[GAME MASTER]Command & Conquer: The First Decade

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[GAME MASTER]Command & Conquer: The First Decade

Picture a couple of B-movies, full of campy acting, old-fashioned sci-fi weapons and sexy secret agents in tight-fitting jumpsuits. In the first, an anarchist madman named Kane and his organization, the Brotherhood of NOD, use the arrival of an alien mineral to try to take over the world. In the second, Einstein goes back in time, kills Hitler before he can rise to power, and World War II is fought instead between the U.S., with its teleporters, and U.S.S.R., with its psychic arsenal. These are two of the stories in the Command & Conquer games. They’re cliched and melodramatic. But they’re also a load of fun.
When Command & Conquer came out in 1995, it was the birth of a genre. Floating like a god above the battlefield, you were the omniscient controller of an entire army. But you weren’t all-powerful ― another deity was simultaneously working to destroy you, and every moment you wasted was one more the AI could use to scuttle your plans. Command & Conquer games recognized that their fast pace is what makes them special, and countdowns to armageddon were always looming to make the player act before thinking. It was a new, exhilarating approach to war games, and they called it real-time strategy.
The game’s four major follow-ups and their attendant expansion packs were rare treasures in that, with one exception, they were all fantastic. And now you can own all of them for 35,000 won.
This almost seems like a stupid move on the part of EA, the current owner of Westwood Studios. After all, as someone who only played two of the C&C games when they came out, this DVD could conceivably keep me occupied for months, keeping me from throwing more of my hard-earned cash into the gaming toilet.
And not only are the older games still playable, they’re still a whole lot of fun. Sure, Generals, the latest in the series, has 3D graphics and new “experience” options and apocalyptic weaponry, but the original and the Red Alert series compensate for dated graphics with hilarious cut scenes and timeless level designs.
The other attraction of the new set is a bonus DVD with a documentary on the making of the Command & Conquer universe. Most of this is an interview with the Westwood co-founder Louis Castle, but he unfortunately (and rather embarrassingly) focuses mostly on the games’ campy plots as what “drives” the game experience ― the “fan interviews” naturally discuss the gameplay, but not from an insider perspective, making what could have been a fascinating making-of film pretty pointless.
A feature labeled “The Future” only worries me ― two years have gone by since Generals, the last full game, and the developers still seem to have no idea what they’re going to do next. All the comments are vaguely optimistic but disappointingly nonspecific. What was supposed to be a section with six fan films is actually just clips of them with narration and the Red Alert theme. These “extras” put promoting the franchise over real behind the scenes info, truly a disappointment when you consider how rare it is to see special features in the gaming world.
The DVD may be worthless, but the games aren’t, and the price can’t be beat. With six full games and six expansion packs, this is the perfect entry drug to the wonderful world of real-time strategy. Pick it up, or Tanya will come after you.

by Ben Applegate
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