The digital delights of Sony’s scrumptious PlayStation Network service know no bounds. Aside from letting punters compete in online gaming, stream films, browse the Internet and more, its premier attraction rests in the copious supply of downloadable games ripe for the picking. From PSN exclusives to PSOne Classics, minis and plain old add-on content, Sony’s online space is chock full of goodies battling it out for your hard-earned digital dollars.
Welcome back to another installment of Inside PlayStation Network, where every Monday – Friday we’ll pluck a PSN release—be it new or old—and put it in the spotlight for a thorough dissection. Fancy getting a new PSN game but don’t know what one to plump for? Perhaps this feature will help. Didn’t realize that a game was available in your region until now? We've got you covered. Or, perhaps you were musing over what those lucky Japanese folk were tucking into over in the Land of the Rising Sun? You can be sure our coverage will extend to those rare regional exclusives as much as those firmly embedded on the public consciousness.
For today’s entry, we slap on our General’s cap and bark out orders in the classic strategy romp, Command & Conquer.
Developer: WestWood Studios
Region(s) available: North America, Europe
Ask any PC purist to name one of the most influential home computer games on the market, and you can bet your bottom dollar Command and Conquer’ll pop up at some point. Having clocked up over 30 million sales since its inception in 1995, WestWood’s pioneering real-time strategy series helped flog the genre to a whole new audience, with mainstream success hitching along for the ride. The inaugural game in the series is unequivocally one of the all-time greats, and its impact on the industry was nothing short of profound. Unsurprising it is then, to see that the franchise has continued to rake in strong sales to this day, and, despite some patchy releases, remains just as popular as it was among RTS aficionados’ as it did back in its heyday. Despite being largely synonymous with PC users, a couple of the more prolific entries made the transition to PlayStation in the mid-late 90s, starting with the eponymous ’95 debut.
Command and Conquer may seem archaic by today’s standards, though don’t let that fool you. The game’s core fundamentals have remained a staple of RTS games over the years, and the original remains just as gruelling and thoroughly rewarding as it did over a decade and a half ago. As fans will acknowledge, C&C has calved out two distinct narrative bifurcations in recent years: Tiberium and Red Alert. The original game focuses on the former. Here, players assume control of one of two parties, namely the Global Defence Initiative (GDI) and the Brotherhood of Nod. GDI’s the good guys, while Nod’s the evil buggers looking to take over the planet under the rule of fan-favourite bald baddie, Kane. Essentially, the conflict revolves around the acquisition of Tiberium, an alien resource that’s slowly taking hold of the planet that every man and his dog is keen to get their mitts on.
The meat and potatoes of C&C – as is the case with many of its contemporaries - is built around gathering resources, cobbling together a functional base, and assembling an army. Funds must be juggled between base essentials such as power plants, refineries and defence structures, and producing bread-and-butter battle units such as troops, tanks and aircraft. All this is monitored via the sidebar menu, which lists all available buildings and units at your disposal, as well as a mini-map and number of credits remaining. Terrain must be explored before it appears on the map, however, so you'll have to engage in a bit of foot work. Credits can be earned by sending out a harvester to gobble up Tiberium (green is standard, blue is extremely precious), finding cash in hidden crates or flogging existing structures. Enemies will constantly attack your position, exacerbating an already delicate operation where you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons of purchasing one structure or unit over another. You’re low on tanks, but you need that extra harvester to rake in the cash. Do you risk leaving your base vulnerable to attack by plumping for the harvester, or churn out tanks by the dozen, thus slowing down your income?
Of course, that’s all just one end of the spectrum. There’s the mission objectives themselves to consider, which come in all shapes and sizes. More than often, you’ll be required to build up a base, defend it and then charge the enemy position and win the day. Other times you’ll be required to defend a position for a specific time, all the while coming under constant attack and having to manage limit funds. Then there’s the notoriously tricky task of commanding a limited, non-replaceable army of infantry and tanks as you storm an enemy base looking to neutralize a specific target. Make no mistake – C&C as a whole is one tough bugger, and nothing exemplifies the series’ hair-pulling difficulty more than the original. Throw in the arduous Covert Operations included in the PS port, and you’ll be plugging away at this for weeks. And that’s just on the standard difficulty parameter
Still, it’s just a shame there’s no multiplayer (local or online), but two meaty campaigns more than make up for it. Elsewhere, the cheese-tastic FMVs provide a welcome distraction, punctuating the pint-sized on-screen antics in between every few missions for some obligatory plot development. Meanwhile, esteemed composer Frank Klepacki’s score packs in some awesome ear-assaulting tunes to accompany your war efforts, and it’s not hard to see why C&C’s aural component has long remained one of its strongest elements over the years. How we relished back in the 90s grooving to the likes of ‘Just Do It Up,’ ‘Mechanical Man,’ and ‘Act on Instinct.’ Bloody brilliant.
Tune in again same time tomorrow for another gander Inside PlayStation Network.