Ah, Command & Conquer. How long has it been, I wonder? I played the hell out of it on the PlayStation, and Red Alert too, but beyond those few titles I've just not been interested in what was on offer from the C&C series.
Why is that? Why are the early games so much better than the later ones? It couldn't just be because of Kane, could it? It's probably because of Kane. Damn, Kane. Why you so good?
Get those bases up and running and get prepared for an almost inevitable tank rush toward the enemy, as we real-time strategy the shit out of an alternate reality war between the Global Defensive Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod, complete with lovingly created live-action cutscenes.
|At least pretend to look interested, Seth|
Two discs, two full campaigns, hours and hours of gaming... where do I begin with Command & Conquer?
It would have to be as far back as I can remember playing it, and that's on the PlayStation towards the end of the 1990s. I don't actually remember much of the gameplay, how it controlled, whether it even felt right using a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse, but back then I didn't have a clue that PC gaming was a thing, let alone what good controls felt like.
What I do remember, clearly, are the many videos in between missions, be they live action or computer generated. Somewhere in this brain of mine, they're all still there. It does help when the fans love this series so much that all these scenes are on YouTube, and that Brotherhood of Nod leader Kane is a video gaming legend, but even so, these videos bring back so many memories... of those videos. I really remember more about them than the in-game action.
In the years since it's release, Command & Conquer has been rereleased in a few forms, across multiple formats, and even for free. There is no excuse to not be able to play C&C in some form, except for not being able to get it to run.
As well as having the PlayStation version, I also lucked into finding Command & Conquer: The First Decade from a charity shop, which includes 12 games and some DVD extras. Bargain. It's that version that I'm going to be playing.
The first time I played C&C, I played as the GDI to get things going. You've got to start as the good guys, right? Well, I don't think that way anymore, so I chose to get the Brotherhood of Nod campaign started for the first time in a long time.
Missions begin fairly simply, with clear mission objectives and small maps. It's up to you how you use your initial units, but it'll likely be to slowly reveal the map and find a good point to settle down and harvest some Tiberium.
Like Dune II before it, he who controls the Tiberium controls the map. As a finite resource, the more of it you can harvest, the stronger you are - it acts as currency, and currency builds buildings and trains troops. But of course you need a harvester to do that, and silos to store extra Tiberium, and protection for your harvester so that it doesn't get blown up by the enemy on its way back from the field...
Oh yeah, there are enemies too. It's not a farming simulator. Machine gunners, grenadiers, rocket troops, attack vehicles, tanks, air strikes... if you have the funds and the desire, you can hunker down, slowly building up your army before getting on with the mission, in whatever way you want.
While some missions require you to work within some restrictions, such as not having a lot of funds available to you, starting with only a few soldiers, or having to safely extract someone or sabotage something, most missions task you with dominating the map and wiping out the opposition. Commanding and conquering, if you will.
|Yes, I built a weapons factory in such a location that makes it|
impossible to then drive the tanks out into the rest of the map...
It's a playground, but it can be a slow one to get going. Sitting back and building up your forces is essential because your opponent will be doing the same, but sitting back too long just feels like you're stopping all the action from happening.
Every now and then you'll push a few troops forward to scope out what lies ahead, and every now and then the enemy will approach you with a purpose too, but other than that it feels like you're waiting on your harvesters to do their thing before selecting a whole load of troops and marching straight towards the target, casualties be damned.
Further Fun Times
It's not all negative though, as some missions force you to mix things up, and with The First Decade release, I was able to play through some bonus special forces missions from the N64 and PlayStation releases of C&C.
I wasn't very good at them, but the content is there, and there's loads of it.
I don't have the hours required to get through either campaign again, but I'm glad I did in the distant past, and I'm glad Command & Conquer has lasted long in the memory. Kane helps. All the videos help. And that goddamn Hell March sure helps too.
Command & Conquer is cool. It's almost edgy. It's not a boring strategy game, it's a game where you lose funding because your enemy has manipulated the media to convince the world to be more critical of your 'peacekeeping'. Obviously, that comes across a little easier in the cutscenes than in the game, but they all set up your initial starting conditions neatly.
But, then you tend to default back to building a strong base with what you need and then charging at the enemy. Not always, sure, but it feels like we can reduce C&C down to that, which is perhaps a little unfortunate.
That said, there's no way I can say anything other than "go and play Command & Conquer". It's point and click, it's not too difficult to get into and it's so easy to enjoy.
The Gulf War was one of the key influences in choosing the setting for C&C, which was originally going to have more of a fantasy feel. Furthermore, an alternate history/parallel universe set up allowed the developers to hone in on the idea that future wars wouldn't be fought between nations, but between Western society and a decentralised terrorist organisation.
Command & Conquer, developed by Westwood Studios, first released in 1995.
Versions played: Command & Conquer: The First Decade, PC, 1997/2006
PlayStation, 1996, via childhood memory.