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Command & Conquer

Entry updated 8 January 2017. Tagged: Game.

Videogame series (from 1995). Westwood Studios (WS).

Command & Conquer is a series of Real Time Strategy games, played from an overhead view of the battlefield. As in Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (1992), to which the first Command & Conquer game was an unofficial sequel, the player must gather resources which they can use to build new combat and support units, such as soldiers and tanks, and create increasingly complex buildings, which allow them to construct more sophisticated units. Meanwhile, vehicles and infantry are dispatched to seek out and destroy the enemy. The games have been highly popular both as single-player campaigns with generally linear or multilinear Interactive Narratives and for player versus player competition in temporary Online Worlds. As with Starcraft (1998), the Command & Conquer mechanics emphasize entertaining gameplay over realistic simulation, employing a partly symbolic visual representation of the conflict. The series does not present an especially serious view of warfare; it abounds in deliberately camp scenarios and absurd superweapons, of which the most striking is perhaps Red Alert 2's Telepathically controlled giant squid.

The first game, Command & Conquer (1995 WS, DOS, Win; 1996 Mac, PS1, Saturn; 1999 N64; vt Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn), was created by Westwood to further develop the real time strategic gameplay they had experimented with in Dune II. It improves on many of Dune II's mechanics, notably in the player interface, and set the design template for most of the later Command & Conquer games. The setting assumes that a meteorite impact near the river Tiber in the late 1990s contaminates Earth with a substance named "Tiberium". This alien Element extracts minerals from the ground and processes them into advanced materials which are otherwise impossible to fabricate; unfortunately, it is also highly toxic and its organic crystals rapidly grow to absorb surrounding territory. The game focuses on a war between the Global Defense Initiative, formed by the United Nations to study and contain Tiberium, and the Brotherhood of Nod, a fanatical religious group who want to use it to transform the Earth, creating a New World Ecology of extraterrestrial origin (see Disaster). Both sides make heavy use of Tiberium to create the materials they need to construct their advanced weaponry; this is the primary resource which the player must gather. The Brotherhood's leader, Kane, is a late twentieth-century equivalent of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu: fiendishly malevolent, devilishly cunning, and a messiah to the world's poor and oppressed. In essence, the appearance of Tiberium is depicted as catalysing the real political tensions of the 1990s, setting rich against poor on a global scale. The player can adopt the role of a commander on either side, playing through a series of missions leading to an eventual victory for their chosen faction. Command & Conquer: The Covert Operations (1996 WS, DOS, Win) is an expansion pack which adds new units and missions.

Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (1999 WS, Win) is a sequel to Tiberian Dawn, set in what had by the time it was designed become an Alternate History. This game is more science-fictional in tone than the original, featuring highly advanced technology and set in a 2030 in which much of the world's surface has been absorbed by Tiberium. Tiberian Sun assumes that the player achieved a United Nations victory in the first game; the Brotherhood, and Kane, return. Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun – Firestorm (2000 WS, Win) is an expansion pack, in which the Brotherhood and the Initiative are forced to join forces against the Brotherhood's rogue AI. Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (2007 Electronic Arts [EA], Win, XB360) maintains the series' increasingly apocalyptic tone. It is set a further 20 years into the future, when Earth is divided between Tiberium zones which are incapable of supporting carbon-based life, contaminated areas dominated by the Brotherhood, and clean regions which are ruled by the Initiative. Kane returns for the third time, triggering another war, one which is interrupted by the arrival of hostile aliens intent on mining the Earth for Tiberium. Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath (2008 EA / BreakAway Games, Win, XB360) is an expansion pack for Tiberium Wars which follows events from Kane's point of view for the two decades which elapse between the end of Tiberian Sun and the aftermath of Tiberium Wars. The end of the story is presented in Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight (2010 EA, Win), though ultimately there is more of a sense of an epilogue than of a conclusion. In the interval between Kane's Wrath and Tiberian Twilight, set a further 30 years into the future, the Initiative and the Brotherhood have become allies, dedicated to controlling the spread of Tiberium using recovered alien technology. While their combined forces have succeeded in preventing further contamination, extremists from both sides have begun a new war. This conflict is played out using radically revised mechanics which more closely resemble those of a Real Time Tactics game with role playing elements than they do those of earlier members of the franchise. The gameplay is even more stylized than is traditional for Real Time Strategy games, and arguably concentrates on competitive play between teams in Online Worlds rather than the single-player campaign; there is some resemblance to Dawn of War II (see Warhammer 40,000). Ultimately, the player can help Kane and the Brotherhood escape to the stars through an alien Wormhole, a resolution which is presented more as a heavenly reward than as an interstellar colonization programme.

