Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
Welcome back Commander! EA has launched the Command & Conquer Remastered Collection, bringing together the early titles in the iconic RTS franchise and it absolutely brings the goods.
My love for real-time strategy games is well documented here on Cinelinx, and all of it can be traced back to the Command & Conquer games. The franchise fell into disrepair over the years due to some strange choices (looking at you C&C 4), along with failed attempts to revitalize the brand (even a mobile version never got off the ground). For long time fans of the franchise, it's been a smidge disheartening.
As such, when EA announced they were bringing back members of the original team to work on remasters for the original game and Red Alert, many were excited, but skeptical. After all, the franchise began to crumble once WestWood was acquired by EA. Even with some reservations, I've been eagerly keeping track of this one, and the various updates the developers have given over the past year, and now it's finally out in the wild...
Friends, I'm very happy to tell you this Remaster absolutely delivers. That's not to say there aren't some minor issues, and the games themselves may no longer be everyone's cup of tea. For me, however, this is easily one of the best Remasters around.
The remaster brings together the first game, Tiberium Dawn, as well as the alternate history, Red Alert. Included are all three expansions for the games (one for dawn and two for Red Alert), and even some of the missions that were only ever available on the old N64 port.
Each asset has been lovingly recreated, bringing all the units, structures, and maps into some glorious high-definition. For fans who really want to relive those days of yore, you can easily toggle back and forth between the "original" looking graphics and the sleek new ones. With just a tap of the space bar, even in the middle of the game, you can cycle between the styles.
Beyond that, however, small quality of life updates have been included as well. From the outset you can adjust the game's settings to play out like the original, or with some tweaks. The options aren't terribly deep, which some players might find a bit limiting, but I found them to be just enough to make returning to these older titles easier despite playing mostly modern RTS games for a while.
The sidebar has received a small update as well, though it still sits on the right side of the frame, taking up an uncomfortable amount of space on the screen--the new zooming feature makes this less annoying. While it’s much the same, all the construction options (buildings, infantry units, vehicles) are divided into different tabs. This means you won't have to scroll down anymore in order to select the units you want to build. It's a small thing, but makes for a cleaner look overall that makes it simpler to find and build the resources you want.
Most of the other additions come in the form of multiplayer (no LAN at the moment, sorry), including a map creator, which includes rankings/ladders so you can test your skills against friends and others. I only messed around with this briefly over the weekend (enough to know I’m still terrible against others), but it seems pretty solid and easy to jump in and play. If you’re hoping to take your Brotherhood of Nod forces against the Soviets, however, you’re out of luck. Each game has its own dedicated multiplayer, even though they’re bundled together.
After each mission you're able to unlock behind the scenes extras that haven't been seen before. While most are mundane, some offer a really fun look behind the curtain to how these original games came to be and the creation of some iconic characters. It’s a pretty fun addition that offers something extra for long time fans of the franchise, even if none of it feels wholly necessary.
Perhaps the most exciting extra for fans is the full on inclusion of mod support! The collection includes the source code for both games, allowing modders the ability to completely overhaul them to their hearts’ content. I have absolutely no skill in this area, but I have no doubt the community can come up with some incredible add-ons for fans to enjoy down the road. STEAM already has a workshop page up with some mods to check out now.
While these modern updates are nice, where the C&C Remaster shines most is how it expertly recreates the feel of the original titles. Even launching the game for the first time treats gamers to an old school boot-up/install screen. The intro cycles through “testing” for outdated video/audio cards as the graphics continually upscale themselves to modern standards. It's a small thing, really, but almost instantly transported me back to the days of running these games on DOS and Windows95. Quirks like this show the genuine love and attention to detail the developers put into the remaster.
While I played around with both of the games, I spent the majority of my play time (more hours than I care to admit right now) with Red Alert. This title, specifically, holds a special place in my heart. It was not only my first foray into the franchise, but my first brush with the real-time strategy genre in general.
I recall with clarity watching over the shoulder of my uncle and his mid-90s gaming computer as he installed the game and fired it up for the first time. I must have watched for hours, and greedily jumped at the chance to play a little bit myself as he walked me through the basics. I've played the game multiple times since, and even picked up the PlayStation 1 version once upon a time. Even so, it's been a number of years since I last dove into it...Let me tell you, it felt like coming home when that first mission started.
Even though it'd been several years, I was able to instantly pick up the controls and build my bases without issue. They did a phenomenal job in recreating the classic RTS formula that enamored gamers back in the day. In this way, however, some gamers might have more issues.
Fans of modern RTS titles won't find the unit options to micromanage movements (stopping, patrols, not engaging the enemy, etc) or finesse certain tactics. In some ways, the adherence to the original style feels loyal to a fault, but in many ways, that's exactly what I love about it. For me, the construction sidebar is more engaging to me than the worker drones. Even though it eliminates an element of the strategy, it allows you to fully focus on the combat and taking down the opposing base.
This is great because another thing that hasn't changed is the punishing difficulty. Even on the normal settings, C&C can be unforgiving. Resources across the map are limited and the enemy AI is frequently given the advantage. Hell, within the first five missions you're getting souped up tanks sent your way before you can even build some of your own! While the combat and base building is more straightforward than newer titles, the difficulty and how it forces you to rethink tactics make it all the more rewarding once you attain victory.
The cheesy mix of Full Motion Video (FMV) and CG animated cutscenes are back in full force, though the upscaling leaves something to be desired. The developers weren't able to access the original video files from the past, so the only thing they could do was upscale the ones found on the discs. Sometimes it works fine, but in many scenes it looks like someone smudged Vaseline all over the image. The nostalgia still works, but it's clear those scenes are relics and I found myself skipping through them more often than not.
The music and sound effects have been lovingly remastered, however, and sounds better than ever. Hell they even brought in the original voice actor of the original in-game AI (the one who tells you about units building and such) to re-record the dialog during gameplay! While the FMV stumbles, this aspect absolutely stands out and sounds amazing.
While it may not feature enough options and quality of life updates to appeal to more hardcore RTS players, there's a reason these titles helped redefine the genre and that's capture here. Combine this with current multiplayer options, mods, and some nifty bonus extras, the Command & Conquer Remastered Collection feels like a steal for only $20. If you're a fan of the franchise, there's no reason to skip out on it, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys some old-school RTS action.