Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
Developer: Petroglyph, Lemon Sky Studios
Genre: RTS, Classic
Platform: PC (EA Origin)
Audience: PEGI 16
Release Date: 05/06/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
The granddaddy of the real-time strategy genre returns with the original two games straight from the ‘90s. Armed with cheesy FMV sequences and a doggedly faithful recreation of every nook, cranny and wart, all wrapped up nicely with a textural coat of military-grade paint (up to 4K resolution), classic Command & Conquer is back.
If you’ve played the game before, you’d be forgiven for skipping the next few paragraphs, but let us first open the doors to one and all.
C&C’s gameplay beats are all present and correct with players tasked with undertaking specific missions, initially riffing with Gulf War events, in which your side must either eradicate the opposition, take down a select target, steal and adapt enemy technology or perhaps stealthily infiltrate and occupy a particular site amongst other objectives.
To achieve these goals, you’ll need to create bases, often from scratch, by mining nutrient sucking mega—crystals; the vast but unstable energy resource known as Tiberium. Once you’ve ensured a steady supply of power and nabbed yourself the essentials, the range of buildings available gradually expands until you’re churning out land, sea and air units for all situations.
While balancing base construction, you’ll need to ward off oncoming attacks by dedicating units to defence, building barricades, or erecting monstrous lines of turrets, tesla coils (yes, weaponised electricity strikes) and flame towers to send any would-be plunderer packing. As is the way of warfare, offensive strikes are equally important.
While not as tactically deep as the systems that would eventually supersede these foundations, there’s a rudimentary joy in playing around with C&C’s (and superior sequel C&C: Red Alert’s) more simplistic mechanics. Adopting tactics such as expanding your base to distant territory through the occupation of remote buildings and building separate cells for different needs is always clean, simple, quick and satisfying.
Amassing missile units to take out the heavy defences then sending in a pack of dogs or flamethrower units to clean up the infantry is as one-note as it sounds in practice. Yet, it’s that lack of great foresight or engagement rules study that allows anyone to capture that all-important feeling of power easily.
With that comes myriad ways of cheesing the enemy AI though, making for too easy a ride for those that choose it. But that’s old hat. The burning question remains: what’s changed?
Right from the off, the introductory screens simulate an installation of an upgrade by the EVA system, it’s cheesy and irresistibly old school in presentation but with modern clarity and sheen. All those old FMV sequences have undergone work and, while they remain fuzzy, full of blur and artefacts, they’re leaps and bounds ahead of their olds counterparts when it comes to the live-action pieces. The classic video pieces slot neatly into their reimagined casing. And yes, we’re all delighted to see a bit of the treacherous Seth and measured lunatic icon Kane back in action. The CGI elements of the FMV haven’t aged as well, but they’re charming in their own way.
Once your eyes have adjusted to the new hi-res feel, the ears get the equivalent. Within minutes of booting up, the classic rock guitar soundtrack kicks in and man, what a treat. So impressive is the soundtrack in fact that Westwood Studios decided to include a Jukebox option and the ability to create custom playlists. This reworked soundtrack hits the nostalgia notes with pitch-perfect accuracy. Anyone remember ‘great shot! Return to base immediately’? If not, you soon will.
The sheer amount of work that has gone into the level of detail in preserving the original experience is breath-taking, not least in the quality of the refreshed artwork.
Detailed sprite work was already present, but with a lot of detail hidden behind pixel-count limitations of the era. The pixel-based artistry then is both fully preserved and enhanced, keeping the original style in place while providing a clean look, allowing some of the previously overlooked detail to cut through.
When it comes to the more pound-for-pound remasters, the visuals are often the first thing that springs to mind and, yes, while the crisp new look, headed by Malaysian studio Lemon Sky Studios, is undoubtedly one of the big talking points, the face-lift isn’t the only conquest worth celebrating.
Evolution is the new revolution. Those familiar with the franchise will remember the accessible nature of Westwood’s original work. Charting unfamiliar territory, while the real-time strategy genre was in its infancy, C&C dragged many budding armchair generals into an easy to navigate world of warfare. At the time, almost every mechanic was revolutionary, every system a toy box to be rearranged as desired. Even when the nostalgia is removed, a discerning modern-day lens will view Command & Conquer as the blueprint for what was to come.
I originally played these gems with a controller and a good old GreyStation, so forgive me if I’m a tad over-enthusiastic about the control scheme, but C&C Remastered comes armed with a host of modern RTS control scheme staples. Simple touches make a world of difference.
Players are gifted with health bars that only appear when damage has been taken; easier selection of like units; shortcuts to groups without being cumbersome or picky about what you want; the ability to use the Shift key to do exactly what you expect the Shift key to do. The treats don’t stop. And hold the phone; you can queue units! Well alright, this function is limited to units and not buildings. Still, the removal of the aged system of having to wait for each foot soldier to finish training before you can get your engineers on the payroll is a massive boon.
Having the building tab down the right-hand side of the screen without butchering your available screen space is another godsend. Again, small fry stuff by modern RTS standards, but I cannot overstate the value of these simple features being implemented here.
Many of the old gameplay quirks are retained of course, and while no one could profess to have achieved parity with modern RTS AI here, but there are definitely fewer occasions of units getting stuck behind rocks or random units going rogue, for example. It still happens, mind, just not as often.
What’s more, with a single tap of the space bar, the graphical presentation can be toggled between old and new. Pragmatically this is a feature unlikely to be used much, but for any of the old guard lacking a vivid enough memory to remember how the game used to look or those wanting a shot of retro bliss.
C&C Remastered is an all-encompassing blast from the past. Here’s the rub though: there are only two types of people I can wholeheartedly recommend C&C to. The first is anyone who played or even had a passing interest in the first two games, and the second is anyone seeking a slice of gaming history who doesn’t mind the lack of complexity. Modern RTS gamers will only find the odd contemporary convenience but the overall experience of is that of its era.
For gameplay, take the title of the game as literally as you like. Fundamentally, you’ll command and conquer. The rest is a package of video game history, curiosity and the result of what happens when you let pure passion dictate a Remaster.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Command & Conquer Remastered Collection from EA Origin or Steam: