Command & Conquer: The First Decade

March 5, 2006

We’ve come to that point. Video game franchises made popular in the 80’s and 90’s are getting older, and with that, companies try desperately to make a buck off them by doing something to commemorate the fact that the franchise in point hasn’t fallen into obscurity yet. [i]Command & Conquer[/i] turns ten this year, so in natural form, EA has followed through with [i]Command & Conquer: The First Decade[/i], a collection of every game in the series on a single DVD. Being a fan of the games, I leaped at the chance to own all the [i]C&C[/i] games at once. I probably should have taken into account, though, that EA was producing this collection. While there is a great nostalgic sense to this package, EA has pieced this compilation together in a sloppy, bug-riddled manner and rushed it out the door. This is a collection strictly for [i]C&C[/i] fans only, and that’s if you can stand the bugs present in your classic games.

It seems a bit bittersweet that EA is making this glorified collection of [i]C&C[/i] games. After all, Westwood Studios-the now corporately swallowed company-was responsible for the groundbreaking series and its numerous sequels and expansions. Despite this, EA has now brought us every title in the series on one compact DVD. That’s twelve games (six games and six expansion packs) all on one disc, which is a pretty nice deal. However, it is very evident that EA has pieced this together very poorly. This package could have been a great homage to a classic game series, but the quality of [i]TFD[/i] is as if EA simply slapped each game onto the disc and hoped for the best.

There are some glaring problems right off the bat for some of the games found on this disc. While more recent games like [i]C&C: Generals[/i] seem to work perfectly fine, I particularly had issues with [i]Red Alert 2[/i] and its expansion locking up, and the first person shooter [i]Renegade[/i] has seen frequent drops to the desktop. Indeed, a look into EA’s forums revealed a number of people complaining of other issues, ranging from a lack of video in the campaign mode of [i]Red Alert[/i] to the individual games asking for their respecting discs despite the DVD being in the drive. The biggest thing to swallow in this whole story is that when I installed the stand-alone version of [i]Red Alert 2[/i] a few months ago, it worked perfectly fine. Combine this with the fact that EA has missed any opportunity to clean up any issues that plagued the older games in their day, and something has certainly been lost in translation.

Meanwhile, there are also a few issues to be found in the earlier games, although these can be attributed to their age rather than bug anomalies. Most notably, [i]Command & Conquer[/i], [i]Red Alert[/i], and their expansions are all missing the ability to play online. EA clearly states that online play may be discontinued on the back of the box, but it still feels like a missed opportunity that EA could have included. The worst thing is that when you click the button for online play, it prompts you to install Westwood online components that are not only absent from this disc, but may also very well be obsolete by this point. The original games from 1995 and 1997 are preserved in their entirety, although for some this might be a turn off. Not only are these vastly underdeveloped compared to more recent strategy games, but some of the full motion video cut scenes just look terrible ten years later.

This brings us to the practicality of [i]TFD[/i]. Fans of the series will no doubt enjoy just about everything to be had here (particularly the preservation of everything), but for others, there are some very different game styles at work here. [i]Renegade[/i] is a first person shooter, and is probably the most out of place game on the disc, using a simple FPS engine oozing with [i]C&C[/i] references that someone outside the series just won’t understand. Meanwhile, fans may not appreciate [i]Generals[/i], which goes under a completely different play style than the other games, and those willing to give this compilation a try will probably skip the first few games due to their underdeveloped nature to more recent games. The fact is it may be very hard for someone to like everything available on this disc.

Then there’s the bonus DVD. Just when you thought the idea was only for movies, they went and inserted one with this compilation. As you probably would expect, it wasn’t the first thing I went to, and as you might also expect, it isn’t incredibly interesting. The bonus disc mostly consists of video of EA employees talking about their history and experiences with the game series, and since most Westwood employees left after EA absorbed the company, the only developer insight you’ll get are from the people behind the [i]Generals[/i] games. There’s an interview with the creator of the series, but that may be the only thing worth watching on this. I suppose they felt that they needed to make some attempt to make this collection worth purchasing rather than just throwing every game on the first DVD. If they thought this would impress [i]C&C[/i] fans, though, then EA is really out of touch.

Unless you are a fan of [i]C&C[/i], you will want to pass on this deal. Fans of the series may very well see a worthy purchase here, and by all means, go wild if that is the case. Those fans should be aware that, while there is the added benefit of having every [i]C&C[/i] game ever made on one disc, there are a lot of problems and bugs to be found within the separate games, and really all you are getting is each game installing as if you had put the original games in the drive one by one. EA had a good idea coming out of the gate with this collection, but clearly stumbled somewhere along the way. Fans of [i]Command & Conquer[/i] deserve better than this, and Westwood Studio’s legacy certainly deserves more than bug-ridden versions of their finest work.

Score: 1/5

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