Westwood Studios were the kings of real-time strategy games back when they were in their prime (or, hell, when they actually still existed before the big buyout by an infamous, two-lettered company). Hell, they were the ones who popularized and perfected the genre. However, any retro gaming boffin will tell you that the Command & Conquer series is easily one of the greatest of its kind. They’re not wrong, y’know. Anyway, instead of gushing over the history of the series, let’s just cut to the chase: Command & Conquer: Remastered is a bloody fantastic example of how to rerelease the classics with enough bonus contents and worthwhile edits to easily make it a must-buy title, even if aspects of it are still in need of refurbishment.
This hefty package features the first two games in the series. In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, GDI (Global Defense Initiative) is waging war against the fanatical terrorist organization known as the Brotherhood of Nod, led by the enigmatic and charismatic leader Kane. While GDI attempts to purge Kane’s troops from Europe in their campaign, Nod begins to spread their influence across Africa by force. Meanwhile, Command & Conquer: Red Alert is set in an alternate timeline where Hitler has been erased from history. Despite the great advances in technology as a result, a new threat has emerged. The Soviet Empire is attempting to take over the world by force. You can either aid Stalin in his quest for global domination, or fend off the Commies and take the fight into their own homeland as the Allies.
At its core, the collection is made up of the original versions of each title from the nineties, and that means all the bugs and gameplay issues remain intact. Chances are some of your units will struggle with pathfinding at times, and may not even react if a nearby enemy is attacking them… and that’s only to name a few issues that longtime fans had to put up with in the good ol’ days. The devs say that these weren’t patched due to balancing issues; guess we’ll just have to let the modders help give some of these units a functioning brain… and yes, it has mod support.
While these games may not be without their glaring issues, they still deliver a rewarding and challenging RTS experience. It’ll take a bit of time for newcomers to memorize how effective each unit is, not to mention some of the tricks that each faction can pull off. Still, base building is easy to get the hang of. Once you set up a base, you’ll need to build refineries to harvest resources for cash, and build power plants to keep the base defenses online. Infantry, tanks and aircraft (as well as boats in Red Alert) are your tools of the trade. A good commander effectively utilizes the troops and resources on offer in order to crush the enemy, though it’s possible to capture or infiltrate their buildings for your own benefit as well.
While some missions simply require you to build a base and destroy the opposition, both titles mix things up with a variety of different objectives. There are a handful of levels that require escorting convoys, evacuating VIPs, and collecting important items. Some of them give you a limited number of units, with no bases to build at all. Naturally, these ones are notably trickier, but you can always adjust the difficulty slider (something that the first game never had, mind you) to your liking. All the missions, add-ons and console-exclusive maps are available under one easy-to-navigate menu, so you’ll be spoiled for choice with what’s on offer, even if some of them are undoubtedly unfair in difficulty (here’s looking at you, C&C: The Covert Operations).
If you’d rather stick to making your own matches, the Skirmish mode is still a viable option. While it’s now a functional feature in Tiberian Dawn, the AI struggles to put up a good fight here. They’ll put a bit more pressure on you in Red Alert, though they seem to actively avoid building naval units and using superweapons for reasons unknown. You might want to give a crack at online multiplayer if you’re thirsting for a challenge. Don’t worry, as the online mode functions pretty damn smoothly.
By completing missions, you’ll unlock goodies in the gallery. These bits ‘n’ pieces include: behind-the-scenes photos; raw footage of cutscenes, including some of the rehearsals; high-quality rendered images; bonus songs that you can play in-game; and much more. It’s fan-service in its truest form, and it provides a fascinating insight into the history of the series. Plus, it’s a great incentive to encourage you to keep revisiting both games to fill up your treasure trove of pics and clips.
Both of these titles have been given a make-over, and they look better than ever with their pimped-up visuals and reworked artwork. Plus, the reworked SFX sounds a lot punchier than before. While some of campy FMV cutscenes look a bit blurry and ugly, even after the ‘remastered’ treatment (aspect ratios be damned), they’re still thoroughly enjoyable to watch after all these years. Plus, any screentime with Kane is always worthwhile. Even some of the clips from the console ports of both games appear alongside, which is a nice touch.
However, the true crowning achievement is the soundtrack. All tracks from the legendary series composer Frank Klepacki have been remastered. The original versions are still available to listen to, alongside a handful of bonus tracks and some delicious Metal covers by The Tiberian Sons. They even cover tunes from later C&C games, where they crank up the awesomeness-factor to 11 with their shredding guitars and a few other nifty twists that help them stand apart as more than simple, one-to-one covers. It’s hard not to jam along to some of these classic tunes, like the militaristic rhythm of ‘Hell March’, the chilling saxophone solo as heard in ‘Rain in the Night’, or the simply beautiful chorus of ‘Act on Instinct’.
Command & Conquer: Remastered is a near-perfect revival of two of the most iconic entries in RTS history. The upgraded visuals, improved soundtrack, and sheer quantity of levels on offer makes this bundle all the more worthwhile. It essentially grabs as much content as possible, and delicately packs it within a single title, making it all the more convenient and worth the cash. The fact that its occasionally-clunky AI remains untouched is a downer, so it’d be no surprise if some hardcore fans of the series are put off by this fact. Still, two classic C&C games with plenty of tricky missions and bonus treats galore is an irresistible offer. Welcome back, commander…