I didn’t have a PC growing up, so I was a frequent visitor to my friend Ryan’s house. He and I would spend hours in front of his Pentium II, playing games. It wasn’t my PC of course, so I ended up playing what games he had. While that worked in my favour in many ways, especially in the case of Star Trek The Next Generation: A Final Unity, the arrangement also meant I was trying out things I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s precisely how I was introduced to Command & Conquer and, really, to real-time strategy (RTS) games themselves.
Booting up the Remastered Collection, which bundles Command & Conquer Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert alongside their three expansion packs, you’re instantly reminded that gaming back in the 90s was a different beast together. In these new versions, community-made introductions faux-upgrade each title by first enhancing its graphics to “4K resolution” (even if you’re running with a 1440p monitor) and then swapping over Sound Blaster Pro audio for high-definition systems instead. It’s cute, though unnecessary, and serves to drive home the point that this collection isn’t designed to capture the interest of new players but rather act as a love letter to the franchise’s existing fanbase.
Remasters can go a couple ways in this day and age, but let’s simplify things and group them into two main categories: a Halo 2 Anniversary success or Warcraft 3 failure. Depending on how you look at it, Command & Conquer Remastered could fit into either category depending upon your past exposure to the franchise. On the Halo side, all in-game assets have been HD-ified, adding detail, light and shadow to the original title. Just like in Halo and Halo 2 Anniversary, you’re able to swap between original and remastered graphics at the touch of a button whilst in solo play, though certain items like in-game menus and UI have been completely revamped to align with modern stylings.
In a divergence from the Halo remaster treatment, C&C‘s original cutscenes remain intact, though upscaled to 4K and bolstered by remastered (or re-recorded when needed) sound. I have a feeling some gamers may complain about this decision, as the cutscenes are admittedly pretty rough. I don’t fit into that group for the most part, as the FMV stylings and early 3D modelling — alongside a fantastic hard rock soundtrack — absolutely scream Command & Conquer and help elevate its hokiness whilst at the same time keeping it true to form.
If Remastered was to completely redo its cutscenes in a style like Halo 2 Anniversary, we’d be able to modernise certain elements — Red Alert’s Tanya could get some actual body armour instead of a tank top that shows off her abs, as an example — but I think overall, that’s where the game would delve into Warcraft 3 territory, tweaking too much with distasterous results. Then again, if the space bar can swap between in-game assets, maybe Petroglyph and Lemon Sky Studios could have let us swap between old and new cutscenes too. I guess what I’ve concluded here is that all remasters should be like Halo 2 Anniversary.
All that pontification aside, Command & Conquer Remastered is a successful love letter. My cutscene gripe is at least partially sorted with a bonus gallery that unlocks content as you play, including comparisons like the one I’ve taken a screenshot of above. It also provides access to behind-the-scenes videos from the games’ original production alongside unreleased tracks from the franchise’s soundtrack. You’re able to pick and choose between old and new music, making custom playlists to accompany you as you play. New levels added to the games’ console ports have also been added to this PC release, with the ability to instantly unlock and play them all.
While Petroglyph has advised its removed bugs as identified by the C&C community, both titles are still using “a large portion” of their original source code in an effort to make them play just like they would have at their original releases. I didn’t try to dig up the original games, but Red Alert in particular is just as I remember it. I found the left-click driven commands a little hard to get used to, but that’s been taken care of by hotkey customisation and the ability to switch between legacy and modern controls. The only thing I couldn’t quite get feeling right was mouse sensitivity; when moving around the map, things tended to feel chunky and erratic or conversely moved at lightning speed.
Command and Conquer Remastered Collection offers hours of entertainment — I didn’t even get to multiplayer in this review process — for a very reasonable price ($29.95 AUD, by the way). For oldies like me, this is a brilliant hit of nostalgia that doesn’t ruin my original, warm feelings about the games it brings to today. For younger fans of the RTS genre who haven’t delved this far back in time, now’s your chance — just be prepared for some (good) bad CGI and FMV.
Command & Conquer Remastered Collection was reviewed using a promotional code on Windows PC via Steam, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.