Command and conquer a Retrospective From red alert to generals zero hour the rise and fall of the greatest RTS franchise in history (Spoilers Ahead)
In this deep dive we take a whistle stop tour of the C&C universe focusing on red alert how the franchise has developed over the years and its untimely demise.
From red alert to generals zero hour we will leave out the add-on and expansion packs with the exception of zero hour
RTS a quick history
The RTS (Real Time Strategy) genre has been with us since the late 70’s and has manifested in many different iterations but only with introduction of C&C in the mid 90s did that melt down into C&C which became the standard for modern day RTS games.
How I discovered command and conquer
When I was 12 years I was besotted with Dark forces Lucas arts first FPS My cousin gave me CD with Demos plus a few other programs.
Located on that CD was a demo version of red alert.
Frustrated by not getting Dark forces to work, I chose to install and play it.
I think Discovery in youth is the engine that drives nostalgia.
Something you didn’t think you would like but you take a chance on and you become enchanted with.
I had never even considered playing any RTS game till I played red alert I only thought I would end up spending 15-20 minutes and then get bored.
But no sooner had I loaded up the first level and started playing; the sun had gone down and my father had come home from work.
I had spent seven hours totally immersed in the world of red alert and hadn’t even notice the sun go down; I had become hooked on red alert.
That summer I bought a copy of red alert and my journey into the command and conquer universe began.
C&C is a RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) game based in alternate reality. post World War II never happened and the only adversary the west faces is the soviets.
You have the option of playing the allies or the soviets and your goal is domination over Western Europe by pushing the reds out of Europe.
As Commander Your given a MCV (Mobile Construction Vehicle) your job is to build a base harvest ore or minerals in order to generate a war chest manage the economy whilst utilize your income to build up vast military and close kill or capture the enemy.
This end can be achieved in a variety of ways its entirely up to the creativity and discretion of the player.
Intertwining characters and story
With the exception of Generals Kane is the McGuffin which links red alert to the Command and conquer story Kane is the man behind Stalin and Kane Pops up through the franchise the charismatic illusive leader of the brother hood of NOD
Elite commando way before strong female characters were thing you had Tanya she even pre dates Lara croft. Who has the capacity to blow up structures and bridges whilst being an elite marksman.
Super solider carries a S.A.W. able to destroy vehicles and structures as well as withering infantry.
Best used with a sniper in a avenger to go and destroy structures and units also good for focusing the fire of other units.
A mercenary Sniper; able to disable vehicles and occupy structures; to pick off the enemy.
Stealthy Queen of the hackers, can capture structures disrupt vehicles and steal money form adversaries.
Played by Gina Carano. A black ops agent tasked with only the most sensitive operations for the soviet union.
Armed with a sniper rifle she also has the power to call in airstrikes on vehicles then structures.
The command and conquer series pioneered Full motion Video cut scene. Utilizing the VQA video codec. Professionally produced before and after each mission with a higher level of production values and known talent as the franchise progressed.
Including ensemble with some of the best character actors in the business: Michael biehn, James earl Jones, Gina Carano, Jonathan Pryce to name a few. With storylines and characters that engaged the player directly.
Handing out mission directives and character insights into allies and adversaries alike.
This choice by the developers connected the player emotionally with the game allowing gamers to invest directly in the characters and allows the story to develop organically with progression of the game.
Over the course of series the graphics have improved radically. (Which is obvious considering the time scale that the C&C universe has existed.)
But the visuals have induced a power in the units. As a result the combat action that has only become more potent from red alert; culminating in the awe-inspiring visuals that can be seen in generals.
Game audio music
Joined Westwood when he was 17 (I know mental) and became there lead composer.
He applied for a game tester job at Westwood studios where he submitted his demo tape. And the company enlisted him for a NES port of dragon strike.
Later he composed several dungeons and Dragons game Using Midi.
Working on several other titles including working for Han Zimmer on the lion king and Helming the audio on Dune II.
Frank Klepacki met with the leadership of Westwood to discuss the Command and Conquer series, which would bring him critical, acclaim and fame.
Taking inspiration form Nine inch Nails and Ministry.
While working on convert operations Klepacki got the idea of marching boots to rock music and One of the most Iconic sound tracks in video game history.
Hell March was born.
When Director Bret Sperry heard it he insisted it be used as the signature track for Command and Conquer red alert.
Hearing this soundtrack takes me right back to my childhood when I first installed red alert and watched the opening FMV was completely mesmerized by this adrenaline fuelled spectacle filling my monitor.
Klepacki worked on all Westwood games from Tiberian sun to red alert 3
91-2002 in 1998 Westwood was acquired by EA by 2002 west wood was liquidated and the remaining employees moved to EA los angels Klepacki offered to score Generals and sent a demo tape but he Passed.
Generals/ generals zero hour
Bill Brown and Mikael Sandgren worked on the score which isn’t bad actually and personifies the tension in the world at that time.
What really stands out about the Audio of C&C series is the signature sound design especially with the unit firing sound effects, which give each unit a voice personality of their own.
The game consist of maps which serves as the battle space where you can build a base or get a selection of troops and maybe some mechanized units.
