Command & Conquer Remastered review: You finally did good, EA

The best Command & Conquer release in years.

Command & Conquer Remastered
(Image: © Windows Central)

Command & Conquer Remastered

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Command & Conquer was a series of strategy PC games that pretty much defined the genre. The original title, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn was developed by Westwood Studios and released in 1995, followed closely by Red Alert, which is set in a different universe but utilizes much of the same mechanics and age-old engine. These games were incredible.

A full 25 years on, and we've seen not only the development of Command & Conquer on PC come to a grinding halt, but that too of the strategy genre as a whole. You could say EA wants to test the waters with a remaster of the original Command & Conquer games, but I also see it as a tribute to a franchise that so many still hold dear to their hearts today.

But this is Electronic Arts. The same company that royally fudged the return of Star Wars: Battlefront. Luckily, Command & Conquer Remastered was in good hands with lead producer Jim Vessella working with the fine folk (and ex-Westwood employees) at Petroglyph Games, among others. The end result is something truly spectacular.

Windows Central received a PC code for review from the developer.

Returning to the battlefield

Command & Conquer Remastered

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Command & Conquer is a fairly simple concept. There's a campaign mode with several missions, as well as skirmishes that can be played against the AI or online with other players. The goal is to build up your base with structures, recruit infantry and vehicle units, and destroy the opposition.

Command & Conquer is still an incredible experience 25 years on.

The Remastered collection includes both Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert. There are also three expansion packs included; The Covert Operations for Tiberian Dawn, and Counterstrike and Aftermath for Red Alert. EA and its hired muscle invested time in working on 4K visuals, a remastered soundtrack, as well as some quality of life improvements to the gameplay.

Really, on firing up either title, they can be played as if you've inserted the original disks. Pixelated graphics can be enjoyed in all their glory, taking full advantage of full support in the latest version of Windows 10. The hard work is the result of a collaboration between EA, Petroglyph Games, and Lemon Sky Studios.

Strategy games are sensitive beasts. The community, especially pro players, are very finicky about changes to their favorite games, and Command & Conquer is no exception. After seeing what happened with Warcraft 3, the team felt compelled to have the community involved with all the improvements that were being implemented. A council was established with modders and players from the C&C community.

Command & Conquer Remastered

Command & Conquer Remastered (Image credit: Windows Central)

Old graphics (left) | New graphics (right)

Some of the features that were added to this original collection include easy graphics switching, allowing one to alter between 4K and the 1990s with nothing but a press of the spacebar. There's also full modding support, with EA releasing the source code as a whole, which should open up the doors for some incredible community-created content.

There have also been a few improvements to Tiberian Dawn alone, taking cues from Red Alert. We've got a revamped sidebar, which allows for the queuing of unit production. There's also now a skirmish mode, allowing you to battle the AI without hopping into the campaign to replay all the missions for the 99th time.

System requirements aren't particularly demanding, as they shouldn't be for such basic mechanics compared to more recently released strategy games.

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CPU64-bit Intel or AMD64-bit Intel or AMD
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GT 420ATI Radeon HD 5570NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660ATI Radeon HD 7850

Options-wise, there are numerous to configure. The developer has made it possible to switch some elements between old and new, including health bar visibility, unit queues, and mouse buttons for movement. The best part? There are no microtransactions or in-game purchases here.

Classic story and gameplay

The main storyline for Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn kicks off with a meteorite crash near the river Tiber in Italy in the 1990s. This crash unloads an alien substance that scientists name after the river, Tiberium. This mysterious substance is able to absorb and crystalize metals from the ground, as well as terraform the surroundings.

Classic Command & Conquer gameplay still holds up today.

The Brotherhood of Nod is an ancient cult that predicted such an event happening and immediately began investing in extraction processes. Nod eventually controlled almost half of the Tiberium and commenced numerous terrorist campaigns to establish footholds in various nations. The Global Defense Initiative was set up by the United Nations Security Council to combat the cult on all fronts.

It's possible to play as both Nod and GDI in the campaign and in skirmish matches, allowing you to enjoy the differing strategies available. In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, there's no Tiberium because this spin-off series is set in a different universe, pitting allied nations against the Soviet Union. Like Tiberium Dawn, you can play as Allied or Soviet in the campaign and skirmishes.

Command & Conquer Remastered

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The gameplay of both games is similar in many ways, but the experience for both is spectacular. Returning to the mid-1990s, where PC strategy games were at the forefront, it's amazing just how well these two games hold up with or without the 4K graphics enabled. The quality of life improvements that were added makes the old feel a little less ... well, old.

The sidebars have been refreshed, especially in Tiberian Dawn, where you no longer have to scroll for what seems like five years to get to the unit you wish to produce. I also dig the ability to see health bars when units have been damaged instead of only when selected. (As aforementioned, this can be toggled in the settings.)

Then you have the music. Hell March will always send chills down my spine like it did the first time I heard it 24 years ago. And you can play all the excellent tracks in a custom playlist of your choosing, thanks to the in-game jukebox.

It's not all perfect. Strategy games (including more recent Command & Conquer entries) have added plenty of additional features and mechanics that aren't present here, and it shows. For instance, there's no way to set a unit to move to a specific point and attack anything along the way. Nor is there a way to set patrols. The pathfinding is still terrible. This may put newcomers off a little.

Should you buy Command & Conquer Remastered?

Command & Conquer Remastered

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It's normally difficult for me to get into EA games as-of-late, having been let down with so many franchises (The Sims, SimCity, and Star Wars, just to name a few), but Command & Conquer Remastered is a breath of fresh air. Should you be an old series fan who played the original games like me for hours on end or happen to be new to these classics and want to know where it all started, it's a must buy.

This classic remaster is the best C&C release we've had in years.

The improved graphics are welcome, though you can absolutely switch to the original look and feel with a single button press. The quality of life improvements made to both games, particularly Tiberian Dawn, are excellent. However, I would have liked to see such additions like the ability to move units to a location and have them automatically attack anything en-route.

Strategy games have come a long way since Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert were released, but the genre has stagnated lately. If EA is testing the waters to see just how well a remaster does in order to gauge interest for a new Command & Conquer PC title, I hope this collection sells like hotcakes. Hopefully, EA takes what it did here and applies that to the next C&C, if we get one. Keep the community involved to help shape the experience.

For now, I'm more than happy with Command & Conquer Remastered, and any fan of the original games will be too. For those holding out for a similar remaster for Red Alert 2 and Tiberian Sun, I'm right there with you. Just waiting on you, EA.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.