The C&C Remastered Collection is out on June 5, making two great '90s real-time strategy games much more playable on modern PCs. I attended a virtual demo for the collection last week to see how it's shaping up, and it looks good—all the graphics have been redrawn to support 4K monitors, and the UI includes modern conveniences like build tabs, unit queuing and custom hotkeys. After my demo, though, I'm less excited about replaying Command & Conquer and Red Alert, and more excited about diving into the extras packed into this re-release. The biggest draw, by far, is four hours of behind-the-scenes footage taken during filming of the famous live action cutscenes.
EA sent over an example clip of Westwood's Joseph Kucan, better known as Kane, delivering his lines in front of a green screen. All C&C fans know Kane, but they might not know that Kucan actually directed the FMV scenes for the series through Red Alert 2. An example video I saw during the presentation showed the FMV set, with Kucan directing, while a scene played out.
Apparently all these videos were discovered at EA's LA studio on tapes presumed lost in the years since original developer Westwood shut down. C&C's cutscenes were cutting edge back in the '90s, even if they were also cheesy as hell. Seeing that little bit of gaming history being made will be a delight.
Those videos aren't the only extras in the remastered collection, either. The original C&C and alternate history spin-off Red Alert both include all their expansions, which encompasses some really obscure stuff like the Nintendo 64-exclusive C&C levels and the PlayStation-exclusive Red Alert bonuses. Funpark missions and dinosaurs, ants, console cinematics—those Easter eggs are all included.
All the music from both games are in there, including some unreleased tracks composer Frank Klepacki discovered. Klepacki is part of a band called The Tiberian Sons that does rock/metal covers of C&C songs, and something like 20 of their covers will be included in the music options, too. You'll be able to create custom playlists of your own songs and mix them up however you choose, which means you can play Red Alert's Hell March while conquering the world as the Brotherhood of Nod, if you so choose. (By the way, if you ever wondered what the words in Hell March were, so did EA producer Jim Vessella, who actually asked Frank Kelpacki. "It's just gibberish," Klepacki told him.)
I asked EA Vessella if the developers decided to make any balance changes with the remaster, or tweak things like unit pathfinding that wasn't the smartest back in old RTS games. He said no—that they played around with that a bit, but found that the campaign missions were so tightly designed, even very small changes to balance data caused problematic ripple effects. In general, the remaster aims to be as close as possible to the original games, including the option to change graphics from original to remastered on the fly, and new vs. legacy toggles for things like left-click or right-click to issue commands. The same toggle exists for classic music and sound effects and remastered, re-recorded versions.
Where they deviate it's for good reason, like making different team colors more visible in multiplayer, which now runs on dedicated servers. Hopefully the remaster inspires a lively multiplayer community—there's a built-in map editor, which should keep things fresh.
From what I've seen, the new, redrawn graphics look great. They're very true to the original art, just far sharper and cleaner than the low-res pixel art designed for 640x480 monitors. The only disappointment in the collection I've seen is the quality of the upscaled FMVs. EA ran them through the same kind of AI upscaling technique used in a lot of texture mods for games like Final Fantasy 7 today, but the results aren't too pretty for these videos that mix human actors and '90s CGI. Unfortunately, the source footage for all those cutscenes wasn't stashed away with the behind-the-scenes tapes. It's likely lost forever, so upscaled versions are the best we can get.
But that's still a lot better than trying to watch these videos at their tiny original resolution, and there's a lot of other great stuff packed into the collection. It's out on June 5 for $20.