Title: Command & Conquer
Release year: 1995
Developed by: Westwood Studios
Genre: real-time strategy (RTS)
Platform replayed on: PC
The mid-90s was a unconfined time for real-time strategy (RTS) games. I spent many hours with titles like Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (1994), Command & Conquer (1995), and Age of Empires (1997).
And then came the sequels and spinoffs: Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995), Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1996), and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (1999).
What a time to be alive! Or at least be playing real-time strategy games.
And this genre moreover introduced me to online gaming. Of course, we didn’t undeniability it online gaming when then. I remember playing Command & Conquer against friends on dial-up modems. My first wits with the deathmatch! Though I’m not sure we tabbed it that when then either.
Looking when now, it’s quite incredible: mobile phones were still uncommon, personal internet use was in its infancy, and we didn’t use email. But play a computer game versus someone in flipside location? No problem!
Command & Conquer wasn’t the first RTS game, so what made it special? Let’s take a look.
Command & Conquer is set in the not too afar future (at the time the game was released), and sees the world fighting a war on two fronts. First, there’s the escalating military mismatch between the Global Defense Initiative (GDI), a supranational peacekeeping force, and the Brotherhood of Nod, a mysterious, pseudo-religious global terrorist cell.
But as the story progresses, it’s unveiled that the world is moreover facing a global pandemic due to the spread of a mysterious new life form: Tiberium.
Tiberium is a crystal brought to earth by a meteor (I never knew this backstory—but it’s wondrous what a little preliminaries research can bring up). In gameplay terms, both the GDI and the Brotherhood of Nod harvest these crystals and convert them into credits—the in-game currency used to purchase units and structures on the battlefield.
However, there’s a catch: Tiberium leeches from minerals and soil nutrients, and is toxic to humans.
War stuff fought over a precious resource? How very human.
Cynical observation aside, Command & Conquer is played out on battlefields in Europe, and follows a familiar real-time strategy formula: establish a base, build up your forces, and take out the enemy. There is the standard progression as well, with new units and wiring structures widow to your armory as you whop through the wayfarers missions.
Occasionally, there are missions that involve executive forces without the wiring building. For example, a sabotage mission with a commando unit. But these missions are few and far between—Command & Conquer is mostly well-nigh mobilising a wiring and units quicker and increasingly efficiently than your enemy.
And with the stage set, there’s only one question.
Whose side are you on?
For this replay, I’m going to play through one side of the single-player campaign. To set the scene, we get our first squint at the cutscenes that momentum the story in between missions. I’m not going to situate the headline here: I think these cutscenes requite Command & Conquer a unique and memorable charm. They have a campy, B-movie finger to them—and that’s not a negative.
But don’t take my word for it, let’s take a look:
It’s a formula that would protract into the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series. I recall missing this style of cutscene when playing the 2003 release of Command & Conquer: Generals, which deviated from the Command & Conquer and Command & Conquer: Red Alert storylines.
So, which side did I go with?
The GDI—it’s time to cancel Kane!
I decided to play through this wayfarers using the Command & Conquer Remastered Collection, which was released in 2020. Don’t get me wrong, I love the old-school 90s graphics and sound, but whenever there’s a remaster of an old classic, I’m unchangingly onboard to see what it offers.
And wow, the developers (Petroglyph Games and Lemon Sky Studios) did a unconfined job—the game looks fantastic. And it’s not just the graphics that have been remastered. All those unconfined heavy metal tracks have been remastered as well.
And for the OG fans, and those curious what it was like gaming in the 90s, let’s take a squint at what it used to squint like:
Whether or not you prefer the original or the remaster, it’s just unconfined that classics like Command & Conquer are misogynist and uniform with modern hardware. Prior to the release of the remastered version, the previous release had been Command & Conquer: The Ultimate Collection in 2012.
