This is the game that truly introduced me to the RTS genre. Yes there was Warcraft before it but that was pretty meh for me, I wasn't really into the medieval / fantasy thing.
Well I'm still not that into that even though I'm able to play games like TES, but I'll take sci-fi or cyberpunk any day over those, even steampunk is much preferable to fantasy.
Actually I did play Dune II before this and even liked it to an extent but it wasn't as big an influence on me as this game, and besides I didn't even know that it was an RTS when I played it.
This game was released at a time when even a pirated copy of a game was unattainable for someone from the former soviet bloc due to the price. So for months I could do nothing else but look at screenshots from the game in magazines. Until Christmas that year when my parents got me a glitchy pirated copy. For someone in Hungary at that time we well pretty well off, but not that well off to be able to afford a retail game. It cost somewhere in the ballpark of 1.5 weeks of salary for the average citizen. I mean the pirated copy, not the legal one. That was basically unattainable by anyone but the upper crust, weighing in at about 1 month worth of salary of the average citizen.
So social history aside, the game is great, although playing it today it feels pretty lame, but not in that appalling way, but comparatively to what I though about it back then. What then seemed huge and complex maps, now seem small and simple, but the 320x200 resolution of the DOS version of the game kind of made the maps look bigger. I don't miss that pixelfest, but I have to admit I miss the installer of the dos version, which is one of the best installers of any game to date. Already part of the experience that one. While the windows version does have the perk of 640x400 resolution, but only comes with a basic installshield installer. Oh and the 95 version also shows black lines between each line of the FMV cutscenes instead of properly upscaling, so that also is a big negative.
Of course by today's standard watching 320x200 video seems laughable, but back then FMV on a PC was exorbitant. Unfortunately the missions didn't stand up to the test of times that well either, what seemed long and hard translates to short and easy in most cases. The only way the AI can give you any kind of challenge is by cheating, or if the odds are stacked against you heavily as is the case in the Covert Operation mission pack. The AI's cheating in the game is pretty obvious, for example one harvest for the AI means all tiberium stores are fully loaded, meaning it gets 5000-10000 depending on the mission, while you get 700 for the same. Also the AI is capable of rebuilding any building instantly on any part of the map. You destroy a guard tower, in 2 seconds it's back. The only way to beat the AI is by cheating yourself as in positioning units in the places of destroyed buildings so it can't rebuild them.
But probably the biggest issue of the game is unit pathfinding, and the map design unfortunately exaggerates the pathfinding issues tenfold by having numerous chokepoints on maps where only one unit can pass at a time. And if you try to send a group of units trough said chokepoints as soon as the first units starts to cross it, the rest detects the path as blocked and immediately start to turn around and find an alternate route even if that's leading them trough enemy fire zones or the other end of the map. And most units react painfully slow to new commands. This issue almost entirely invalidates the games biggest innovation that is grouping units.
Because even in the open when you try to move a group, they'll immediately try to go around each other often resulting in half or more of the units starting to move in the opposite direction you wanted them to. Leaving enemy units to get in many hits before your units can even take up firing positions. This means the only good tactic in the game is to set up a firing squad of units then try to lure the enemies in front of them with a fast unit. Which is pretty easy since attacking the harvester of the AI works as a trigger. Because it immediately sends all of its units to defend the harvester if you attack that.
Another common exploit in the game is walling in the AI, which I used often back in the day to beat "hard" missions. But I had no reason to use it now, the game doesn't feel that hard as it felt to 12 year old me. The FMV sequences are shot in ugly greenscreen, with appaling CGI backgrounds, mastered in whopping 320x200, but thankfully they're short, but hey in 1995 this was the holy grail. As far as acting goes, from the cast the best performance or I'd rather say the only acceptable performance by any serious standards comes from the guy who is not a professional actor. Joe Kucan, who was a legend among gamers back in those days.
- It's C&C!
- Original Soundtrack about the only thing in the game that still holds up today. Frank Klepacki you're a genius.
- The graphics aged pretty well, but then again 2D games usually do, early 3D games however...
- I really can't say anything else flattering by today's standards
- Not sure if it's fair to mention this but it crashed a lot on W10
- Before the time of autosave so don't forget to save manually at the beginning of missions, I sure did the first few times, modern gaming made us lazy
- AI pathfinding, exploits
- Enemy AI cheating, but it's OK otherwise it would really be too easy
Scoring chart in 1995 terms:
Overall impression: 8/10
This is a piece of history right here, I was going to say best left undisturbed, but fuck that, I actually enjoyed playing it despite it being so out-of-date in almost every way.