Contra is a freeware modification for Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour real-time strategy game. It's a big project started in 2004. It adds many new units as well as numerous new upgrades, new general's powers and buildings. It also adds new sounds, maps, bug fixes, enhanced graphics, and other effects, as well as three new generals. There are lots of people playing in multiplayer.
This is from a casual point of view. I have played around with four different variants of Zero Hour: 1.06, Shockwave, Contra and Rise of the Reds. About 3-5 hours each, testing the differences vs AI. No PvP yet. Once I manage to decide which one I'll introduce to my RL friends, I'll hopefully get some PvP done.
I really enjoy Contra. The reason why I don't give it a 10 is simply that I reserve 10s for "Completely blew me away, I will never (at least not in a few hundred hours of gameplay) play anything ever again", which has yet to happen to me.
Contra is somewhat different from Shockwave, in the sense that it changes many of the original design philosophies. That is neither a good nor bad thing, it depends on your personal taste; what do you want from a mod?
Some highlights of differences from 1.04:
- Units and buildings are gated behind ranks. You have a set arsenal at rank 1, which expands at rank 3 and again at rank 5. In general, super weapons are at rank 5, with some exceptions (nuke general at rank 3, super weapon general have some at all ranks).
- Nuke general has no static defenses, possibly to balance the previous feature.
- You can't sell buildings, though you may demolish them. Contrary to many others here, I feel this is a good change. Take a look at 1.04; is it a good thing that everyone and their grandmother sells their command center after building two dozers? It also makes capturing more powerful, since the attacked player won't get a partial refund.
- Since rank equals better arsenal, it punishes failed attacks harder. To some extent, it also punishes turtling, though this may go both ways.
- Stealth is buffed through the roof. That is, base defenses no longer detect stealth. Each fraction has some ways to detect stealth, but very, very few detect all types of stealth. Most detects a limited type (such as AA detecting stealth aircraft, and infantry heroes detecting mines).
- Base defenses appear to be a bit weaker than ZH. In addition, since some of them are gated behind rank 3 and you won't get rank by turtling, said tactic is even more discouraged. Not to mention you also need to guard for stealth. I find this a good change.
- All fractions have a super unit at rank 5. Like super weapons, this is limited to 1 in tournament mode, which is a good idea to enable. Even one of these is a great pain, both to build (time and cost) and defeat.
- Many fractions have mobile light super weapons at rank 5.
- Vehicles with fire-ports for infantry are extremely rare. Correct me if I'm wrong on this one, I may be mixing this up with another mod. I think this is a good feature, as Rockvees were a major issue in 1.04.
- Some base features are now upgrades. In particular, not having fire wall by default for Dragon Tanks felt strange.
In general, all the original 9 sub-fractions have had their special features turned to 11. This is a feature I have mixed feelings about. On one hand this is really cool. On the other, it just magnifies the problem ZH had; many of the generals were one-trick ponies. I like the versatility Shockwave gives each of the fractions, and that is unfortunately missing here. For example, if you choose the US Super Weapon general, you'd better be prepared to turtle up, 'cause your arsenal for assaulting is less than stellar.
The new generals bring some new ideas to the table, and feel interesting and unique.
- Cybernetic General (US) has no infantry, only cyborgs. It feels like more like General Terminator than anything else, and that's not a bad thing. Reminds more of GLA in style; faster but weaker individual units.
- Flame General (China) has some really cool interactions with fire, such as a static, invisible defense that pumps out blobs of fuel that other defenses or units can ignite. Otherwise pretty similar to other china fractions.
- Assault General (GLA) lacks a particular feel. Well-rounded, I guess.
Documentation (somewhat outdated): Contra.cncguild.net
Amazing mod that adds many features, with few to none bugs. The mod is done by a team with professional level of excellence, and discerning attention to balance and detail.
Many units are added, and the game system receives a large improvement, yet the gameplay is still balanced, something not frequently encountered in other modifications.