Command & Conquer may not have invented the RTS genre. For that, you would have to look back on previous entries like Westwood’s game Dune II. It was an RTS adaption of the Dune book and a sequel to the movie tie-in game. Or Blizzard’s magnificent Warcraft, which itself spawned the highly successful Warcraft franchise. But Westwood would come to very much define the genre with their seminal 1995 title Command & Conquer, and its prequel Red Alert which came out only a year later.
For years the games were hugely popular among PC gamers. Though as the years went by, these games have become increasingly difficult to get working on modern systems. Initially designed for Windows 95, they relied on a lot of outdated DirectDraw calls that made them not work well with modern Windows. So when I heard a remaster was coming out, to say I was excited would be putting it lightly.
EA decided to do more than just fix the issues with the old versions, however. Instead, they opted to outsource the remaster to the only company that made sense. Petroglyph Games were largely behind this remaster, which makes sense given they were founded by former Westwood employees. In other words, the remaster was in the right hands.
Petroglyph also did something special with the remaster. Rather than working by themselves, they involved the entire fan community during the development. The development process was completely transparent. The community was invited to give their feedback on everything from gameplay tweaks to graphical updates.
So how did it turn out? Let’s find out as we take a look at Command & Conquer Remastered Collection for PC.
The first game in the series is set in an alternate timeline of the ’90s. It received the unofficial subtitle “Tiberian Dawn”, as a reference to Tiberian Sun. A meteorite crashes into Earth, bringing with it an alien substance that scientists dub Tiberium, from the Tiber river in Italy the meteorite crashed into. The substance can absorb and crystalize precious metals from the surrounding soil. Though at the cost of depriving nearby flora of their nutrition, and releasing extremely toxic gases and radiation into the air.
What results is the emergence of an ancient cult known as the Brotherhood of Nod, lead by their self-proclaimed messianic figure Kane. Developing technology that can safely harvest and process Tiberium, Nod uses the resources to create a rapidly growing army of followers worldwide. By 1995, Nod has a foothold in most poor nations of the world, while conducting terrorist attacks on wealthy nations.
Nod is deemed a threat to the entire world, prompting the UN Security Council to establish the Global Defense Initiative. The GDI is a multi-national military taskforce, established solely to reduce Nod’s global presence. In 1996, a full-scale war occurs between these forces, with GDI focused on stabilizing Europe, and Nod focused on operations in Africa.
World War II Reimagined
Red Alert serves as a prequel to this conflict. Set in the 1940s, we witness Albert Einstein using a time-traveling device to go back in time. What for? To erase Adolf Hitler from history, of course.
With Hitler out of the way, World War 2 unfortunately still happens. However this time, it’s the allied forces against the USSR. As you progress through the campaign, it becomes increasingly obvious that the USSR is preparing for the future. And in one of the biggest twists in gaming history, we learn that the Brotherhood of NOD was behind the entire thing. Which is leading to the events in the rest of the entire franchise.
Both the Tiberian Dawn campaign and Red Alert campaign provide two different and distinct settings to explore. With Tiberian Dawn being set in the present day, there is a lot more modern warfare going on. And a plot that takes on more of a sci-fi feel with the spread of Tiberium all over the planet, which culminates in the toxic Earth we see in Tiberian Sun.
Red Alert on the other hand provides a more retro and honestly more grounded setting, with a lack of the alien substance we see in Tiberian Dawn. Instead of Tiberium, you’re just harvesting minerals and gold (collectively referred to as Ore). And the sci-fi elements drift more towards time travel than aliens and artificial intelligence. This gives Red Alert a very unique appeal to people who might prefer a more realistic and grounded setting to explore.
Real-Time Strategy Refined
Command & Conquer might not have been the first game in the RTS genre, but it certainly was one that refined and popularized the genre even further. You could select multiple units by holding down the mouse button and creating a box around the units you wanted to command. This gave you much easier ways to command squads, and even select all your units if you so desired.
The game also came with 2 CDs, both of which could be used to play the game. This meant if you needed a friend to play the multiplayer with, you could just borrow them one of the CDs, and they could run the game from that since both CDs shared assets and mainly just stored different cutscenes and campaign levels.
The remaster also brings some additional improvements to the table. The AI in the original game has been updated with the improvements from Red Alert. And you can now cue units to be made, rather than having to wait for each one to finish before starting the next. It makes the gameplay a lot smoother as a result since you no longer have to focus on constantly tapping the menu for making units.
Command & Conquer
The usual goal of the game is to destroy the enemy’s units and buildings. I mean, it’s in the title. Command & Conquer is literally all you do in the game. To achieve this, you need to build a base and gather resources.
