I’ve played RTS games since the genre’s glory days with games like Dune II from Westwood Studios. Command & Conquer still holds a special place in my heart.
Having played most of the series since its inception, the idea of a remastered edition intrigued me. Updated graphics, new gameplay, quality of life enhancements; what’s not to like?
With the advancements we’ve had in gameplay and technology, the idea of a remaster for a game now 25 years old has nearly limitless potential. EA has given us some of this but takes a very measured and minimal approach.
One of the selling points of the remaster is the ability to change between updated sprites and graphics for the units and structures on the fly. I was concerned that this would simply be a filter over the old graphics. Instead, we are given fully updated 3D models for all units and maps. It gives a striking contrast in how far we’ve come graphically from 1995 (to be completely clear, the game looked fantastic back when it was released). But it also allows true nostalgia if you wish to play the game how it was originally made.
For the newer models, the units move smoothly, and the building animations follow their predecessors perfectly. I had no small amount of fun switching back and forth between the classic and updated models just to see the difference. The soundtrack has also been given a wonderful renewal to old tracks that are immediately familiar but remade to take advantage of better quality across the board.
The updated look, however, does not extend very far into the cutscenes. While the installation opening and menus have been given a new UI – which is up to date – the between mission cutscenes and CGI remains firmly rooted in 1995.
To be sure, the live-action sequences have been touched up, but the CGI of the times looks and feels extremely dated (although, again, it did look great 25 years ago). It feels like a stark and surprising contrast from the in-game engine. Especially since finishing each mission opens up a gallery of the cutscenes, it seems like this would have been the place to showcase the 1995 sequences against a remade vision.
Gameplay-wise, it feels exactly as it should. The controls and units respond quickly and fluidly. If you’ve played any real-time strategy game for the last two decades, this will be immediately familiar. If you haven’t, the initial missions do lack clear objectives without going into a menu. Again, this could have been a quality of life change to make the objectives visible in gameplay, but this is a minor personal quibble.
If you missed out on the original Command & Conquer or just miss playing these old classics, I would completely recommend picking up the Remastered Collection. Not updating the CGI feels like a missed opportunity, but for a solid RTS even in 2020, it proves that it can still compete with more recent entries in the genre.