Game Info:

Command & Conquer™ Remastered Collection
Developed By: Petroglyph, Lemon Sky Studios
Published By: Electronic Arts
Released: June 5, 2020
Available On: Microsoft Windows
Genre: Real-time Strategy
ESRB Rating: Teen (Blood, Violence, Language, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco)
Number of Players: Singleplayer, online multiplayer
Price: $19.99

Note: Due to developer support of a fan engine remake for this title called OpenRA, and due to many technical differences between the two despite official support offered that project versus this commercial attempt at the same goal, I shall draw some comparisons between the fan engine remake and this commercial product when relevant to the gameplay score.

Back in the mid-1990s, a developer named Westwood Studios had a radical idea: make a real-time strategy game with live-action videos depicting all sorts of sci-fi craziness. Hence Command and Conquer (or CnC). Red Alert, the prequel, was released not long after, bringing more sci-fi RTS to the table. Now, we've gotten these classics remastered for modern-day gamers who will once again be able to command and conquer the digital battlefield once more.

The story is the same as before. In the original CnC, a coalition of UN-affiliated nations under the Global Defense Initiative opposes the Brotherhood of Nod, a quasi-terrorist group with some religious trappings. They fight over a substance called Tiberium, a radioactive extraterrestrial mineral of great danger and potential that has turned Earth into a battlefield. Red Alert, the prequel, flashes back in time to after WWII, when Albert Einstein seeks to eliminate Adolf Hitler from time, thus averting a terrible war. He succeeds, but this only causes history to change so that an even worse war waged against the European Allies by the Soviet Union is fought, with Josef Stalin taking Hitler's place as the one who wants to seize Europe for himself. The outcome of Red Alert not only has more brutal casualties than the original timeline, but it is also the prelude to the events of the original Command and Conquer.

The remastered version does not change any of the above. Instead, it gathers material from the original games and their canon expansions, even material specific to their console adaptations, and makes it all available in one game. It also features much quality of life enhancements, most of them optional, and it even remastered the game so one can play with either the original pixelated colors of the original releases or glorious HD graphics, video, and audio fit for the modern era. The overall concept is little changed as well, being a top-down, bird-eyes view of the battlefield you can scroll and mouse-click orders to your troops to secure victory in pausable real-time combat.

Command & Conquer™ Remastered Collection

Strong Points: Lots of content; excellent upgrade to sounds, videos, and graphics
Weak Points: Online Multiplayer was utterly non-functional
Moral Warnings: Violence depicted in the context of war and several clearly displayed murders in the live-action sequences; some crude language and frequent daytime-TV level profanity (most h*ll and d*mn, with the rare b**st**d/b***h); an implied sexual scene is shown to be outside of marriage is displayed as well as some sexual dialogue; playing as Nod/Soviets requires committing several barbaric acts of depravity and other war crimes; a few pieces of dialogue with sacrilegious undertones in alluding to the Bible

Most intriguingly, this game officially provides both support and official sanction to a fan engine remake of the included games called OpenRA (aka Open Red Alert, which also supports the original CnC and Dune 2000), as the developers have open-sourced critical parts of this commercial release to allow for cross-compatibility between the official Remastered engine and the fan open-source version. This is quite unusual for most developers to do, but it's worth noting this means that the remaster is, in effect, giving an official blessing to the fan project, which formerly only had access to the public freeware releases of the original games. Now, they also have access to the assets of the remaster (via having a legal copy of the Remaster alongside OpenRA) and the source code of the original games has also been released at the time of this writing on Github. While my conversations with the developers on the OpenRA discord have informed me their project is coded different so this will not be directly helpful, the fact they have this available now will be quite valuable to ensuring feature parity for OpenRA continues to improve.

Graphically, two modes are presented. The original low resolution (if somewhat upscaled) graphics of the original releases, and a fully HD mode toggled by the spacebar. The latter looks much clearer and was painstakingly hand-drawn from the original concept art for high quality, allowing for a seamless transition between the two graphic modes at any time during single-player. For certain technical reasons, co-op and online play do not allow this switching between graphics, defaulting to only the remastered graphics. Videos have either been replaced with cleaned up versions of the original, uncompressed master copies or have been digitally cleaned and upscaled. Some still have some noticeable artifacts, which is due to either missing the original assets and thus upscaling the low-resolution videos or simply imperfections in the original HD videos that were difficult to remove. Regardless, the upscaled videos are a massive improvement across the board, and the bonus content viewer allows seeing many of the videos in split-screen for a comparison of their quality as opposed to the originals. Additional bonus behind the scenes content is also available via the same venue.

