With Command & Conquer 4 just around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time to take a retrospective look at this iconic real-time strategy gaming franchise.
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn – 1995
Bolstered by the success of Dune II, Westwood Studios set out to create the ultimate RTS. The Tiberian series of C&C games was born. Set in the 1990’s, a meteorite has crashed into Earth bringing with it the alien Tiberium crystal, an extremely hazardous substance which contains immense latent energy.
As the Tiberium spreads across the Earth, the Global Defence Initiative of the United Nations and the Brotherhood of Nod battle for control of the crystals. At this point in the plot, Nod is primarily based in Europe but takes control of the entire African continent by the end of the Nod campaign.
In the final GDI mission in which the Temple of Nod is besieged, a mysterious derelict craft can be spotted, the first clue of the existence of the alien Scrin race, which make a full appearance in C&C 3.
Aside from being regarded as the archetype of the RTS genre as we know it, the original title was earmarked for its catchy soundtrack, alternate campaign endings, and extensive use of full motion video (FMV) cut scenes. Originally released for MS-DOS, the game supported four player multiplayer over a local network, which was pretty amazing at the time. The game has since been ported to almost every platform imaginable.
There were three expansions to the original: Covert Operations; Special Operations; and Sole Survivor. Special Operations was unique to the Nintendo 64 and Playstation versions of the game, but the maps have since been extracted and included in unofficial fan patches. If you missed out on playing the original, EA has released a commemorative freeware version.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert – 1996
It’s the 1950’s and Albert Einstein has developed a time machine with the goal of going back in time and altering history as we know it, preventing the formation of Nazi Germany. The plan works, but has the consequence of allowing Soviet Russia to embark on a conquest of Europe. The game revolves around the actions of the Allies and the Soviets.
The Red Alert series has had somewhat of a muddled relationship with the original Tiberian series, in that the various developers and publisher EA can’t quite decide whether or not the events are tied to the same universe, or are alternate. Red Alert made reference to the Tiberian series universe and even included appearances by Kane. The link became unclear in Red Alert 2 however, which was not developed by Westwood, and contained no references to the Tiberian series.
There is a theory going around that supposes the Allied conclusion of Red Alert leads to the universe of Red Alert 2, whilst the Soviet conclusion leads to that of Command & Conquer.
There are two expansions packs for the game, Counterstrike and The Aftermath. The Counterstrike expansion contained a ‘secret’ game mode in which the player had to battle against giant ants. EA has also released a freeware version of Red Alert.
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun – 1999
This is the sequel to the events of Tiberian Dawn and Renegade (which was released in 2002). Tiberian Sun and its Firestorm expansion were the last RTS products from the original Westwood studio, which had been acquired by EA in 1998. After the Tiberian Sun release, EA began to increasingly interfere with production, and many of the original Westwood personnel eventually left the company.
The year is 2030 and the GDI and Nod are still at it, fighting over Tiberium, which has wreaked havoc across the globe. Kane also first displays his little party trick of returning from death. He’s managed to get his hands on some useful Scrin technology, known as the Tacitus, and he also plans to cover the entire globe in Tiberium. The GDI showcase their sci-fi battle tech styled mech units.
Firestorm sees CABAL, Nod’s resurrected artificial intelligence project, turning rouge and assassinating Nod’s leaders. CABAL also starts interfering with GDI endeavours to capture the Tacitus, and a tentative alliance is formed to combat the AI.
Tiberian Sun featured a game engine capable of multi-level and deformable terrain. The FMV scenes were changed from the first person perspective of Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert to use cinematic styled shots. Hollywood actors such as James Earl Jones and Michael Biehn were also used, marking a significant step up in production budget for the franchise.
EA has recently released Tiberian Sun and Firestorm as freeware as part of its promotion of C&C 4.
Command & Conquer: Renegade – 2002
Renegade is the one and only FPS title in the C&C universe, and the last of the franchise to be developed by Westwood. The story follows the antics of GDI commando Nick ‘Havoc’ Parker, during the final stages of the first Tiberium war. Havoc must rescue three GDI Tiberium research specialists who have been kidnapped by Nod.
Renegade featured a number of references to Tiberian Dawn with familiar locations and missions used. At one point, the player comes across the wreckage of an alien spaceship, another pre-Tiberian Sun reference to the Scrin.
The multiplayer component used a ‘Command & Conquer’ mode in which players are divided into GDI and Nod, with the goal of destroying each other’s base. The game was generally well received despite its flaws, with the unique multiplayer modes lending it some longevity.
Although no sequels have been made, Renegade has a legacy of sorts with later C&C titles. The 3D engine developed by Westwood would go on to become the basis for C&C: Generals, the first full 3D C&C title, as well as C&C 3.
Keep an eye out for the conclusion of MyGaming’s Command & Conquer retrospective. Be sure to share all of your favourite C&C moments in the forums.
Now read part II of our C&C retrospective