“Unable to Comply.”
If these are some of the buzzwords that still ring through your ears when you think about real-time strategy games, you might want to spend some resources and check out Command and Conquer: The First Decade. This is a nice bundle of the RTS game from the source itself, EA Westwood. The bundle includes games that released before, during and after the studio’s acquisition by EA, and as such, it’s a mixed bag. Even so, after the coin toss, the bundle falls heads more often then tails when it comes to the games themselves.
Take this exchange between me and my roommate, for example.
Overbuilding units has been a long tradition with us, and catching one of my roommates in the act was a great moment in C&C: Red Alert. Sheepishly he looked at me while I glanced at the 40 tanks he had “parked” on his screen on the map.
“Ummmmm,” he muttered.
“Oh KOH,” I cried.
“Erm. You know…it’s backup.”
“Backup? For WHAT, the Second Coming?!”
Rest assured, head-to-head mode is just as much fun as is it was years ago, presuming you can get working. If not, there’s also plenty packed on this disc to enjoy on your own. Heck, I was playing this for three to four weeks solid whenever I got a chance.
C&C has been repackaged several times, and usually each time a new title was released you could count on a bundle including one, sometimes more, expansion packs being brought out the following year. That marketing aside, these games will infect you! “Just one more level,” you keep telling yourself, “just one more.” Even if it involves 40 minutes of building heavy weapons or battalions of cannon fodder, much to your chagrin.
With the earlier titles, we were treated to a slower pace, but come Red Alert 2 and Generals, the pace was elevated to such a frantic pace that this reviewer gave some grand slams to the keyboard and several yells of “slow down!”
Pacing aside, any fan of the RTS genre has to check out this collection just to see where the modern RTS games came from. Sadly, though, the DVD documentary included in the package doesn’t go into detail about the process that shaped a new genre, it just dances around “how we could add certain units?” and “we could add this to gameplay” etc. Guys, we aren’t taking about manipulating polygons here. We are talking about the link from hex-based board games to video games. The interpretation of that was a big deal! And it should have been expanded upon.
Supposedly optimized for XP, C&C: The First Decade will soon make you realize that this is not the case. Instead, what you have are titles running in Windows compatibility mode: some Windows 95, some Windows 98, etc. This pretty sneaky tactic results in some of the games requiring the DVD and others not, but everything works in the end, and the installation process is a snap.
This collection still packs a punch for gamers who may have bought a few titles and the occasional expansion pack and are looking for more. It’s also good for those who experienced some hard times and had to liquidate some “assets” to generate “resources.” Here they are all back again, in one (legal) package.
- Gameplay: 8
- With maybe the exception a few titles, absolutely timeless. Path-finding can sometimes be a pain with your units, but you’re probably used to it by now and can adapt.
- Graphics: 7
- Considering the ages of some these games it can get a little blocky, but nothing that detracts from the gameplay. In fact, sometimes less detail is better.
- Sound: 9
- Timeless samples and some great combat noises. CRANK IT.
- Replay: 10
- It’ll take a while to get through all the games and expansion packs, and then you’ll settle on a few favorites to play again and again.
- Overall: 7
- It shows its age, and some titles are better then others, but all the cinemas are intact and some games never get boring.
— Phil Vollmer