So do the two games in the collection, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn & Red Alert still hold up? After 25 years? Let’s find out!…
In these initial two entries of the series, the cutscenes favour a minimalist approach in their design, tying in well with the overarching atmosphere and tone. I honestly prefer this direction, as it seems a lot more realistic. The portrayal of Joseph Stalin from Red Alert in particular, truly captures the essence of his behaviour, in that crazy, controlling, megalomaniacal manner the Soviet Premier was infamous for, channelling all his subtlety and dynamics. You have to admire that exaggerated-style acting! I don’t even KNOW what to call it exactly but it feels very intentional, and watching them back-to-back is highly, highly binge-worthy! Compare and contrast this to later down the line, when the Command & Conquer IP became a little too anime for my liking.
The recurring motif in this franchise is the initial option to command one of two opposing forces. Usually either the Global Defence Initiative (GDI), a counter-terrorism organisation set-up by the G7 Nations, or The Brotherhood of Nod. They are a mysterious and enigmatic secret society-esque group, lead by their charismatic overlord, Kane, who seeks to harness the power of the alien substance, Tiberium. Seeking control over said substance and unlocking its potential is one of the critical components and linking thematic elements of the series.
Playing as the GDI or Allies is rather straightforward, they’re basically the “good guys” of Command & Conquer that strive for peace, prosperity and not too much else in terms of thematic elements. Whereas the proverbial load of political intrigue, betrayal and secrecy comes from The Brotherhood or Soviet Union in Red Alert, containing some of the most hilarious cutscenes too. I love how Seth gets more and more sassy, as you begin to rack up victories. Or when Stalin says “You waste our time with magic shows?!”… So good!
Gameplay-wise, Command & Conquer essentially involves gathering resources to build up a strong platoon, then eliminating all the enemies on the field and/or capturing and destroying their fixed structures in all-out warfare. To help break up this formula, GDI Mission 6 in Tiberian Dawn has you controlling a lone operative that has to sabotage a Nod base. The game keeps that RTS perspective but flips to more of an espionage vibe. You’ll be super concentrated on whether your solo unit’s in harm’s way, whilst figuring out the best tactics to advance, but also trying to keep him at a distance to stealthily take out enemies from long-range. It’s a bit of a juggling act, though still awesome stuff regardless!
If you’re familiar with the RTS genre, guiding your troops into battle will feel like a nice, hot cup of coffee; you can band units together, spread out in a perimeter to minimise group casualties, quickly toggle back to your last selection, build bases for reinforcements, have hotkeys which shortcut to specific units, and a host of other timeless, RTS functions. It does hold up surprisingly well, even a quarter of a century later!
Each faction has a set amount of missions to complete that gradually slope upwards in difficulty, the more you advance the story, offering players a solid challenge overall. Except for one mission in Tiberian Dawn, where you just place all your gunners in an armoured vehicle and literally make a bee-line towards the end-goal, like a boss! Yeaah-yah!
Similar to other RTS games; making sure you’re aware of your surroundings is crucial – you can easily get wiped out if you become too complacent… It probably isn’t as hard I’m making it sound, because I honestly am a lot better with turn-based strategy games, like Fire Emblem. I’ll get easily distracted with all the stimulus on screen like “Ouuu! What’s that over there? What’s that guy doing? Why is one of my soldiers invincible?” I still find it hyper engaging and super fun, that being said! I must forewarn, you’ll start to hear ‘Unit Lost’… ‘Unit Lost’ every two seconds, and it does get a little demoralising!
Now, what’s Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection bringing to the table, you ask?
All the expansion packs from the first two games are being integrated, including: ‘The Covert Operations’ for Tiberian Dawn, along with ‘Counterstrike’ and ‘The Aftermath’ for Red Alert. The original console-exclusive missions are being added in too.Graphics and cinematics have been up-scaled to 4K and each in-game model has been reconstructed for extra clarity and sharpness. You can camera zoom in and out to get a better view of the action, and even switch between the original and remastered graphics, on the fly! There’s bonus ‘making of’ photos and four hours of behind-the-scenes footage, showcasing the filming productions and the actor’s performing their iconic lines. The side-bar visuals have had a reworked, ergonomic overhaul too, and missions, hot-keys and controls have been updated for a more contemporary look and feel.
Speaking of contemporary; the multiplayer is now updated for modern RTS standards. You’re now able to join and host games with a variety of customisation options and there’s also a 1v1 Quickmatch feature that has an Elo match-making algorithm. This algorithm focuses on certain maps and set game rules to cut down on luck and volatility, tracking your results with an in-game leaderboard. Jumping into the lobby, you can online chat with other players for agreeable setups like choosing your team structure, field maps and game rules selections. Players can now watch replays from custom and quickmatch games and spectate on live battles through the Observer mode – a much welcome inclusion for Esports and match analysis.
A map editor and full mod support will surely get the community’s creative juices flowing, with open-source DLLs to assist players in designing maps, creating custom units, replacing art assets and editing data.
The voice of the E.V.A, Kia Huntziger, is reprising her battle interface role and the soundtracks have had an overhaul too; original composer, Frank Klepacki, has remastered over seven hours of music, including hidden and unreleased pieces from the two games. An additional twenty tunes will be included from Frank’s collaboration with video game music remixers, The Tiberian Suns, due to the overwhelmingly positive reception of their concert, at MAGfest 2019. The group re-recorded their concert set-list in the studio with Frank, which encompasses several fan-favourite tracks from across the series. The best part is, all of these arrangements can be individually play-listed and embedded into the game, through the Jukebox Music Player.
Review by Anthony Culinas