Command & Conquer: The First Decade – PC
Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: February 2, 2006
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10 (plus 2 for nostalgia)
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Reviewed by Malefico
I was walking around Wal Mart the other day and saw a most amazing sight… All the Command & Conquer games I’d enjoyed growing up, plus a few I’d never played all for the glorious bargain price of $5 (what can I say, it’s the holidays and I’m a poor/cheap bastard). Total time elapsed between purchase and install, about 30 minutes. Would have been 20 but for the ridiculous number of product keys I had to enter…
At one time these games were on par with the other most beloved RTS out there, Star Craft but over the years they’ve faded into obscurity for most. But I always liked them, so I thought I’d bring these out, brush the dust off my memories and give them a replay, Bacon style.
During its time in the video game sun, the Command & Conquer series has gone through a number of iterations/variations.
The original game and its spinoff, Covert Operations featured two factions, the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod. The GDI was supposed to be the military forces of the West, while the Brotherhood represented a “quasi terrorist” organization.
Next, Westwood explored a world where the U.S. Squared off against the Soviet Union in the Red Alert variations – Red Alert, The Aftermath and Counterstrike.
Later on, the GDI and Brotherhood were brought back in the Tiberian Sun, Firestorm and Renegade games.
Westwood revisited the American/Russian theme in Red Alert 2 and Yuri’s Revenge.
In the final installments of this venerable franchise, Command & Conquer: Generals and Generals Zero Hour, the developers introduced a third faction. These games introduced powerful “Command” units that can be built and featured three factions, the USA, China and the GLA (Global Liberation Army I think, neither the provided documentation or my memory serves to tell me).
The collection also includes an FPS, CnC: Renegade that allows you to explore the mythos from a tactical perspective. It’s OK, but clearly not up to the quality of studios that makes FPS games their forte.
I’ve chosen a representative installment of each series in order to provide screen shots and show the game worlds as they evolved from their humble beginnings all the way to the Generals games.
Like any RTS, Command & Conquer is based on an elaborate rock-paper-scissors setup, where a given unit is strong against some enemies but weak against others.
Game controls are RTS standard and vary little from game to game. Units can be selected individually or in groups with the mouse, and interaction is achieved with a click, whether it be movement, loading infantry into a transport or attacking. Groups can be assigned with Ctrl + number key and recalled with that same number key. One nice part about the later games is that there’s no limit to the number of units you can put in a group, although movement can become confused as the AI struggles to direct 30 tanks to the same destination over varied terrain.
Since the games span a period of eleven years, graphics range from passable to quite good. You can clearly see the progression from the first CnC to the newest releases, CnC: Generals and Generals Zero Hour. The newest CnC releases have great graphics, and the POS was able to handle them no problem.
The music is just so-so. It’s eclectic, I’ll say that for it. Luckily, it can be turned down so you don’t have to suffer through it, concentrating instead on unit acknowledgments and the glorious sounds of battle.
The C&C games were always well-balanced and featured novel and entertaining ways to do away with your foes. While the list of units is far too numerous to go into here, suffice it to say that you can shoot, bite (yes, there are attack dogs), bomb, burn, electrocute, and blow up your favorite victims with aplomb. The games variously include land, sea and air units and so offer any commander a chance to pursue the war in their preferred style.
There are some units that were common to both sides during the early part of the series and were a part of the base’s infrastructure.. I’ve listed a few of those below.
MCV – The Mobile Construction Vehicle is able to deploy into the command center of your base.
Power plant- Supplies power necessary for construction of additional buildings and base defenses.
Ore refinery – Deploys harvester vehicles that bring in either Tiberium (CnC, Tiberian Sun, etc.) or gold/gems (“Da Jools”) (Red Alert series). These buildings can also build additional harvesters to speed up the harvesting process.
Barracks- Different factions have different names for this, but they all do the same thing- produce infantry. These installations can build advanced troops dependent upon other buildings/research.
War Factory – Produces tanks and other vehicles for the patriotic struggle of whoever against whoever.
As in all RTS games, CnC has a “warconomy” that has to be built in order to support your base. In these games it’s pretty simple. Early game maps include Tiberium or metal/jewel fields that can be harvested for money. Aside from that, you really only have to worry about supplying power to your base. Lose power and your more advanced buildings are either crippled or inoperative, as are any base defenses that use power.