Usually, a mission will start with a few troops and a Mobile Construction Vehicle (MCV). The MCV ensures your base can be placed anywhere on the map you desire since it deploys into a Construction Yard. The Construction Yard is necessary to do much of anything since without it you cannot construct buildings.
This is part of what’s called the tech tree in Command & Conquer. Basically, it’s like a pyramid, where you need a Construction Yard to make buildings, you need buildings to make units and gather resources, and you need additional buildings for stuff like viewing the map or unlocking additional units. So basically, your entire base centers around the Construction Yard.
Once you have your base built, and enough resources you can start making units. These can either be troops (which you train using Barracks), or vehicles (which are made using a War Factory).
Troops are the cheapest units to produce, but can easily be run over by vehicles and are comparatively slow. Troops also take damage from walking over Tiberium, due to the toxic gases released. Vehicles are stronger and faster, but take more time and resources to make. Basically, having a good balance of the two can be crucial to success.
While the main goal is to destroy the enemy base, there is one unit that can do something better. The Engineer trooper is unique in the sense he can’t attack any enemy units. But he can take over enemy bases and even unlock enemy units for you to use yourself if you take over the right buildings. This makes the Engineer one of the most powerful units in the game, provided you can get him safely into the enemy’s base.
There are also a ton of other tactics to use. The multiplayer matches are basically limited to your own tactics. You can use the entire tech tree if you choose so. The single-player campaign is more limited, with missions often more focused on linear progression through a level. Or it limits your tech tree to a larger extent. So it’s usually better to play through the campaign to ease you into the game mechanics before going into multiplayer matches.
The gameplay remains largely unchanged in the remastered collection. Where most of the work has gone is in the visuals. Lemon Sky Studios did the work, which consisted of redrawing all of the game’s 2D assets. Given the low resolution of the games’ original versions, the artists had to basically imagine how the sprites would look in high resolution. And I would say they did a pretty good job all things considered.
The high-resolution sprites still retain the same style of the original sprites. Nothing really feels lost in the translation, and they’ve stuck really close to the original sprites. The interface also looks really good, with brushed metal and higher resolution fonts.
The FMVs are more of a mixed back. Since the original movie recordings have been lost, the only source they had available was the original compressed video that was shipped with the games. The approach they took, which in all honesty was probably the best choice they had, was to upscale the FMVs using AI.
This has resulted in cutscenes that look a bit… uncanny. Pixels seem to blend together in weird ways and you can tell the resolution is low but has been upscaled. In some cases, it looks amazing, and in others, it doesn’t really look all that good. I dunno if it’s better than just having the movies in their original resolution, but it is what it is.
The remaster comes with a lot of bonus content as well. There’s an immense amount of greenscreen takes and previously unseen footage that was found on the tapes they recovered. All of it is in the games and unlocked as you progress through the campaigns.
There’s also remixed tracks of the original soundtrack, completely re-recorded by Frank Klepacki and the Tiberian Sons. The re-recordings have more of a rock band feel to them, with a heavier emphasis on guitar and live drums over the originals.
This makes the re-recordings stand out a bit more and I wouldn’t say they are necessarily better than the original tracks, but they at least sound different and refreshing. I personally prefer the more synth-driven industrial original tracks. All the original tracks have been remastered for the collection as well.
The remasters also come with all the original official expansions and the previously exclusive console missions. Another huge plus is the support for custom mods. There’s also a brand new map maker that allows you to make custom maps for both Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert.
Multiplayer And Skirmish
Arguably one of the biggest reasons to get the remastered collection is multiplayer. The original games are possible to get running in multiplayer but given their age, it takes a lot of effort. The good thing about C&C Remastered is that it supports online multiplayer out of the box. So gathering people and playing a game or joining a random game is easier than ever.
There’s even the ability to play skirmishes in Tiberian Dawn now. These were originally introduced in Red Alert and are basically custom scenarios you can play solo or multiplayer. You choose the level of technology, how many people are playing, and how many CPU players there are.
The only downside is the fact you are all playing on a server. Which means lag can happen even if you have a good connection. It happened a lot for me, unfortunately, so I really hope custom servers will be a thing in the future.
All in all, C&C Remastered is an amazing version of two classic C&C games. Barring some issues like multiplayer lag and the AI upscaling of the videos giving some mixed results, everything else feels great.
Just the fact EA releases a game without locking everything behind paid DLC is also pretty significant. And with the ton of bonus content, remastered music, and online multiplayer, I really struggle to not recommend Command & Conquer Remastered Collection to anyone who either wants to play these games again or hasn’t and want to see where the series began.
You can get Command & Conquer Remastered Collection on Steam and Origin.