Sound effects are offered in their original formats and remastered formats for greater digital clarity. Some changes may not be for the best for some fans, but I generally found the remastered versions better. Music is also offered in the original format, high-resolution format, and many bonus tracks are included, especially several tracks that were exclusive to music producer Frank Klepacki's live concert with the band "Tiberian Sons". The HD versions are all marked improvements in most cases.

Command & Conquer™ Remastered Collection
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 90%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - -52%
Violence - 3.5/10
Language - 4/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 3.5/10

Controls are interesting. While a few parts of the interface and UI default to the HD, modern look with less scrolling like in more modern RTS titles, most of the quality of life changes are optional, with the original controls for selecting units and directing your forces being an option if you are fond of nostalgia. The modern improvements are still available, including the better selection of multiple units, should you prefer, and you can mix and match many of the changes at your pleasure. In any event, this is primarily keyboard and mouse (especially the latter) game, and it works well in that regard.

Stability is a proud hallmark of this title. The game runs seamlessly with few loading pauses longer than a second or two (on an SDD, it may be longer on HDD) and I have not experienced any form of a crash in hours of play, at least in single-player. Online was a different story, as I got constant crashes when trying to do something a simple as observing a match, let alone start or join one. I recommend OpenRA for online play at this point, it's much more playable at present. A final note is that this game supports modding out of the box as an official feature, and the Steam Workshop and other sources can be used to import mods for use in gameplay. These must be disabled for online play but can work fine in all single-player modes.

Morally, since this game is a combination of two games and their expansions, I shall cover both in the overview.

Violence is a BIG part of the experience, being a game about conducting a war no matter which one you play. Playing the Nod or Soviet side often has you do missions that amount to straight-up genocide, while GDI and the Allies make a point to avoid it. There is little in-game blood display and a while not a lot of gore is on display, a few cutscenes are quite brutal in their display of death, including one cruel scene on the Allied side involving torture and a sadistic death by suffocation. We also get to see Nod leader Kane kill a man in cold blood in at least one Nod story scene. Suffice it to say, this game is pretty graphic in terms of violence, both shown and implied. Gameplay violence is much less detailed but sill involves death by various weapons of war, though the bodies disappear afterward.

Language is no worse than a daytime PG-13 movie, as excessive profanity is thankfully absent, though there are enough uses of h*ll and d*mn to merit mention. Nod leader Kane and his subordinates hint at Kane being the Biblical Cain, with a few sacrilegious references to God in the process, but this is portrayed in a villainous light.

Sexual content is low for the most part but is present in some of the Red Alert cutscenes especially, including one obvious depiction of a love affair, and the Allied torture scene mentioned above has some rape implications alluded to but thankfully not shown. Otherwise, it stays out of the deviance gutter for the most part.

In terms of ethics, the GDI/Allies try to model their conduct after that of a war, in which they refrain from committing war crimes, though there are a few scenes where Allied characters prove they aren't above this. The player does not have the option to do so outside of the potential killing of civilians in a warzone due to friendly fire, which is at least discouraged in the GDI/Allied campaigns. If you play the Nod/Soviet campaigns, you are required to perform several barbaric acts, including wholesale purges of entire civilian areas and securing locations for others to do so, such as Soviet missions for releasing sarin gas as a biological weapon. In short, if you want to mostly stay on the good guy side, don't play as Nod or the Soviets, though the Allies and GDI aren't totally free of questionable moral activity that the player must take part in regardless.

All in all, given this only costs 20 dollars in US currency, the player gets more than their money's worth even if you just stick to single player, and modding potential and OpenRA cross-compatibility make this an even more worthwhile purchase on those grounds alone. Morally speaking, war in all it's brutal ugliness is rather graphically displayed despite being rated Teen. Overall, with those caveats in mind, this was a good remastering of some classic games that defined the real-time strategy genre.

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Daniel Cullen

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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