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SummaryI HATE this game!
The GoodThe videos were pretty well done, I guess, even if they were horribly cheesy. Also, the plot actually seems a lot better now than it did in 1995. Replace the fictional terrorist Kane with the all-too-real Osama bin Laden, and the whole thing starts sounding chillingly familiar.
The game doesn't format your hard drive when you install it, although it does take up valuable disk space that would be much better spent on just about anything else. C&C also makes most other games (even of the astoundingly overrated RTS genre) look good.
Finally, I suspect this game satisfies some primal urge, deep within the darkest part of our souls, to buy crap games and then lie to other people about how cool they are.
The BadLet me count the ways! Is there any way this game could have sold as many units as it did had it not been for the technological explosion of the mid-1990s? NO! Too many people obviously bought this as their very first computer game. Otherwise, it would not have been hailed as brilliant, nor would it have passed muster as a strategy title. This game was simply another Myst, only it somehow managed to get respect from magazine reviewers and hard-core gamers. Before you flame me, allow me to try to explain where I'm coming from here…
Sid Meier's Civilization is an example of a great strategy game. I'm not just referring to the fact that it's incredibly deep, a work of art; I'm referring to the fact that you need to put some thought into it, even at the lower difficulty levels, if you want to be a successful Civ player. Now, my very first exposure to C&C revealed why it could never, ever be in the same class as Civ. A computerless guy in my college dorm asked if he could install C&C on my new PC and play it; naturally, I said "sure," wanting to be nice to the fellow but also harboring an ulterior motive: I wanted a sneak peek at this game that had such a buzz around it. Well, he installed it, and what ensued was positively horrifying. Yes, it was cheesy, with the videos and all, but at least it was kind of slick. (I suppose it's like the difference between low-budget and high-budget porno flicks -- although I certainly haven't watched enough porn to say for sure.) But then the game started. My friend proceeded to use the mouse, clicking on things on the screen more or less at random. "I dunno what I'm doin' here," he said, and he was obviously telling the truth. And bizarrely, unforgettable, maddeningly…he was doing REALLY WELL! Yes, that's right, no thought, no previous gaming experience, nothing required but a Pentium with a CDROM drive, and you too can be a master strategist!
I picked up C&C when it hit bargain bins a couple years later in the hope that I was mistaken in my hunch that it was a bad game. I played it and disliked it. A few years later, I got it back out and reinstalled it, thinking that my greater maturity, and the perspective of the post-StarCraft and Age of Empires II-era, would enable me to see what seemingly everyone else saw in this game. Nope. I'm pretty sure that if I reinstalled it and played it today, it would still suck.
It was a big mistake for us to label C&C a "real-time strategy" (RTS) game in the first place. First, it doesn’t really seem to be in real time, but *accelerated* time. In some ways, C&C's roots are in the video arcades. That opening beach-landing sequence wants to be reminiscent of D-Day, but it really reminds me instead of 8-bit era action games like Commando and Guerrilla War. The difference being that I loved those two games, because they didn't pretend to be anything but shoot'em-ups. Not so with C&C. Second, this game doesn't involve strategy in the traditional PC wargame sense; if anything, it's more of a puzzle game (an incredibly annoying one, at that). It's much more like Lemmings (minus the charm) than Civilization, so "strategy" was just the wrong word to use. In fact, C&C was the perfect game for the 1990s—the decade of declining standards. Strategy was still for wargamers and chess players in the 1980s. Thanks to C&C, even a drug-dealing juvenile delinquent who made straight D's since junior high could consider himself a master of strategic thinking.
And don’t get me started on how buggy and broken the game feels. You’ll grow old waiting for your units to actually start responding to your orders. Sorry if I seem bitter. Did I mention that I really hate this game?
Just for the record, I don't hate all RTS games. Warcraft and Warcraft II are undeniably charming and addictive, if not particularly substantive. I could make other exceptions. C&C just stands out as a tremendously disappointing game that influenced way too many of the shoddy titles that followed it.