But let’s get when to that first mission! As usual for RTS games, it’s a straight-forward affair. It’s not a tutorial though—you do need to know what you’re doing in terms of the interface and the controls. A point I’ve lamented surpassing on Present Perfect Gaming is well-nigh how we used to be provided with in-depth, hard-copy instruction manuals with PC games when in the day. This was how we learned, combined with a lot of trial and error.
The first mission begins as your forces are dropped on a beachhead and left to secure the zone (reminiscent of a unrepealable landing in World War II). There’s limited wiring towers required, and this is a mission for your ground troops only.
It wasn’t long until it was “mission accomplished”.
Just when you’re well-nigh to get a rundown on Kane, you’re interrupted from the field. It’s time to throne straight when into action.
This time, there’s a Nod Tiberium refinery to take out. Not much to do except to build a barracks and quickly pump out as many infantry units as possible surpassing laying siege to the Nod base.
The next mission involved seeking out SAM (surface to air missile) sites, to indulge airstrikes to come through.
In practice, it was just flipside seek-and-destroy/destroy-the-base mission. I was starting to sense a repetitive pattern in the mission design…
In between missions though, the cutscenes were standing to deliver. The context for the mismatch was stuff filled out, with increasingly information on Kane and his motives stuff presented to you. The mysterious miracle known as Tiberium is moreover clarified.
Thankfully, the next mission was a real variation. No wiring building, just navigate your forces through Nod territory to retrieve some stolen cargo—cargo that can be used in the minutiae of nuclear weapons. The stakes have definitely been raised.
While a nice transpiration of pace, I remember these types of RTS missions from other series as well. You have limited forces, and little to no reinforcements. This ways it’s usually an exercise in trial and error, pathfinding your way wideness a map until you hit upon the right path to victory.
In this specific Command & Conquer mission, you moreover have the widow multiplicity of navigating wideness Tiberium fields, as we have come to learn that Tiberium is a poisonous substance. As such, you will need to load your troops into APCs (armoured personnel carriers), navigate the fields, and unload them so you can utilise their firepower versus the Nod forces.
Following this mission, it’s at this point where it becomes well-spoken that the war is not just stuff fought on the battlefield—it’s moreover stuff fought in living rooms on TV sets virtually the world. Yes, that’s right: the war on truth.
Kane is spreading disinformation through media channels, trying to vilify the GDI by presenting them as war criminals. The crime? Destroying civil targets thought to be manufacturing and transporting of Tiberium.
I like this. I think it adds depth to the ongoing narrative. It’s not just well-nigh the battleground tactics. The cutscenes moreover show the peripheral aspects of the conflict: the political struggle caused by this disinformation and the ensuing fight to tenancy the media cycle, as well as the reports coming out on the dangers of Tiberium.
We can’t just watch the cutscenes though—there’s increasingly work to be washed-up on the battlefield! Let’s see how the second half of the GDI wayfarers played out for me.
Because of the Nod media wayfarers discrediting the GDI, the United Nations has suspended your funding pending the outcome of a review. As such, the next mission sees you with limited forces trying to revive a wiring that had been severely damaged by a Nod attack.
You find the wiring in a sorry state, and while the setup of the mission is new, the final mission goal is a familiar one: destroy all Nod forces.
I still didn’t plane have wangle to that many units at this stage of the campaign—still mostly infantry, APCs, and some humvees.
And when I say the mission is to destroy all Nod forces, you have to destroy ALL Nod forces. Plane without destroying the enemy base, missions often end with search parties going out to track lanugo that one Nod unit in some obscure part of the map.
The next mission involves taking tenancy of a single unit: the Commando. He’s lethal taking out infantry at long range, but can hands get swarmed if you don’t alimony him yonder from larger forces. The mission goal is to get him inside a Nod wiring for some good old-fashioned sabotage.
What really makes this unit stand out though is the voice, who without eliminating enemy infantry will utter archetype lines such as “Keep ‘em coming!”, “That was left handed!”, and “Real tough guy!”. Although if I’m honest, they did get old without hearing them a few too many times.