A separate series of the Command & Conquer franchise began with Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1996 WS, DOS, Win; 1997 PS1), a work which was originally intended to establish an Alternate History which would become the past of the Tiberium setting. However, later developments in the series, notably the unusual technologies seen in Red Alert 2, suggest that the two settings are best regarded as separate timelines. Red Alert begins in the late 1940s with Albert Einstein inventing a Time Machine, which he uses to dispose of Adolf Hitler in the 1920s, thus preventing World War Two. However, the Soviet Union then invades Europe in the 1950s. As in Tiberian Dawn, the player can take the part of a commander on either side of the conflict. Command & Conquer: Red Alert – The Aftermath (1997 WS / Intelligent Games [IG], DOS, Win) and Command & Conquer: Red Alert – Counterstrike (1997 WS / IG, DOS, Win) are expansions which add new units and missions, including gigantic mutant ants. Both of these packs are included in Command & Conquer: Red Alert – Retaliation (1998 WS / IG, PS1). Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2000 WS, Win) is a sequel which describes an alternate World War Three in which the Soviet Union invades the USA, using mind control over international telephone lines to disable the American nuclear arsenal. This game is especially notable for its exotic collection of superscientific Weapons, including localized Weather Control, cloned soldiers and giant Tesla coils which project balls of electrical energy. The plot is continued in the expansion Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 – Yuri's Revenge (2001 WS, Win), in which the eponymous Soviet agent goes rogue and builds a network of "Psychic Dominators" which will let him control the minds of everyone on Earth; in order to defeat him, the Soviets and the Western allies must use Time Travel to return to the war depicted in Red Alert 2. In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008 EA, Win, XB360; 2009 Mac, PS3) the timeline has again been changed, this time by the Soviets. Einstein has been assassinated in 1927, creating a present in which the Western democracies, the Soviet Union and a Japanese dominated Empire of the Rising Sun are fighting a three sided war for global domination. Many of the novel military technologies seen in previous games reappear, along with such new exotica as Russian units composed entirely of armoured bears and a Psionic Japanese schoolgirl. The gameplay is similar to that of previous entries in the series, but with increased emphasis on naval operations and the addition of the ability to play cooperatively with an ally (who may be controlled either by another player or by the computer). Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 – Uprising (2009 EA, Win; rev vt Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 – Commander's Challenge PS3, XB360) is an expansion which assumes that the West was victorious at the end of Red Alert 3; various sequels and peripheral narratives are presented, including one in which a corporate conspiracy intends to use a Time Distortion weapon to remove the Soviet Union from history altogether.

Related works: Various additional works associated with the Tiberian series have been created. Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor (1997 WS, Win) is an online player versus player game using units from Tiberian Dawn, with gameplay resembling that of a Third Person Shooter. Command & Conquer: Renegade (2002 WS, Win) is a First Person Shooter with a linear plot which occurs at the same time as Tiberian Dawn; it includes an interesting team-based online multiplayer option. Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight (2012 EA, Android) appears to be a simplified version of the original game of that name. Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars (2007) is a novelization of Tiberium Wars, focusing on different characters to those included in the game, by Keith R A DeCandido. It also seems that the Tiberium games will receive a – possibly final – coda in the form of Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, a forthcoming Real Time Strategy game depicting endless (and story free) conflicts in an Online World.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert (2009 EA, iOS) is another Real Time Strategy game, set between Yuri's Revenge and Red Alert 3; its linear narrative serves as a prequel for the latter game. Command & Conquer: Generals (2003 EA, Win; 2004 Mac) is the first in a third series of Command & Conquer games, created by different developers. It is set in the near future, during a conflict between the USA, China and the terrorist Global Liberation Army; the gameplay is much influenced by Starcraft (1998). Command & Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour (2003 EA, Win; 2005 Mac) is an expansion pack. [NT]

see also: Triple A.


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