Game name: Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
Release date: June 5, 2020
Available on: Steam
Genre: Real-time strategy
Developer: Petroglyph Games/Lemon Sky Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Few names invoke a sharper pain in my mind than Command & Conquer, as Westwood‘s classic series was murdered in cold blood back in 2010. I’ve never been a great RTS player, but the simplicity of C&C made me lose sleep hundreds (if not thousands) of times, and I was always rewarded with some of my best gaming memories. With that in mind, when Electronic Arts revealed that they were working on a Tiberian Dawn+Red Alert remastered collection, I was weary of their intentions, since the publisher was the one responsible for dragging such a magnificent franchise through the mud. When they stated that Petroglyph (Westwood‘s successor studio) would be handling the remasters, my heart skipped a beat, as now I was starting to believe that I might be able to relive the good old times before a multiplayer spin-off was sold as a fully featured finale for the Tiberium saga. Could it be? Is EA finally throwing us a bone and asking for a new chance to right their myriad of wrongs when it comes to C&C?
Fast forward to June 5, 2020 and we have our answer. Yes, this is a remastered collection that is worthy of the name of Command & Conquer, and Petroglyph can feel VERY proud of their work. Of course, since the point of my reviews is to give as much information to the the reader as possible, I’ll elaborate on this over the following paragraphs, but if you loved Westwood‘s C&C games, then you won’t be disappointed with this re-release.
For anyone who wasn’t into Command and Conquer back when Westwood started the franchise in the 90s, it’s relatively simple real-time strategy fare (since C&C pretty much wrote the book on RTS titles, along with Dune 2). Players act as commanders who see the action from a top-down perspective, and can order their units around with simple clicks (the remaster adds the option to use right click to command and left click to select, while the original games used left click for both actions). Most missions will also let us build a base, which starts from a Construction Yard (which might appear as a vehicle that can be “unpacked” in order to turn it into a building, but once we’ve done that, we can’t revert back to vehicle form). Buildings require Power to function (which we’ll get from Power Plants), and in order to build more stuff or recruit more units we’ll need resources, which we’ll get from the Refinery building and its associated vehicle (Ore Trucks in Red Alert, Tiberium Harvesters in Tiberian Dawn).
Certain units are better than others at dealing with specific targets (for instance, grenadiers will be a lot more effective against building than normal soldiers, rocket launcher units can engage flying threats, and are a lot better at dispatching enemy armor than a flamethrower soldier, etc.). Big vehicles can also run over enemy infantry (pro tip, the harvester/ore truck can definitely defend itself that way), and certain map features can be used as weapons, or to cut off routes so you can concentrate your defenses on less fronts. Not all missions start you off with a Construction Yard, so be ready for some surprises (mostly fun, sometimes a bit tiresome, depending on how long you take to complete map objectives). There are a few remnants of the past in certain missions that can be made impossible to complete but don’t trigger a game over screen, so I’d recommend frequent saving (another tip, this mostly happens in “gimmicky” missions, so normal missions are pretty much issue-free).
Between missions, players can often choose a territory to attack, and will be briefed (or debriefed) by their faction leaders or their second in command. This means that we’ll be transported to the age of full motion video cutscenes, with real human actors who chew the scenery like gods (and some badly aged CGI, but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment provided by the video scenes). As expected, the highlight of the whole experience is Joseph Kucan (as the leader of the Brotherhood of Nod, Kane). If you are a veteran of the series, then I can guarantee that you won’t be able to contain the “Kane LIVES!” scream the first time you see him on screen.
With the basics out of the way, it’s time to talk about the numerous enhancements present in this Remastered Collection. The original games came out almost 25 years ago, so all the art assets are hard to look at in a modern monitor. Petroglyph‘s solution was to recreate everything, while at the same time keeping the spirit of the original art in mind at all times. Even better, they kept the original art in the game, so if you are playing single-player, you just need to press spacebar to switch between styles. Trust me when I say this, it’s a truly impressive thing to see, especially because it lets players see how true to the original the new art is. You can also zoom in or out, something that wasn’t possible in Tiberian Dawn/Red Alert, and it can be very helpful when playing on a big screen.
The same thing could not be done for the live action video part of the game, sadly, since reshooting everything would have been a costly endeavour (and probably impossible, considering that this was filmed 25 years ago). The source footage was lost to time, so the developers had to work with low resolution footage (you can hear more about this direct from the voice of the producer of this remaster, Jim Vessella). An AI upscaling solution was used to improve the quality, and they’ve achieved great results, especially for Tiberian Dawn footage. The audio was cleaned up (the always amazing Frank Klepacki worked on it), and honestly, even though it’s not a substitute for high resolution content, the end result is pretty impresive when you consider what the team had to go through in order to make it work. Completing missions unlocks the cutscenes so you can re-watch them in the Bonus Gallery (and if you are anything like me, you’ll spend a good amount of time doing so).
And since we mentioned Frank Klepacki above, it’s time to talk about the soundtrack, which is just sublime. Players can choose between the original soundtrack, a remastered edition, and tracks re-recorded by Klepacki and the Tiberian Sons band (just listen to this beauty if you’ve never heard of them). The end result is magnificent. There’s also an ingame jukebox that lets players mix and match tracks at will, but sadly EA isn’t selling the soundtrack separate on Steam as of today.
So, is this remaster just an audiovisual update with a few quality of life enhancements? Nope! There’s also a fully featured multiplayer suite that lets you find or create matches easier than ever, a map editor that will extend the game’s longevity even further (and support for Steam Workshop so you can download maps with a click). If that wasn’t enough, ALL the original content for both Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert is included (expansion packs, plus the console version’s missions). This is a package that has the potential to last for hundreds if not thousands of hours if you are a fan of the series (and if you aren’t one yet, pick the collection up anyway, you’ll thank me later).
Honestly, that’s pretty much all I can say about it. The Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is a love letter to Westwood‘s classic titles, and it’s well worth the asking price, whether you are already a fan of the franchise or not. Now let’s hope Electronic Arts continues on this path to redemption and gives Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 the same treatment.
9.5/10 – Excellent.
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