Don’t you remember that era, right around the mid-90s, when the PC was experiencing a strategy game renaissance? That primordial era from which excellent games like Dungeon Keeper, Warcraft, Dark Reign, X-COM, and all those Sim- games came from? No? Well it happened, and one of the reigning champions was the cutting edge Command & Conquer series. EA recently unveiled a new game in the series – produced by a new studio – and quickly yanked all proof of its existence, but in an era when Starcraft 2 is the champion of the form, do we really need another C&C game?
Featuring a trip-hop soundtrack, crazy art direction, and an engrossing story powered by glorious FMV cutscenes in which the on-screen characters broke the fourth wall and interacted with you, the series was a hallmark for the new real-time strategy genre in 1995. The skinny was that you played as either the UN-backed military power Global Defense Initiative or the quasi-terrorist group Brotherhood of Nod (under the leadership of chrome-dome Kane (Joe Kucan)) on a quest to harvest a new alien mineral called tiberium by building bases, sending out harvesters to gather this tiberium, and spending that money to get units to crush the other guy’s base. You have to remember that this was a time where dragging a selection box over a bunch of tanks and footmen, then clicking on another spot to move or commit them to action and watching them do that thing before your very eyes was still an entirely new concept that required a new level of computing power and control that only the mid-90s could afford. A year later, those guys at Westwood Studios brought us the Stalin-powered Soviets vs. Allies side-quel Red Alert, which would eventually become its own universe.
Over the years, the games based in the Tiberium arc became darker and cheesier and the games based in the Red Alert universe just became cheesier and I eventually fell out of love with everything C&C. They even brought out a new game called Generals based in the modern era that millions of people bought and enjoyed, which is ridiculous because the game was awful and those people are liars. Anyway, by the late 00s, the entire body of work had run out of gas and no amount of fourth-wall-breaking-FMV-featuring-a-bald-Joe-Kucan would suffice; all of their C&C branded games began to fail critically and commercially. Starcraft 2 released last year, being an incredibly polished version of the original game, and sucked the air clean out of the RTS vacuum, leaving little space for the once-formidable C&C series.
Let’s hope EA has some good ideas for their reboot of the series, or whatever they plan on doing with the thing, because it’s obvious the whole thing is dead now – its legs mere ground-up nubs just below the knees. Where should they start? A trip-hop soundtrack and killer art direction.
Maybe Joe Kucan?