Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection Review

Screenshot of a NOD base under attack by GDI Orcas in Command & Conquer: Remastered
Gotta love GDI's Orcas

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Petroglyph Games, Lemon Sky Studios, Westwood Studios
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Release Date: 5 Jun 2020
  • Time played: 18 hours (INCOMPLETE)

What is it

Back in 1985, a company called "Westwood Associates" was formed in Las Vegas, Nevada, to focus on the development of PC games. It was named after the Los Angeles suburb of Westwood and they had "associates" in the name so that the company name could be credible as both a game development studio and a business software studio (Brett Sperry and Louis Castle, the founders of the company, weren't certain if the games development gig would bear any fruit, so they had a backup plan).

Westwood Associates would eventually become the renowned Westwood Studios but they first started out developing ports of PC games usually of existing franchises such as "Dungeons & Dragons", "Battletech" and "Dune".

In 1992, Virgin Interactive (Westwood Studios's publisher) would release Dune II, which despite sounding like a sequel to Cryo's adventure game Dune (which was released earlier that same year), has absolutely no relation to it in terms of plot or gameplay. Dune II was a pioneer of what would become the Real-Time Strategy (RTS) genre and paved the way for the golden age of RTSs during the 1990s with games like Warcraft, Starcraft, Age of Empires, Total Annihilation and, of course, Command & Conquer (as well as Red Alert) being released during this era.

Shortly after the development of Dune II, Westwood Studios started development of Command & Conquer. Originally, the game was to have a high fantasy setting but they eventually decided on a modern warfare setting since fantasy and sci-fi settings had been done to death. Westwood Studios was also inspired by the Gulf War and the rise of terrorism which resulted in Command & Conquer being an RTS that pits the UN-backed Global Defense Initiative (GDI) against a global terrorist organisation known as the Brotherhood of Nod. Set in 1995 but in an alternate reality, these two factions fight over a fictional extra-terrestrial resource called Tiberium (which to me, seems like an easy way to re-use the harvesting mechanic from Dune II, but hey, it works).

The game was a critical and commercial success, receiving awards as well as selling more than 3 million copies.

Multiple sequels were released including 1999's Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, 2007's Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and 2010's Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight. In contrast with the first three games in the main series, the last game received a lukewarm reception and seemed to signal the death knell of the series as there hasn't been another Command & Conquer RTS since (unless you include the browser-based Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances or mobile only Command & Conquer: Rivals).

2020 marks the 25th Anniversary of the original Command & Conquer's release and in June the Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection became available on Origin and Steam. This collection doesn't only include a remastered version of the original Command & Conquer but a remastered version of Command & Conquer: Red Alert and all the expansions for these two games as well. Both Command & Conquer and Command & Conquer: Red Alert have been revamped with higher resolution 4K visuals but you can always switch back and forth between the updated graphics and the original pixelated graphics in real-time. The games also have rebuilt multiplayer clients, enhanced user interfaces (including the ability to use a modern RTS controls scheme), bonus galleries featuring unused footage, mod support, map editors and, last but not least, a redone soundtrack by Frank Klepacki and the Tiberian Sons featuring live music as well as remasters of the original tracks.

The game has only been out for a couple of months but has already garnered critical acclaim with a Metascore of 83 and a "Very Positive" rating on Steam based on 12,567 user reviews.

How I got it

Command & Conquer and Red Alert are up there amongst my favourite games of all time, so when I first heard that remastered versions of both games were in development, I pre-ordered a copy of the collection as soon as it became available on Origin. I didn't buy the collection on Steam since I wasn't sure if the Steam version would run through Origin anyway so to avoid a digital distribution platform Inception scenario, I decided to go straight to the source.

Screenshot of Kane from Command & Conquer: Remastered
Cheesy FMVs ftw. Here we have Joseph Kucan as the enigmatic Kane.

What I like:

Cheesy FMVs

Okay, some people will cringe at the hammy acting in some of these FMVs, but that just makes them more endearing right? They just don't make these like they used to.

Funky covers

I love a good game soundtrack and although Frank Klepacki's Command & Conquer and Red Alert soundtracks are among my favourites, he and The Tiberian Sons have really outdone themselves in performing covers with live instruments that sound even better than the originals. In fact, the awesomeness that is "Workmen" could single-handedly revive the funk metal movement.

Two games remastered

There's a lot of content you can play here: Both the GDI and NOD campaigns in the original Command & Conquer, all the missions from The Covert Operations expansion, all the Command & Conquer console missions, both the Allied and Soviet campaigns in the original Red Alert as well as all the missions in the two expansion packs Counterstrike and The Aftermath. In total there are well over 100 missions to sink your teeth into and they've all been remastered with updated visuals, FMV sequences, audio, interface and controls.

Considering the GDI campaign for Command & Conquer took me 12 hours to complete, there's probably at least 40 hours of content here and that's not even talking about the expansion packs.

Behind the scenes footage

Each time you complete a mission you can unlock behind-the-scenes footage that usually shows you how they went about creating the FMVs using the green screen technology of the day.

Nostalgic installation screens

Back in the day, Westwood Studios were the masters when it came to creating installation screens that were actually entertaining. Yes, they actually played videos while you were playing around with sound card settings and choosing where to install your game. It definitely was a different time. Thankfully, Petroglyph Games managed to incorporate a couple of very clever modern takes on both the Command & Conquer and Red Alert installation screens developed by community member Luke "CCHyper" Feenan which just amplifies the nostalgia to the next level. You'll just have to watch them to see what I mean.

Screenshot of NOD taking over a GDI base
Sometimes the AI acts very stupidly, like in this screenshot where they still haven't realised I've taken over their base

What I dislike:

Mixed bag with visuals

While I definitely think the visuals look better for the in-game graphics, it becomes a mixed bag with respect to the FMV cinematics. Apparently an upscaling AI was used to improve the low resolution FMVs and while it mostly succeeds when there are people in the video, it sometimes makes the cinematics look worse if only CGI is involved.

Nonsensical cinematics

Sometimes the cinematics, especially the ones that play at the end of missions, have nothing to do with what happened during the missions (e.g. a cinematic showing paratroopers when paratroopers weren't even used during the mission).

Same flaws as the original

Although there were some minor changes and fixes to the original game engines, pathfinding AI is still as terrible as I remember it to be, with units often sacrificing themselves to enemy defences as they try to find a shortcut or simply refusing to move at all. The old user interface is also cumbersome by modern RTS standards (although at least you have the option of using a revised one) and the AI is sometimes pig-headed or dumb to the point you can exploit it to your advantage (e.g. capturing bases from under the AI's nose or trapping enemy units with sandbags).

Score – 8/10 (Welcome back, Commander)

The Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection is a true love letter to the original Command & Conquer and Red Alert, one that fans can truly appreciate. While the AI and gameplay may seem primitive by today's standards, Petroglyph Games and Lemon Sky Studios have done their best in making the game palatable for newcomers and a trip down nostalgia lane for the veterans thanks to improved visuals, loads of content, UI improvements and a rockin' soundtrack courtesy of Frank Klepacki and The Tiberian Sons.

Is the game worth $29.95 AUD?: Yes. As mentioned before, there's over 40 hours of gaming nostalgia to enjoy here and whether you're a fan of Command & Conquer or a newcomer who is curious about classic RTS games back in the mid-90s, you'll find something to enjoy in this collection.

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[ LINK: Command & Conquer Remastered Official Website ]