now begin to invade a vulnerable Europe and cause a new repressive state after evacuations of American forces overseas for a homeland "wake-up call" defense.
In the Chinese campaign, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) sends its army into Europe to relieve the USA and gain revenge against the GLA for their humiliating use of Chinese technology in the capture of the German military base. In order to prevent the GLA from making use of advanced USA weapons, China launches a nuclear missile at the military base, destroying it, and then sends its forces into Germany, where the GLA invaders are concentrated. After a series of devastating losses and Chinese victories in both Germany and China (their own homeland), the nearly defeated GLA takes control of an evacuated USA military base and uses its weaponry against the Chinese army. China succeeds in recapturing this base, and eliminating the GLA for good, rooting out their influence in Europe. Establishing the Eurasian Unity League with the newly liberated Europe, the world looks forward to a new era of Chinese leadership while the USA is sending forces home for defenses and security.
The general selection screen in the Generals' Challenge. Each general has unique units and modifications to the standard arsenal. The United States of America Generals are:
General Townes: Townes' strategy is focused on using laser weaponry. His power plants cost less and generate more energy. This general does not have access to the paladin tank or the tomahawk. It is also worth nothing that his laser crusaders require one point of power each. Strategies include building power plants and then laser defence turrets to destroy most forces that close in on his base. When attacking, use Comanches and infantry to support your laser tanks. His defences are vulnerable to artillery like the nuke cannon, tomahawk and so on.
General Malcolm "Ace" Granger: Granger's strategy is focused on more powerful aircraft. His aircraft are a slightly cheaper and feature a laser defence system (this includes all aircraft barring the Comanche). One possible strategy is to attack the enemy's base with an onslaught of fully-upgraded King Raptors. However, his air forces are vulnerable to anti-air defences. When countering this general be sure to build a large group of anti-air units. Using artillery is a good way to defeat him.
General Alexis Alexander: Alexander's strategy is focused on super weapons. Alexander can create a very stable economy and build up a large amount of special weapons and defensive structures quicker than most generals. The price of the particle cannon is slashed in half for her, $2500 instead of the usual $5000.
General Ta Hun Kwai: Kwai's general strategy is focused on the use of heavily armored, technologically superior tanks and vehicles. He is unable to build artillery units and must pay more to deploy aircraft and infantry. He has cheaper and more powerful tanks. Strategies involving reliance on heavy vehicle assaults and rapid troop movements are suited to General Kwai's forces. However, the overall lack of long-ranged support units leave Kwai's forces vulnerable to long range bombardment, against which his forces cannot effectively retaliate.
General Tsing Shi Tao: Tao's army is boosted by nuclear energy. His nuclear technology enables more output per power plant than that of other Chinese divisions. He also utilizes a nuclear arsenal via missile silos, tactical nuclear artillery, and nuclear bomb equipped MiG fighter jets and Helix helicopters. His Overlord and Battlemaster Tanks fire shells that release nuclear radiation. In addition, their movement speed is much greater than that of standard Chinese tanks. Other than these additions, there are no significant changes, and Tao's forces play much like the mainstream Chinese Army.
General "Anvil" Shin Fai: "Anvil" specializes in infantry units and has a significant early tactical advantage against the infantry of other Generals. All infantry under his command start as veterans; He also can requisition elite Minigunners to replace the standard Red Guardsmen. These high-caliber weapons they carry are the bane of aircraft in larger numbers. However, he is unable to build heavier battle tanks, but is still able to deploy primarily anti-personnel and support vehicles. This reliance on infantry leaves his force very vulnerable to the effects of radiation and toxins; and under less common circumstances, mass vehicle rushes, where infantry are vulnerable to being run over, yet, if his abilities and advantages are used properly and efficiently, will bring swift defeat to opposing forces. He is not faced in the General's Challenge.
"Dr. Thrax": The GLA Toxin General's units and some structures are boosted with toxins, and he sacrifices very little for his tactical advantages when fully upgraded. Most notable of advantages, is the fact that his units are granted the more potent toxin, Anthrax Beta (a late-game upgrade) from the beginning of a match, and can upgrade with Anthrax Gamma (Anthrax Gamma is an effective weapon that can destroy tanks), to improve his forces further. He is able to train Toxin Rebels. The toxin-dispensing weapons of these units are equally effective against vehicles and infantry. His Tanks, RPG infantry and Stinger Sites also add a "stream" of toxin to their rockets, which adds a large damage bonus to their attacks.
Prince Kassad: A GLA General specializing in stealth tactics. All of his buildings can be covered in camo netting, making them invisible to most enemy units, he gets an improved GPS Scrambler ability, allowing him to cloak more units than other GLA cells can in a period of time, and has improved stealth Rebels. He also has cheaper Hijackers from the start that are always stealthed. He cannot build main battle tanks, or long range SCUD launchers. Ambush, surprise, harassment and attrition are the optimal strategies for Kassad's forces. However, the lack of heavy armor leaves them even more vulnerable than regular GLA cells to direct and concentrated assaults. Also, the inability to deploy long range SCUD launchers means that at most times, his forces operate without in-direct fire support. The stealthy presence of his forces provide a psychological edge over human opponents, but AI can somewhat detect the player's presence without using satellite scans or other stealth-detecting devices.
General Rodall "Demo" Juhziz: A GLA general specializing in explosives. Most of his field units and buildings are granted a self-destruct capability, encouraging the use of suicide attacks. His Terrorists are more powerful and he has cheaper, more powerful Demo Traps. His Combat Cycles come with a Terrorist instead of a Rebel. He does not have access to most stealth units or Anthrax weapons. He also does not face the player in the Generals' Challenge.
General "Tigress" Leiong Leang: The final general in the Generals' Challenge. She has a massive army consisting of units & structures from all three regular factions, in addition to a Particle Cannon, Nuclear Missile, and Scud Storm. She is not a playable general. However, she can be unlocked as a playable general in different incarnations by several modifications.
General Ironside is the boss general of the USA forces alongside the American Commander.
He utilizes all powers available to USA faction, such as the combination of the effective King Raptor, deadly Aurora Alpha and cheap Particle Cannon. both EMP Patriot Missile Defense and Laser Turret is available, make his base is nearly impenetrable. Besides that, he also uses a group of CIA agents which can plant demolitions, assisted by few Pathfinders which always cloaked led by Colonel Burton which can plant bombs even faster.
General Mohmar "Deathstrike" the boss general of the GLA forces, he is never fought, but he is the focus in first mission of the GLA campaign. In that mission, Deathstrike must be escorted to a stolen C-130.
Zero Hour includes online play through GameSpy on Windows, or GameRanger on Macs. The two services are not compatible. For the former players must first create a free GameSpy account in-game. Once in the main online lobby, players can choose from a number of options, including Quick Match, where players can have themselves matched up with other players of similar skill for 1 vs. 1 games, and Custom Game, where players can create their own games with the settings they want, and wait for other players to join them. The latter, though also free, is more so manual, and requires players to make, match, and start games without the benefit of an active central server to record stats, etc.
Custom games can have up to eight players playing in one online game. Performance may decline in games with large numbers of players, however, due to the computation, memory, and communication demands of larger games. It is to be noted, though, that the Zero Hour expansion has a noticeably more efficient engine than the original Generals, so games run more smoothly than compared to the original Generals. Lag and failed connections do, however, remain a problem online, as do mismatches when playing across ADSL and Cable internet. A common problem includes not being able to connect to anything ever at all times of the day. Some members of the community speculate that a fault in the coding of the game exists. This causes it to consume more and more resources over time causing low frame rates and multiplayer lag.
In order to allow for better performance in large matches online and over LAN, players are recommended to reduce their graphical quality settings. This heavily reduces the amount of lag, and the chance of a mismatch. In fact, failure in computers meeting the computational requirements of the game is the primary reason for lag and mismatches, as tests have shown that during battles with 2 or more people occupies only 5kB/s maximum of bandwidth.