"Unplayable."

Command and Conquer single-handedly launched an entire genre: the real-time strategy, in which you typically control army or colony in a real-time environment. Money is earned, the entity is grown and is made to annihilate whatever stands in the way. C&C creates this very interesting and still-existing concept, but unfortunately this is all the original C&C is any good for --- the concept. The game itself is completely unplayable, has aged terribly and its only purpose is to give us a sense of gaming history insofar as how the real-time strategy genre has evolved in the last 10+ years. Upon playing this, assuming you make it through without its useless gameplay and bugs driving you nuts, you'll be quite glad that game designers have learned from their mistakes.

The basic premise of Command and Conquer is that there are two factions at endless war with one another: the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of NOD. Both seek to control the environment-corrupting Tiberium substance for their own ends, though the needs of the two factions are polar opposites of one another. Upon starting the game, you can choose to control GDI and save the world from Tiberium, or the NOD in an attempt to take the world over.

It's a decent enough story, and one that sets a template for virtually all RTS games that followed. Unfortunately, C&C does a terrible job of telling it. There are horribly-done and wholly lane movie scenes before and after each mission that barely explain anything, and then you're thrust into most of the game's missions with little idea of what to do or where to go --- only that you're to destroy the opposing forces as quickly as possible. The movies have very choppy graphics, horrendous actors in front of badly done chroma key or a combination of both.

Upon being thrust into the game's missions, you'll be treated to some terrible and clunky gameplay therein. The most glaring issue with this game is that everything takes place in midget world. The maps are too small, the units you control are too small, and the spaces they have to travel through are microscopic. This creates ridiculous pathing issues that can oftentimes cause units lag behind and go well out of the direction they're commanded to go. In later missions when income is scarce and micromanagement is critical, these pathing issues more or less ruin the game and add to an already clunky, small environment. And God help anyone playing a mission where civilians can't die, since they love to run into the Tiberium and commit suicide and you have no control over whether or not this happens.

The smallness of the units creates other unique problems once fighting begins, namely because there is no attack-move option such as with recent RTS games. There is either clicking on enemy units to attack them or moving past them, unless you have tanks and feel like rolling the dice with the game's awful collision detection in an attempt to run infantry over with your vehicles. Very few units in the game have other skills other than attacking and moving, which creates very little variety.

On top of all this, Command and Conquer seems to be defined by what is missing more than the features available. Unit and building health is defined by health bars with no numbers attached to them. Unit and building tech trees, much like the mission objectives, are a learn-as-you-go process with no definition anywhere to be found. This paired with the fairly high difficulty of the game makes dealing with all of this a chore instead of fun.

For all the bad in Command and Conquer however, some good things did come from the original RTS. There is no cap on the number of units that can be controlled, which is a necessary RTS feature that was left ignored by other series until recently; Blizzard has yet to include this, and only finally did so in their announcement of Starcraft 2. There's also a fairly good balance between NOD and GDI units even though the two races are not mirror images of one another. Blizzard on the other hand managed to ruin the balance of a mirror match in Warcraft 2 despite having a good template to work from. Lastly, the real-time element of C&C was handled very well for its time. Buildings and unit production flow very nicely, and even though fighting the enemy is annoying to the unholy nth degree, it does have a good real-time feel to it. To this day, other RTS series have failed to capture the real-time essence as well as the C&C series.

Unfortunately, because the game is such a pain in the ass to play in virtually every way, a fairly good design gets lost. The gameplay, music and graphics are all archaic even compared to its own time, and the number of bugs in the game is astronomical. The game can often freeze simply by having a unit travel too far north on the map, or by building too many units. C&C doesn't get the ultimate worst in scores due to its heavy influence over an entire genre, but its influence is the only thing it's any good for. The game itself has aged horribly to the point where it is 100% unplayable, even by 1995 standards.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 02/19/08, Updated 06/14/10

Game Release: Command & Conquer (US, 08/31/95)


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