Review by Overseer

"Undoubtedly a pioneer of the genre and a true classic."

Command & Conquer. Say the name to any fan of the strategy genre and you'll get heaps of praise for sure. It didn't start the Real Time Strategy (RTS) style, but it certainly helped shape this group of games into what it is today. Now it's been a few years since this title was released, but if you haven't played it, now's as good a time as any to immerse yourself in one of the greatest works of interactive fiction ever.

I'm not going to go to great lengths to provide the background story, as one of the most stunning (in its day) video introductions get you started, and you'll learn more as the game progresses. But basically, a secretive organization called the Brotherhood of Nod has risen to power in many third-world nations, backed by amazingly powerful private armies. They are funded by a mysterious but valuable new resource called ''Tiberium''. On the other side, there is the Global Defense Initiative, guardian of the free world, who sees Nod's takeover as a threat to world peace. Naturally there's a conflict there.

The gameplay matters most and C&C delivers. Through a simple point and click interface you build bases, set up defenses, and command diverse armies to do your bidding. Need a guard tower or barracks? Scroll down a small bar and click the icon, and then click again on the map to construct it. Creating military units is done in a similarly easy manner. A system of resource management is also in place, one must harvest patches of Tiberium (a green crystal substance) on the battlefield in order to gain the money to produce more forces and structures. If you don't watch that aspect of the fight, you'll be helpless when it comes down to actual combat. The interface also keeps a handy power bar that measures electricity consumed by your base (yet another resource), as well as an optional map of the entire battleground for keeping track of units not in the vicinity.

Speaking of units, C&C provides all kinds for your use. There are standard machine gun infantry, armor busting bazooka infantry, as well as harvesters to gather Tiberium. But each of the 2 sides have unique types of forces that require different approaches to handling them. GDI prefers strong firepower, such as grenadiers, Orca helicopters, medium tanks, APCs, the appropriately named Mammoth Tank, gunboats, and even jet bombers. Almost nothing stands up to a massive GDI assault. On the other hand, Nod tends to be more on the ''light'' side in military equipment. Their vehicles aren't quite as heavy, but they do have some devastating units like super fast assault cycles, the invisible stealth tank, artillery, and the fiendishly wicked flamethrower and flame tanks. Plus they've got a great and secret equalizer on their side, something even GDI fears. Rounding out the game are special commandos who can drop enemies with one shot, and engineers who can capture enemy buildings, turning them into your loyal followers.

The two sides have discernably different missions. While GDI is often called on to protect civilians, recover stolen materials, and launch covert raids deep inside enemy territory, Nod players will find themselves carrying out assassinations, sabotage, and generally disturbing the peace. Of course there are levels that call for all out destruction of the enemy, which is a critical part of the game.

All the play is supported by decent graphics, which now look dated but still show spectacular deaths for unlucky troops and civilians. The game also makes use of extensive cinematic scenes, including virtual newscast footage, tech-heavy briefings, and explosive war scenes. Rarely have I seen a game make cinema such a major part of itself, and do it so well. The soundtrack consists of pulse pounding techno tunes, which do suit the mood. A couple, like ''Mechanical Man'' are actually pretty memorable.

Multi-player is included via modem, network, or Internet, although most players have since moved on to newer things that this game helped inspire. But most of the clones lack the kind of fun depicted here, so if you want a great game, check out C&C.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/18/00, Updated 07/18/00

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