Command & Conquer
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: Westwood Studios
Release Date: 1995
The fall of 1995 was the culmination of work at Westwood--work that had been in progress for several years. According to Sperry, "The ideas for Command & Conquer were developing even as we were finishing Dune II. We learned a lot while we were making Dune II, just as it is with every game. You always get to the end of a project and think, 'Next time, we'd love to do this and this and this.' Command & Conquer was the net result of the Dune II wish list."
Now that the name is nearly synonymous with RTS gaming, it's interesting that Command & Conquer could have been called something else. According to Sperry, "With Dune II, a commercial and critical success, it was time to build the ultimate RTS without the 'leg up' from a license like Dune, and thus Command & Conquer was born. I was fanatical about calling the game 'Command & Conquer'--exactly like that--because to me, it perfectly expressed what you did in the game, although, for a while during development, marketing and others wanted to change the name for fears of allusions to bondage/porn. Bah!"
It's hard to describe C&C fever as it existed back in 1995. Some gamers might remember an SVGA version of the game for Windows 95, but this was actually the "Gold" version released a year later; the original Command & Conquer was a DOS game. While it didn't have the SVGA splendor of Warcraft II, it did have decent graphics and gripping action. It was the latter that made it a true descendant of Dune II, along with the futuristic weaponry in each player's arsenal.
Command & Conquer tells the story of the battle between the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and the Brotherhood of Nod. The presentation is simply fantastic, with slick video cutscenes narrating a classic battle between good and evil. Unlike the Warcraft series, each side has distinct units with varying capabilities. GDI has the more conventional force, while Nod relies more on speed than striking power. There are no naval units, but otherwise the force mix is deep and provides for a lot of strategy.
The success of the Command & Conquer franchise was so complete that Westwood even developed an online-only spin-off called Sole Survivor, in which you play a single unit and fight other players in a deathmatch-style competition. You can find power-ups such as health, invisibility, armor, and the like. There are additional play modes (like capture-the-flag and football) that are slightly more interesting, but the basic idea of playing a single unit from the game's armory never really caught on. Westwood ended up releasing a host of successful expansion packs for Command & Conquer and its sequel, Red Alert. Of them, Sole Survivor is perhaps the best example of how hot Command & Conquer fever got several years ago.