There are commando missions where you are given a super solider like Tanya or Col burton and a handful of troops to be able to go and accomplish a mission.
As you build or capture buildings you are given options to train different types of infantry to accomplish a mission.
Forcing the player to use economy of force; rather then massing units and engulfing enemy bases.
As you progress through the game it becomes more difficult as the AI of enemy becomes more and more difficult require the player to think out of the box when it comes to developing a strategy to defeat the opponent.
I wish I had read art of war, Von Clausewitz and the prince when I was younger so I could have learned to better formulate strategy on the fly.
Effective Players learn to manage their ore minerals whilst defending a base on top of building and maintaining a fighting force large enough to destroy the enemy.
You have control over power and as well as the ability to sell structures and units to suit your needs as battles develop giving player the option to financially cripple the enemy, cut power supplies or steal technology to aid in their war effort.
Individual firepower vs. mass units
Playing through the C&C cannon from red alert to Tiberian firestorm.
You notice that on there own they have a limited amount of utility but combined they can be a potent force.
However once you start playing red alert 2 you notice that individual units can be quite powerful and when massed they can give the player out right devastation.
Over the cannon of C&C Units (from red alert to generals) there are commonalties in the types of units you would find for allies and adversaries a like.
Unit structure would normally manifest with infantry Armor artillery and Airpower.
Most of the units on their own aren’t that potent but combined in mass units or arrays they become a formidable force.
Industrial sci-fi hover M.L.R.S. as artillery, mech’s as tanks and space age aircraft firing green globs of plasma.
It’s the first game that allows you to set waypoints running you units on a predetermined spline.
in the sequel you have improved units Beefier super weapons and camp cheesy acting that actually works the sense of humor and not taking itself to seriously is a great touch.
Allies and Adversaries are more equally matched. In red alert one I would always pick the soviet side because they are more powerful.
In red alert 2 the units in both sides are more equally matched
what the hell happened to this game C&C FPS Definitely marmite territory for me I am sadly not a fan.
Possibly the best command and conquer game ever!! the unit to power ratio is spot on it’s the only game in canon which allows you to feel the full force of units.
My favorite expansion pack!! I wish the USA campaign was longer.
But you do get access to some awesome fire power and units my favorite is mission 2 when you can control a aircraft carrier and a destroyer.
Power ups and super weapons
Allow you to move units from one location to another instantaneously.
Allow the allies to hide bases from enemy sight.
Tiberian sun is the first title in the C&C series allows units to self upgrade via a veteran experience system.
Red alert 2
In this iteration you can pick vehicles up and destroy them by dropping them in the water.
Weather control Device
Allows you to alter the weather and destroy a large portion of the map no one is safe not tanks nor infantry aircraft or naval vehicles.
The ultimate in soviet military technology instantly devastates targeted area and fall kills infantry and soft skinned vehicles.
Gives selected units and structure invulnerability for a short period of time.
Generals Up grade system
Generals has a promotion menu as you play through the mission you garner experience points it unlocks up grades air strikes and new units.
Death from above personified you can move this weapon over a localized part of the map burning everything up insight
Powerful enough to destroy a a base with a single blow and irradiate the area killing every thing in the vicinity
A chemical or biological delivery system that can destroy a base and contaminate the entire are killing infantry and vehicles
Red alert 3 Kitschy
The graphics sound and the cut scenes have the most developed production values in any addition of command and conquer.
In each iteration red alert the game, has gone from being intense to humorous and almost silly Its been reduced to a kind of cushiony velvet porn.
I miss the intensity and the fluidity, and the control of the gameplay it feels like the sting has been taken out of the punch a little.
This is where the fairy tale ends
Tiberian twilight the death knell of C&C hammered in by EA.
EA bought Westwood in 2002 and they have been instrumental in slowly cannibalizing any original energy it once had, rendering it lifeless and impotent.
As it stands in its final iteration command and conquer 4 twilight is not homage to a legacy rather a cheap imitation of newcomer by a once great behemoth.
For a long time in the RTS world C&C didn’t have a lot of competitors rival titles came and went I never bought any of them.
But with the rise of MMORPG like StarCraft and Skyrim its time was coming to an end.
Sadly its legacy ended with a whimper becoming a footnote in gaming history.
It breaks my heart to see a once great franchise going under disappearing in such a disgrace full way and its clear that EA was content to ride this corpse out till every penny had been sucked from its lifeless corpse.
Every 10 years a remastered version is released.
This game has been remastered so many times every five years a compilation comes out that’s how strong and popular the command and conquer series.
They say a classic never dies! this is definitely true when it comes to red alert and red alert 2 and their respective Modding communities.
I can sit there hours watching prism tanks destroy bases they are simply mesmerizing.
It stands testament to Westwood’s craft and vision.
I would strongly suggest to any one go and buy the box set I would give everything to play my first red alert game again to have that feeling of power and accomplishment even under the pile of ashes that is Westwood entertainment.
I feel the phoenix that rise is the command and conquer cannon.
Good Luck commander… Go fourth and annihilate your enemies.
Pick up your copy of C&C for PC here.
Enjoying our work. Give us a follow everywhere and tell a friend.
PLAY, OBEY, CONSUME.