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Command & Conquer Remastered looks great, but the music is the real treasure

(Image credit: EA)

Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is out today, and we'll have more on the whole bundle next week. It's a big package: Two full games with their expansions, a bunch of bonus missions that were once exclusive to consoles, and galleries full of classic FMV and behind the scenes videos. Many of those goodies are locked when you start the game, earned as you play through the campaigns. I don't think I'll ever get around to unlocking most of them myself, because of the hour or so I've spent playing C&C Remastered so far, most of it has been in the Jukebox. The remastered soundtrack sounds fantastic, and has made me realize just how strongly most of my C&C memories are tied into its music.

When I think of Command & Conquer's soundtracks, the song that immediately comes to mind for me, and I think many other fans, is Red Alert's Hell March. Tyler even has it in his head at all times. But the original game's soundtrack is fantastic, too, full of '90s industrial bangers and frequent detours into synth and funk land.

The voice samples in a few songs are electrifying pathways in my brain I haven't used in 20 years, triggering memories of the hours I spent playing C&C campaigns again and again on my family PC, and then my own PC, and then even the Nintendo 64.

Playing Command & Conquer now is a throwback, but also a little frustrating. I found myself getting annoyed at the poor pathfinding of my tanks and how slow units are to respond to my orders. The remastered graphics give C&C a wonderful glow up, but can't hide the many ways these are very old games. These are remasters rather than remakes, and that preservation was intentional—it's just immediately obvious that strategy games have made a lot of improvements around AI and responsiveness since 1995.

(Image credit: EA)

The act of playing C&C today doesn't evoke the same sensation playing it 20 years ago did, then, but the music actually does. That's the real nostalgia bomb here. It's the voice samples that really do it. How many hours have I spent listening to a three minute loop of Mechanical Man, waiting for that voice to kick in? Or In Trouble? I had no idea until today that Klepacki used lines of dialogue from Bill & Ted and Top Gun for these voice samples, but I've heard them in the games a thousand times.

Seeing every scrap of music from C&C and Red Alert packaged up and remastered is easily the best thing about this collection, and I hope EA releases them separately (someone's bound to just rip them and put them on YouTube, anyway). The collection includes the original versions alongside the remasters, and listening to both versions back-to-back makes it obvious how much better the new tracks sound. They're much clearer and cleaner. You can easily distinguish between different instruments, and they really shine in a way they don't in the old tracks. 

Here's a comparison (you may have to click to enable sound):

If you haven't played C&C in years, I think the Remastered Collection is worth it for the music alone. It's especially cool that the jukebox lets you make your own playlists and combine tracks from either game. No one's going to stop you from putting on Hell March when you send NOD soldiers into a GDI base.

When he's not 50 hours into a JRPG or an opaque ASCII roguelike, Wes is probably playing the hottest games of three years ago. He oversees features, seeking out personal stories from PC gaming's niche communities. 50% pizza by volume.