Command & Conquer: Special Gold Edition
I Have a confession to make; one of my all-time greatest guilty pleasures is buying a small army of Red Alert attack dogs, sticking on The Ride Of The Valkyries and going on a doggie killing spree. Never mind Special Forces teams - if the pooches enlisted in the British army were as lethal as the man-hunting German shepherds from Red Alert, then the world's bloody conflicts would be sorted in a matter of hours, to the fanfare of terrified screams and canine growling.
The truth is, I have ten years of childish habits stemming from this veteran series of RTS games, from demo-truck convoys to infinitely-stretching rows of tesla coils - truly, the Command & Conquer series is a long stretch of gaming gold.
But the question is, with RTS titans like Supreme Commander on the horizon, is the old genre champion worth another look?
The Test Of Time
Now that the series is under the stern gaze of EA Games, a money-raking C&C collaboration was only a matter of time. But if you're looking for anti-capitalist EA bashing, turn away now: 12 C&C games for $29.99, amazingly squeezed onto a single DVD? Sounds like an absolute steal to us.
Don't adjust your eyes - you read that correctly: The Last Decade wields 12 whole games from the C&C series, which was born way back in 1995 in Westwood Studio's then-garage headquarters. So that's all of the original Tiberian series games, all of the Red Alerts, the latest offering Generals, plus legions of expansions and even the red-headed step-child of the series, Renegade chucked in for only 30 notes. Suddenly, Asda's bargain counter isn't very impressive anymore.
To The Bone
After spending an afternoon's light typing to get all the serial numbers in, I finally managed to claw my way in to the original C&C. The first obvious note is that the game's VGA graphics haven't quite stood the test of time, while Red Alert's Soviets sound more like Avid Merrion these days than actual Russians. Having said that, the live-action cut-scenes and synthy soundtrack are, surprisingly, still impressive today, which is a notable feat for a game running at a resolution smaller than your average Minesweeper window.
Technical qualms aside, after a few afternoon skirmish sessions I was locked in a kind of nostalgic tractor beam - and there was no Obi-Wan Kenobi around to shut it off. C&C's simple-natured approach to the genre seems to have greatly assisted its battle against the harsh ravages of time.
It's true that the more recent 3D series entries are looking a little dated too. Westwood's Las Vegas studio was bought out by EA in 1998, and with a shiny new EA Gaines logo donning its boxes, Westwood began pumping out a new breed of C&C games.
While the 'rock, paper, scissors' style of gameplay is still as effective as ever, our beefy gaming PC weeps at Tiberian Sun's lacklustre selection of screen resolutions. Red Alert 2, meanwhile, is partly saved by some rather lusciously rendered buildings and scenery, its excellent array of unique sides and units making it one of our more favoured notches in Westwood's bed-post.
After Westwood was closed by EA, and willing staff fed into EA Los Angeles, the more sterile series entry C&C: Generals emerged, which, while rough around the edges, does a good job of living up to the franchise name.
If you want C&C-style action these days, you'd be advised to wander in the direction of Battle For Middle-Earth or Star Wars: Empire At War, both of which have land battles of the C&C model and many ex-Westwood staff on board.
However, if you've got a taste for nostalgia, whether it's fighting for Mother Russia in Red Alert or battling Kane in Tiberian Sun, most of us have a soft spot for Westwood's strategy opus (except for Renegade - it's rubbish). But herein lies the problem - when you boot up The First Decade's game selection menu, it's impossible to decide which game to play next, and often results in selection methods involving post-it notes and a dartboard. One day, I'll manage to get horribly bored of the C&C series. Until then, I'm off to build a base of tesla-guarded dog kennels.
Download Command & Conquer: Special Gold Edition
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP