I usually hold off on reviewing games until after I've completely finished them, but this time there is no point. Finishing all four campaigns won't change an ounce on my review, since the remaster offered nothing new after my second mission. So after finishing the GDI campaign in C&C and now being 2/3 of the way into the Allied campaign of Red Alert, I'm pretty confident I have enough to write an informed review.
I like to appeal to reason and intelligence and will call out hypocrisy no matter which side it comes from. This time its not from the agitators, but the gamers who act hypocritical. They bash entertainment media for trying to appeal to nostalgia to lure people in, but this time they themselves are using nostalgia to defend this so called remaster.
I say so called, because it is not a remaster in my opinion. It is a graphics upgrade and that's the end of it. It is a low effort cash grab, and the gamers are eating it up. I'm sorry, dear reader, if you defend this then you are being foolish.
So what did they do? What can you expect? Gameplay wise absolutely nothing. This is the 1995/1996 games without literally any change, and I employ literally very literally this time. The game plays exactly the same, even the bugs are left exactly the same, they didn't even bother to fix the glaring issues. Every bug I encountered in 1995 is back again to annoy and haunt me.
The difference is that in '96 I played on a 486, and we chalked up those limitations and idiocies of the game to the limitations of the hardware. Now, 25 years later that excuse no longer flies. I expected a major overhaul of the games, bringing them to the 21st century in style. At worst I had hoped for a C&C Generals level experience, and a re-balancing of the AI and missions.
To put into perspective how little effort went into the remaster, the only thing they did to the cutscenes is run an AI upscaler on the blurry overcompressed footage from the first game. They didn't even bother to go back to the original footage and re-do the CGI. And they have the original footage, as the only interesting feature of the re-release is the bonus footage where they show raw green screen sessions, that are much better quality than the actual in-game cutscenes. Why? I assume becuase those were newly digitized with modern hardware and software.
In my estimation they spent a minimal amount of cash on this, I'd be surprised if the actual production budget was more than $200.000. No, that's not a typo.
Let's see what they actually did:
- Run AI upscaler on videos: let's be generous: $1000 for one week time of a technician, and the electricity bill
- Remixes of music: $25.000 honorarium for the composer (and that's being very generous, esp. for the quality of the outcome, but later about that)
- Drawing the new high-rez art: $50.000 for 6 months and two artists
- Coding the new menus and frontend and integrating the old code: $75.000 for two coders for 6 months.
- Every other secondary work, like netcode upgrades: whatever left over.
This is not a product that is worth $20, the intentions of the creators might be good, but this is still a typical EA cashgrab.
One of the most hyped features of the re-master was the remastered music, and previously unreleased tracks. Let me tell it staright: The remastered tracks are bloody awful, after two missions my ears said enough, and I went in to the menu, to change the playlist so the game only plays the original tracks. Yes, the new ones are really unbearably bad, not just musically, but the audio is somehow off as well, it sounded painful.
And to add insult to injury the game doesn't even support ultrawide properly. The cutscenes have black bars on all four sides, while in the game on the left and right. Unacceptable.
The graphics looks nice enough when you zoom in, but it's unpractical to play it like that, and when you zoom out for maximum coverage the units barely look different from the original.
I couldn't find the special move commands in the game. In the old ones you could order your units to follow certain other units, or to aggressive move, meaning automatically attack any enemy on the way, this feature seems to be missing from the game. The only special command that actually remains is the force attack. (To attack friendlies or seemingly empty blocks)
You can't overwrite saves in it. When you select the save option there is no way to overwrite an older save, as the save selection screen doesn't even appear, you have to manually enter a name for each save, and all will be stored as a separate save, meaning you'll end up with hundreds of redundant and unnecessary saves by the time you finish a campaign. Unless you choose to manually delete them one by one.
Pros and cons?
- It works (the old games were becoming increasingly problematic on new systems)
- Integration of the old installers as cutscenes
- Bonus features
- The new graphics isn't really that great or different when zoomed out
- No ultrawide support
- New music is awful
- The cutscenes are just upscaled, not actually remastered or upgraded in any way
- No way to overwrite saves.
- No special moves
- It really doesn't hold up very well to modern standards.
Scores (as a remaster, as the original qualities of the game are irrelevant this way)
Story/atmosphere: Not applicable
Overall impression: 3/10
The only reason to buy this is if you want to desperately re-play the classics right now. Otherwise I'd wait for it to drop to $5, that's what it's actually worth. And for new players I don't recommend this at all. This is an old game, re-released almost unchanged, it is not up to par with modern expectations. Unless you are ready to give it massive leeway and curtail your expectations it will be a disappointment and a frustrating experience, and you'll be standing there baffled why those old guys are so in love with this game.
It makes my heart wrench to admit this, but there are some games that I loved the hell out of back in the day, but they are no longer fit for modern audiences consumption. And this is one of them, among other greats of the past like Max Payne, DeusEx, etc.