It’s 2020 and I’m writing about a) EA re-releasing Command & Conquer and b) absolutely recommending everyone buy it. What a strange timeline we live in.
Launching on Steam and Origin over the long weekend, Petroglyph and Lemon Sky Studios — the latter isn’t credited on the Steam page, but they worked on the remaster’s FX, UI, animation and concept art — Command & Conquer: The Remastered Collection has that all-too rare quality. Precisely everything EA and Petroglyph promised they’d do, the remaster delivers.
It’s the original Command & Conquer, along with Red Alert and all the expansions for both games. You can play in the original blocky sprites, or switch to crisp high-def with a tap of the space bar:
Of course, you’ll want to play in HD all the time. There’s more visibility, it’s easier to spot ahead and plan what you’re doing, and it just looks so damn good.
Command & Conquer or Red Alert plays the same as they did in the ’90s. The attack-move button is still fiddly, with units taking an age to shoot at enemies in range unless they’re directly told to. The unit pathing is still pretty rough too. Tanya will absolutely get her arse shredded by dogs if you’re not paying attention.
There’s some concessions on the control front, necessitated by all the excellent work the OpenRA team has done over the years. You can at least have right-mouse as your attack/move button and enable things like unit queuing, which is an absolute lifesaver.
None of that is going to stop the AI from cheating relentlessly on harder difficulties and skirmish mode, though, but that’s part of the charm.
As you play through, you’ll unlock extra surprises in the gallery. Some of these are just the ability to see how much work was done on remastering the original FMVs, like the opening Allies mission:
And there’s this behind the scenes shot from the filming of the original intro, where Einstein travels back in time to greet Hitler and change the course of history:
Equal treatment has been given to both games, so if you were a bigger fan of NOD’s silly bullshit than the Soviet march across Europe, you’ll be well served either way.
But you know what the best part of the remaster is? It’s the bit they didn’t tell anyone about: the intros. Naturally, the game’s gotten a graphical upgrade. But Petroglyph and Lemon Sky Studios obviously decided to have some fun, so they created an in-universe explanation for why everything looks better. It’s a homage to the original installation program for both games, and it’s a wonderful throwback.
Also, and this will probably be most people’s favourite, but the soundtrack and voiceovers have been given a touch of love too. That’s what’s truly special, since it’s those classic tracks, starting with Hell March, that really have the most nostalgic power. There’s an option in the menu screen to replay the original (or classic) versions of tracks, and you can compare them with the remastered tracks.
They’re both great, but obviously the remastered versions have a depth and presence that’s unbeatable. Having access to both the same way you can switch graphics by hitting the space bar, however, is the best.
Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection is available now on Steam for $30. Sure, you could get the whole experience by downloading OpenRA, and you’ll get access to different C&C games like Tiberian Dawn or the Dune 2000 remake. And there’s an attack-move button there too.
But if you love this stuff, you should support the remaster. It shows publishers just how worthwhile going through their back catalogue is. EA did just about everything right here: they picked the right studio, they made the game open-source before it was released, they’ve fully supported mods with Steam Workshop support, and they even went and redid some of the original FMV and VO when they couldn’t find it.
That’s what modern publishers should do. And when you remember just how much gameplay you’re getting here, $30 is solid value. Remember: these games were hard back in the day. Partially because the unit pathing and AI was garbage, but it was still a ton of fun.
Plus, if this is a big hit, other studios might start taking their remasters seriously — or looking for other opportunities. Now, who’s got the license to Dark Reign?