Unfortunately for the mission itself, it really is just a variation of the type of RTS mission I described whilom which doesn’t involve wiring building. Again, it’s a lot of trial and error as you try to determine the correct pathway wideness the map to your destination.
Finally, I got it right.
Though the next mission slipped when into towers a wiring and wiping out Nod forces, at least I finally got my tanks.
The mismatch in Command & Conquer really ramps up from here, on the battleground with Nod going on the offensive versus a resource-stretched GDI, and moreover in the media with the GDI now stuff accused of self-glorification up an orphanage (disinformation) and developing and testing orbital laser cannons capable of mass destruction (truth). Tiberium poisoning is moreover rampantly spreading through GDI forces, and wideness the world in what has now wilt a global pandemic.
Kane moreover stops by for a visit, hacking into your comms channel.
It wasn’t looking good on any front: under wade from an empowered Nod, losing the media war, and suffering the effects of Tiberium poisoning.
Well, it wasn’t all bad though. Are you ready for the plot twist?
It turns out the GDI hadn’t lost all United Nations funding—it was a ruse to lull Kane into a false sense of security. The GDI is now going on the offensive, and this time you get to take to the skies.
With your new well-ventilated toys to aid you, it’s not long until the endgame arrives. Kane is surrounded, so it’s time to go in for the kill.
And it wouldn’t finger right to end the wayfarers in Command & Conquer without flipside mission requiring you to destroy all enemy forces.
The final mission is epic in scale, on a large map with a large Nod wiring to take out.
In the end, it then came lanugo to that last Nod unit standing:
With the job done, given how much I’ve enjoyed the cutscenes and ongoing narrative of the conflict, did the final scenes in Command & Conquer deliver?
Well, no, to put it bluntly. Kane is missing, unsupportable dead. So, it’s powerfully a cliffhanger, and those wanting wool closure will be disappointed.
However, my Command & Conquer replay wits has really been increasingly well-nigh the journey and not the destination.
Let’s see what I made of that journey.
I was hesitant to replay and write well-nigh Command & Conquer. And this is the first time I have featured an RTS game here on Present Perfect Gaming, as I find the genre a challenging one to tackle. First, I was and still am increasingly well-appointed playing turn-based-strategy games (see my blog on Heroes of Might and Magic II). I never really learn the keyboard hotkeys to be constructive under pressure in RTS games, and I don’t invest much time in devising winning strategies. As such, I never get very good at RTS games. Second (and related), I find the large number of units in RTS games and the lopsidedness between sides to be challenging to detail, explore, and explain. In Command & Conquer, the GDI and Nod have quite variegated units at their disposal, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Long story short, I would have to invest a serious value of time to be worldly-wise to describe the gameplay in Command & Conquer in depth.
But I didn’t want to do that, and I didn’t need to do that. Command & Conquer tells a story, and that’s what I was interested in. What really makes Command & Conquer stand out is the medium through which the story is told: the cutscenes. These are the military briefings, the media reports, and the fake news. There are plane random TV channels.
The nomination of using full-motion-videos (FMVs) in the cutscenes (there is some volatility used as well) adds to the realism, despite stuff unwrought in finger (there was only one professional two-face used, for Kane). If the cutscenes were fully animated, or voice overs or text boxes, Command & Conquer wouldn’t be the same for me. And without reasonably repetitive missions on the battlefield, I believe it’s these campy cutscenes that hoist Command & Conquer from a forgettable, generic RTS experience, to a memorable one.
I’m not surprised by my wits with replaying Command & Conquer. I know as a gamer that I enjoy the interactive fiction aspect—I want to be told a story. Playing video games isn’t well-nigh mastery for me. I’m never going to play an RTS with the aim of getting largest and better.
When I do play an RTS game, I’m expecting there to be a good story to go withal with it.
And in that sense, Command & Conquer delivered.
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