Base Defenses – These come in a number of flavors; bunkers that can be packed with infantry, cannon, flame and laser turrets, and even Tesla coils that fire devastating arcs of electricity.
Infantry – CnC offers a wide variety of grunts with which to attack. From basic machine gunners to rocket and flamethrower units and even more exotic fighters, CnC has you covered on the infantry front.
Vehicles – CnC vehicle types include LAVs, tanks, transports and more advanced and larger ground vehicles that make up the primary attack force.
Planes – From basic prop jobs to advanced and varied helicopters, stealth fighters and bombers, certain factions (GDI in the early games, U.S. And Russian in Red Alert and USA and China in Generals) can deal death from above.
Ships – In later games, ships become available although they are of limited use due to map design. Still, they range in size from little gunboats and transports to cruisers and attack subs.
The Bottom Line
The Command & Conquer franchise offers a number of positive and fun game play elements. The action is fast and furious; like all good RTS games he (or she) who hesitates is lost. The wide variety of units allows the player freedom to explore and find a combination of force composition and tactics to suit their play style. All the games are well-balanced, and the technology trees are effectively scaled to the time and expense needed to reach the various tiers of units and buildings. And, all games offer a skirmish mode in case you just want to pick a map and experience all the goodies they have to offer. Options like starting funds and tech limits can be adjusted depending on how you want to fight, or just to see if you can win with very limited units.
The issues that crop up are common to a lot of RTS titles. First, the enemy AI, even on the hardest level, suffers from the tendency to “give up or flake out” once you hit them hard one time. They’ll either go into a “hibernation mode” where there’s very little activity in the form of attack or defense after your initial strike, or they’ll continue to generate attack forces but launch little probing attacks with weak armies time and again. This ruins the experience for me. Also, because these games are so old it’s hard to find human competition online. Oh well, one can always compete to see how quickly the AI can be destroyed.
Another problem I have with this series is the music. Not overall, mind you. I can actually tolerate the Red Alert tunes, and Generals has a more modern soundtrack that’s more ambient than the older games. But on most titles the soundtrack is a jarring mix of bad techno and game sound effects that just doesn’t work for me.
The graphics, as noted above get progressively better throughout the releases and look good overall. Due to the quality of the mechanics, they help engage the player and make for a fuller experience.
After playing through some of these titles again, I was able to recapture a lot of the fondness I have for the franchise. I can remember (hazily) numerous nights on the original PlayStation spent with friends old school, with tube TVs back-to-back playing Red Alert elimination style until an evening’s champion emerged.
RTS fans have certainly played some or all of these, but the First Decade package offers a chance to won all the releases in one compact and inexpensive package. Total install size of The First Decade is less than 10GB, so it’ll fit easily on the smallest of drives. In fact, I’m going to see if I can’t get them to run off a flash drive so I can take them anywhere.
As for Renegade, the Westwood FPS offering, they did a good job of incorporating a lot of the RTS elements in the games. Power plants can be destroyed to cripple an enemy base, and all buildings some missions want you to destroy other buildings to diminish the enemy’s ability to fight. They even included the ion cannon and nuclear strike options that the RTS incorporates at max tech levels. The graphics are humdrum for a shooter… They remind me of Goldeneye for some reason. Not terrible, but not great. And the game lacks the ability to crouch, which for me severely limits the tactical options in a firefight. It’s worth playing if you’re a big CnC fan, but don’t expect it to be more than a diversion from the strategy titles. As an example, right off the bat they let you jump into a tank to wreak havoc. But, in a major blunder, your view doesn’t follow the turret as you rotate it, instead it forces you to look straight ahead. Not great when you are trying to run and gun in an armored vehicle.
The only other problem with this collection is that you have to enter multiple product keys. Seven of them, to be exact.
Due to the novelty of having all of these games assembled together and the absolute rock-bottom price, I can recommend this collection to any gamer who wants to revisit the past and grab a couple good, modern-looking RTS titles in the process.
If I had to rate each series of games, they would be:
CnC – 6
Red Alert – 8
Tiberian Sun – 7
Renegade – 5
Red Alert 2 – 6
Generals – 8
Overall, I’m giving the collection a 6. If you played these games before and liked them, you’ll like the collection, and it’s definitely worth picking up so you have the entire collection, since it looks like it may be a while before we see another. EA canceled development of the latest installment as the result of mostly negative fan feedback on the beta.
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