Back in 1992, PC developer Westwood Studios released a PC game called Dune II. The game was based on the Dune universe, but in the end, the licensed sci-fi setting really didn't matter. The gameplay was what really sold it. Dune II was, in many respects, the game that launched the real-time strategy genre. But it sort of remained in a niche. That niche exploded into a full-blown genre with the release of Blizzard's Warcraft and Westwood's next game, which ditched the Dune license in favor of an over-the-top, near-future sci-fi story. That game was 1995's Command & Conquer. Over the years, Westwood, which was eventually absorbed into the Electronic Arts collective, has released a whole lot of games with the C&C name on them. Command & Conquer: The First Decade collects almost all of them into one package and includes a DVD that covers the series' history.
Watching Kane and his minions plot to destroy civilization as we know it is still a lot of fun.
Most of the Command & Conquer games are recent enough that the originals still run on modern operating systems without much work. That, in some ways, makes the first couple of games--Command & Conquer and the alternate history spin-off, C&C Red Alert--the most interesting games in the whole collection. Released in 1995 and 1996, respectively, the above-mentioned games have been updated to run under Windows XP, but that's really about it. By today's standards, the video that gave the series so much personality looks absolutely awful--there are fake scanlines running through it and it's compressed with what was probably cutting-edge technology 11 years ago. For some, it will be a nostalgic treat; others will probably wish that the video was cleaned up. And people who run into a bug will probably wish that Red Alert played the between-mission cutscenes on the Soviet side. But everyone who remembers these old games will probably wish that the install sequences were included.
Many of the Command & Conquer games had long, drawn-out install processes that were deeply immersed in the look and feel of the C&C universe. Here, you're treated to the standard Windows installer. And since you're going to be installing up to 12 games off of the collection's dual-layered DVD, the install process is long. Like, go-get-a-sandwich-or-do-your-taxes long. The cool-looking install processes were one of the things that set the C&C games apart from the pack, and it's disappointing that they aren't included here.
The first two games in the series do have Internet multiplayer in there...somewhere. Unfortunately, this is another part of the package that wasn't updated. When you click on the Internet play button in C&C or Red Alert it simply asks you to install Westwood Chat, a client that Westwood released with the games that served as its player-matching service (Westwood Chat isn't included with the package, though). Some enterprising players in the community have cobbled together a way to get it all working. But it's sort of lame that players would have to jump through this many hoops to get it going, and it shows a real lack of concern on the part of those who were involved in putting the compilation together. Sure, players are probably more likely to be playing the more recent games in the series competitively, but slapping the warning of "Online play for games in this compilation may be discontinued and is not guaranteed" on the box and hoping for the best doesn't cut it. The early games in the series certainly don't look like they got much attention, even though this is a package meant to honor some of the greatest games ever made.
The general here has some mission objectives for you.
Of course, all of these complaints are about the things that surround the gameplay. The gameplay itself is as you remember it. Command & Conquer pits the G.I. Joe-like forces of GDI against the evil forces of the Brotherhood of Nod. Each side has two different, but functionally similar, sets of forces at their disposal, and you can play as either side. This is real-time strategy at its most basic. Waypoint systems? Intelligent pathing? Check back in a few years. While it's true that some of the things that aren't as polished in the early C&C games may annoy you if you've been keeping up with the RTS genre, the old stuff still holds up pretty well.
C&C Red Alert takes the concepts of the original and uses the same engine to put out something entirely new. The story is completely different, since this is an alternate history tale. Back in the World War II days, Einstein applies his mind to figuring out time travel...and succeeds. So he flings himself back into time and assassinates Hitler before his rise to power. This singular act recasts all of the 1940s, and it's Stalin and the red threat of the Soviets that instead rise to power, setting up an epic conflict between the Soviets and Allied forces that's marked by tesla coils and other crazy retrofuturistic technology.
Renegade let you get all the way down in the muck and take out NOD forces all by yourself.