Command and Conquer Remastered Review
Command and Conquer, the king of real time strategy is back! EA have remastered the first two games to bring them to the modern audience and have done the full rounds of remastering EVERY aspect of this game. Command and Conquer Remastered delivers us two remastered games: Command and Conquer and Command and Conquer Red Alert. Both of these entries hold massive significance to fans as they were originally created by the revered development team Westwood, who later were closed and merged into EA Los Angeles, who went on to introduce the less popular Command and Conquer sequels Tiberium Wars, Red Alert 3 and Command and Conquer 4. With these entries being weaker than original Westwood games, fans were left with a bitter taste towards the EA merger and Command and Conquer has been on a slippery slope since. Read our review below to find out how the remaster stacks up against modern RTS titles and compared to the latest entries of this franchise.
Westwood games created what is believed to be the first defining RTS game, which was Dune 2. After the success of this, they ambitiously wanted to create a modern wartime RTS, which eventually went on to become Command and Conquer, and Red Alert following shortly after. With these titles Westwood took everything that made Dune 2 a success and grew on it to improve the formula to create the RTS mechanics which we use in most modern RTS games today. Its safe to say that Westwood are viewed as one of the grandfather creators when it comes to the RTS genre.
On its surface, the two Command and Conquer games are simple. You start with a central base unit, and are required to build a base up, which as it grows, more building options become available. To build a base you need to harvest a single currency, called Tiberium. With each building comes a new perk, such as a new tank unit, air unit, soldier unit etc. This concept is something that is embedded into most RTS games of today, but what makes it really stand out for Command and Conquer is its simplicity. As you build one building, another 2 become available. It makes the order in which you grow your base a lot more obvious to the player. This is one of the key things that I like Command and Conquer as it brings the focus to simply building your army, opposed to the complex mechanic that modern RTS games follow today, such as moving units to do specific task to be able to grow your base, or harvesting several different type of currency to be able to build a single specific thing. The choice to keep a streamlined and simple base building process for Command and Conquer keeps the games moving fast and it always feels like you are always making progress.
Units follow a very simple Rock, Paper, Scissors format when it comes to strengths and weaknesses in battle. Units can be strong against the following categories: Buildings, Soldier Units, Tanks and Aircraft. Most units have a single strength that they are most effective against, but on the more advanced/expensive units they can sometimes have 2 strengths. Having this feature is the key part of the game that brings in the “Strategy”. This is a simple feature is something that you need to learn and master to get better. But it is something that’s easy to pick up whilst in game and negates the need to go an watch 100 videos on YouTube to learn, which is something I prefer in my games.
I think the biggest weakness in the remastered Command and Conquer games (this only really counts for Command and Conquer, and not Red Alert), is that Tiberium feels like it drains too quickly, especially when playing on a faster game setting. Me and a few friends played the old school spoken rule of, you cannot begin to attack each-other until 6 Minutes had elapsed, allowing us to grow our forces as fast as possible. When having the game on the “fast” game setting, the Tiberium was draining so quickly that our harvesters would aimlessly stroll straight into enemy bases, only to be destroyed. You can activate a setting to re-grow back Tiberium, but the rate of regrowth is far too slow, ultimately slowing down the combat during later periods of the game.
The game does suffer from some early release bugs and is lacking some key features, which can become at best an annoyance. Although, these are so predominant in fans feedback, that I imagine EA will patch these shortly. These were things such as audio dropping out, not being able to set passwords on online games to ensure only your friends join, poor cross online support across origin and steam and a few connection issues when connecting to other players online. None of which are game breaking, but they certainly stack up to frustrate you as and when they happen.
On remasters of old games, I always feel like the best way to show case graphics is to allow someone to seamlessly compare the two versions together. Command and Conquer Remastered does not miss the mark here. When playing offline, a simple click of the “Spacebar” and your game will transcend back into the original Pixelated graphics from the core games. Its amazing to see how much work has been put into these visuals. When EA first showcased the graphical re-haul of these games, I was critical towards the design choice. But now I have had the chance to play the game, I completely agree with the art direction and understand it. The game manages to feel so new but fills you with nostalgia and plays like a game that from the mid 90’s. Something that most remasters completely miss, by overhauling the game too much, or too little.
