Remasters and remakes are everywhere you look these days. Opening any storefront will likely give you at least a couple of examples on just the front page. However, few go to the loving lengths we see in Command & Conquer Remastered Collection.
Command & Conquer was one of the first PC games I have a distinct memory of playing. Since I didn’t have a PC at the time, I spent many an afternoon at my friend’s house building tanks and smashing Nod bases. I also spent a lot of time fighting the controls of the PlayStation versions of the games at home, once I got those. Regardless of version, though, I still had a blast moving my little army around and blowing up everything I saw. C&C and Red Alert had such a great impact on us that we’d spend 3rd-grade recess drawing maps and units from the games while exchanging strategies. Yes, we were nerds.
Needless to say, when EA announced the remaster, I was excited. But as always with these things, you never know how well they will treat the source material. I remember all too well the horrific things inflicted upon Chrono Trigger and other titles in the name of modernization.
It is, therefore, an incredible relief to see the fantastic job they have done with this package. In addition to the games Command & Conquer and Red Alert, the collection is full of cool features such as behind the scenes footage and developer stories. The most impressive part is the loving care that EA has taken with modernizing these titles. Even the original installation sequences get their due. That alone makes me very happy to see.
For those who don’t remember, the original games’ installation sequences were somewhat legendary at the time. While other developers might be satisfied with a simple progress bar, C&C’s developers, Westwood, made it an audiovisual experience. I won’t spoil what they did here, but it’s just delightful to see it being treated so well in this collection.
Likewise, the UI and controls in the games are modernized and have received a lot of attention, which goes a long way towards making the games feel more of the time. These include things like changing which button you use to select and deselect units, production queues, and the ability to see units’ health. Purists will be pleased to know that the options are flexible, and you can play it just as it was in 1995. The same flexibility also extends to the games’ high-resolution look.
At any point while playing C&C Remastered Collection, you can press the spacebar to toggle between the glorious pixelfest from 1995 we all remember and the high-resolution assets that are in the remaster. The new graphics look decent and fit the old style pretty well. I especially like the new maps and environmental textures in the game. That said, units look a little like plastic toy soldiers with the new assets turned on. However, if you find the new look abrasive, it is easy enough to change that I don’t think it is an issue.
The collection contains both Command & Conquer and C&C: Red Alert, and they are just as fun as I remember them. You build bases, armies, and superweapons to exterminate your enemies. However, being the old grandpappy of the entire RTS genre, the games are somewhat simple. There are very few hard counters to units to take into consideration. Sure, rockets do more damage to tanks while flamethrowers don’t, but you can get away with a lot in these games compared to new RTS games. Selecting all of your units and sending them into an enemy base might not be the most elegant strategy, but you’d be surprised how far it will take you. It was a simpler time.
The simplicity of the moment to moment gameplay is easily outweighed by a genuinely fun and enjoyable campaign that holds up even after 25 years. You have the wonky tale about GDI’s struggle against Kane and his Brotherhood of Nod over the control of valuable Tiberium crystals in C&C. Or the story about how Albert Einstein created an alternate history by going back in time to kill Hitler in C&C: Red Alert. True, the missions when you have to blow up a base with five units are just as frustrating as they were back in the day, but overall I had a good old time playing through the lengthy campaigns again. Well crafted and story-driven RTS campaigns are few and far between these days and replaying this made me realize just how much I miss them.
Much of the campaigns’ charm stems from the poorly acted and incredibly corny FMV sequences that bookend most missions. Heavy accents and loads of greenscreen work make It the very best version of cheesy camp. Naturally, they have also received an overhaul and are cleaned up for this release. They may not look as nice and crisp as modern HD movies, but given what they had to work with, I think they look fantastic.
Similarly to the art and look of the game, the sound and music have received some work as well. This is particularly great as the soundtrack of the early C&C games is nothing short of fantastic. Just as with the graphics, though, you can choose to stick to the old tunes and sounds if you so desire. You can even mix and match tracks from both games and versions to create a unique playlist of hits. Again, this goes to show that the people behind this collection genuinely cared.
It’s easy to see that EA poured some love and care into Command & Conquer Remastered Collection. Many would probably have been satisfied if they made a simple port for GOG, but they went the extra mile on this one. Every single detail seems to be catering to genuine fans of these old games, and if you dislike the additions, you can simply turn them off. The relatively simple design of the games also makes them highly accessible to newcomers, and I genuinely think they could find a new audience with these versions. Adding modern multiplayer capabilities and having Steam Workshop support will also keep the titles alive and well for many years to come.
A Steam key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review
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Command & Conquer Remastered Collection shows the whole industry how to do these things. It pays homage to every aspect of the old titles while bringing them into the 21st century. A must-have for anyone remotely interested in the series.
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