Real time strategy games didn’t begin with Command & Conquer, but it’s an undeniable fact of life that the genre was reborn when Westwood rocked up in 1996 with the first entry in a series that would redefine the genre not just for those people who had been carrying the tactical torch, but also for those curious gamers who wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Command & Conquer is to real-time strategy what the PlayStation was to gaming consoles at the time: An in your face push into the mainstream that rewrote the rulebook within its sphere. From that sweet summer of the tailend of the 1990s a new universe was born, one full of Tiberium minerals, rewritten history and wonderfully cheesy full-motion video that was fused with tight strategy, cunning military tactics and frugal resource management.
More than two decades later, Command & Conquer lives once again in a remastered version that doesn’t just prove that the original games are still an absolute blast to play: It raises the benchmark for what a Remaster should be. Developer Petroglyph Games, a studio comprised of many a former Westwood employee, were given the go-ahead by EA Games to bring Command & Conquer back from the dead.
No small feat for a series whose story ended a decade ago with Command & Conquer 4, a game so reviled that most fans like to imagine a timeline where the pitch for it was fired off into the sun. No easy task, the quickest route forward for a Command & Conquer revival would have been slapping a new coat of paint on the project, upping the aspect ratio and calling it a day.
Instead, Petroglyph’s approach has been to examine every single aspect of what made Command & Conquer so special, and preserve that magic with as much passion and modern technology that the studio could muster. The end result is a game that walks the finest of lines between two eras with the confident agility of Spider-Man on his best day.
On the surface, Command & Conquer Remastered does indeed look like the original games with some fancy new visuals thrown over them. They’re bloody slick upgrades, now featuring the sharpest of pixels and character models that makes it easy to distinguish a regular grunt from a flamethrower trooper easily enough when compared to 1996’s collection of blurry blocks that would attack one another.
Buildings look like factories that pump out heavy tanks, the terrain has a more colourful pop to it and seeing the battlefield rocked by miniature explosions is an absolute delight when your strategies pay off. Even better, you can switch between the original visuals and the far superior upgrades with the mere tap of the space bar, the differences instantly blending into each other as you gawk at just how far Command & Conquer has come.
These visual upgrades also extend to the overall user interface, as a wider screen in the modern era now means that players can gain access to a full menu of tactical build options, retuned battle theatres to choose your next campaign from and the return of the iconic full motion video sequences between missions.
These are a bit more hit and miss than anything else, due to the passage of time and the original footage being almost dumped in a landfill before most of it was rescued. Using sophisticated AI upscaling software, there’s only so much that could be salvaged, with some sequences looking blurry in comparison to more detailed scenes where various actors get close to the screen and thus allow for their footage to have a newer shine.
Beneath the visual surface, Command & Conquer Remastered is almost an entirely new game. The core DNA is still there, for better or for worse, but Petroglyph’s efforts to bring Command & Conquer, Red Alert and all their respective expansions back into the modern era is a labour of love. There’s a wealth of extras on offer here, from full mod support and better key bindings to smaller details in the way that the game plays. Remember loading a transport unit by unit in the old days? Well now you can select the whole gang and let them board a vehicle in one quick click of the mouse.
It’s the little extras like that, that reveals just how much finesse Petroglyph has applied to this package. Subtle changes and a bevy of modern visual options, combined with a completely retuned audio package makes for a marked improvement. On an audio level, Command & Conquer Remastered absolutely shines with its collection of immersive sound effects that makes each showdown feel that much more alive.
Then you’ve got series composer Frank Kelpacki and his band the Tiberian Sons back in the recording studio, proving that the classic tracks still slap harder than a Ric Flair chest chop, the sickest of licks punctuating each map as you send your forces into battle. If there’s any criticisms to be had, it’s that Command & Conquer Remastered stills shows some signs of age in how it plays from time to time.
Your own unit AI can be absolutely bone-headed on occasion, as sending in a squad of tanks will see only half the units rock up to a fight while the other half circles around the back of the entire map for a different route because…reasons. Likewise, some maps can absolutely crush the best strategy thanks to scarce resources, although that’s nothing that a regrowth mod from the options menu cannot fix.
And yet despite the only criticisms I have being the result of some nit-picking, Command & Conquer Remastered exists as the type of glorious relic that will see Indiana Jones crash through your window, sock you in the face and scream about the game belonging in a museum. Times hanve changed, genres have come and gone as attitudes have shifted and strategy games have experienced their own evolution in the decades since Command & Conquer introduced its own set of rules in a bygone era.
But it’s also a testament to just how brilliantly designed the original game was, that it still remains so fantastically addictive to this day. Command & Conquer Remastered has roots which can be found in every RTS game that followed in its wake, and those roots run deep. What Petroglyph has done (alongside Lemon Sky Studios), is craft a love letter to the game that defined a genre and a generation.
They have preserved both the highs and the lows of Command & Conquer, creating an incredibly authentic package geared towards fans who want to sit back and relive the glory days of a LAN party when they threw everything they had at fellow players. Those halcyon days of real-time strategy with nary a microtransaction to be seen, instead replaced by a suite of tools and extras that celebrates one of the greatest RTS franchises of all time.
Last Updated: June 9, 2020