EA chooses to take something pixeled and turn it into a flat modern style sprite that shares the same features and animations as the pixelized versions, ultimately making them instantly recognisable. The art design and graphical choices for this remaster are so impressive that, if you are a veteran to this series, when you are in a game in the newly remastered view, you can instantly identify every unit, every building, and every texture exactly as you did when you first played this game back in 1995, re-enforcing EAs choice to not change the design, just enhance it. The enhanced visuals ensure that units pop out when compared to their surrounding environment, which makes attacking and managing each specific unit easy to do, as they do not get lost due to blending in with the environment. In the 3D entries, because of the dull dark tones, sometimes units can end up blending into the environment which would be extremely frustrating when trying to find a specific unit.
The only call out is that during online matches you are fixed into the new graphics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been nice to even just have the option to use old graphics or new, even if it was forced to all players in the match as a setting. I do hope that we see these 2D animated graphics in the future entries, opposed to 3D as they make for a much better experience and lends itself well to the RTS genre. Additionally, EA have not re-completed the CGI cutscenes, leaving them in the graphics style of when they first released in 1995. This feels like a poor choice as it would have been nice to see Tiberium being harvest in full modernised graphics during a cutscene. But its only a tiny flaw and as a challenge to this critique, by having the old cutscenes, it keeps the game feeling nostalgic, retro and charming.
Command and Conquer comfortably embraces its old “B-Movie” style live action clips. In these, we get most of the story given to you in ways of a briefing. Something will happen, a person will sit/stand in front of you and tell you what you need to do next, addressing you as “The Commander”. These are delivered in an extremely simple medium, usually with poor green screening, but ultimately, they do the trick. Sometimes you might cringe at how bad the acting is, but that’s a part of the charm. All the cutscenes in the game are the exact same with HD visual enhancements to move them onto the modern HD screens we use today, although this makes them very choppy and quite hard to actually focus on at times.
As for the story itself Red Alert has a stronger story than that of the original Command and Conquer. This is because Command and Conquers opts for a bunch of normal briefings about world domination, whereas Red Alert usually has something going and has a more linear story line with an end purpose/result. Although neither game has any significant story that requires any deep understanding and the focus is purely on the gameplay.
Command and Conquer has easily one of the most memorable soundtracks. Its mix of warfare drumming and synthesized sounds make for an incredible time with the game. Like the originals, the audio in this game is perfect. If I had to score the game on Audio alone it would easily be 10/10. In the game you get the option to use the original soundtrack, a remastered soundtrack, and a bonus soundtrack. All 3 are incredible. The original is the exact same as we remember it, the Remastered Soundtrack is the same songs, but using modernised technology to enhance the layers of sound and really bring a new depth to the original score and the bonus track add more standardised modern gaming music with a heavy use of electronic mixed sounds.
Everything in this game has its own unique sound, which you will hear so often, that will end up repeating quotes from the game for the duration of your life. As and example of this, when you try to click on a building whilst another building in progress the female voice over will calmly suggest “Cannot begin building, Building in Progress” or if you build one of the iconic commando units, “Tanya” the second she finished production you’ll get a loud “Shake it Baby” and as you click around to move her unit she’ll say quippy things like “I’m there” or sound out a long evil laugh. Any fan of Command and Conquer as they read this will know exactly what I mean, and will hear the exact sound I am talking about in their head.
Command and Conquer has always had a huge modding community, ranging from custom missions, to custom maps, to retextures and new units. It has always been a huge part of the Command and Conquer universe and this game is no different. Except it is properly supported for this. This time, EA has released the source code to modders so that they are able to release these mods directly into the game. When you are choosing a map, you have a special area where you can go into called “User Made Maps” to download a modded map directly from within the game. Additionally, There are options to download game changing mods, mission and campaigns. Its incredible the level of support EA have opened up to this game and it makes it re-playability potential, endless!
All in all, this revisit to the origins of Command and Conquer is exactly what was needed to re-invigorate the RTS genre. The amazingly positive reception to this game is proof to that statement. The game has been handled with a lot of care and grace. The developers have understood exactly what the fans want with this entry and have delivered exactly that. There might be a few short comings such as day one glitches, but these feel like they aren’t something that will be permanent. The game runs smoothly even on a lot of non-gaming dedicated hardware, it looks incredible, sounds good and has some amazing new touches. It is definitely a must buy for anyone new and old to the Command and Conquer series.
Be sure to watch the first 13 Minutes of Game play below: