To many EA are viewed as one of the scourges of the video game world, a triple A behemoth that acquires and assimilates studios, most often to the detriment of fans and their beloved games. A company that is viewed as gluttonous for money and unscrupulous in their quest to fill their coffers, at the expense of delivering the best games and services they could. Well, frankly those people are far from being wrong.
EA’s reputation for being one of the most cut-throat companies in the industry precedes them and for good reason. Moving from gaffe to farce it has laid bare its modus operandi, which is purely to profit by any means necessary. As can be seen with some examples from their collection of scandals, most infamously and recently the ruckus caused by Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot boxes. Okay, they did backtrack on that decision but just look at the worlds of Fifa and Madden and their in game purchases. You’ll soon see how EA made $1.68 billion through microtransactions, subscriptions and DLC last year.
Now in general in the ongoing debate surrounding their practice, I’ve been a quiet onlooker tutting in distaste at their actions, noting it all with a shake of my head. This time however they’ve crossed a line I had subconsciously drawn in the sand. They’ve opted to revive one of the seminal real-time strategy games as a mobile game. It was announced at E3 to great internet uproar, that the game which alongside StarCraft and Warcraft shaped the landscape of a genre and helped populate it with players, is to be made into a mere mobile app.
What C&C Was To Me
Following the success of the 1995 Command & Conquer release which welcomed us to a near future of a Tiberium contaminated Earth, Westwood Studios released a second game set as a prequel to the Tiberium series. Known as Red Alert it was set in an alternate timeline where the Soviets had waged war against the Allies in the wake of the Cold War. This was the series I really got my teeth into and was my first bite of RTS games (sorry GDI and NOD, Allies and Soviets forever.)
Way back, as a wee lad of 6 years old in the year of ’96 I have vivid memories of playing Red Alert in awe on my mates step-dads PC. Even at barely over half a decade old I fell in love with the idea of controlling troops to outwit the enemy, especially those darned sweet attack dogs. I mean just look at the cute butter wouldn’t melt one bite one kill bastards…
As a series it had so much character and flare, making a great concept simple but most importantly extremely enjoyable gameplay. Just look at the trailer, for the time it must have been mind-blowing, especially if like me you love all things military (it’s not a phase mum,) it even filled me with an intense urge to play watching it back now.
The game had a soundtrack that really blew your bollocks off and made you feel like you were riding into battle alongside the action, it’s just so intense. To this day just hearing the ‘Hell March’ gets me in the mood to do some commanding and conquering instantaneously.
To me what really gave this specific C&C series character was the satirical and humorous take on the superpowers of the East and West in the campaigns and cut-scenes. This coupled with further characterisation in their building, tech and troop types made it an absolute delight of light-hearted parody. It was funny, often poignant and at times quite kitsch and to me this means that Red Alert: 2 was the epitome of the series because it captured all this the best. Have a cheeky peek at the opening cut scene to get a flavour of what I mean.
The series eventually fizzled out with releases that didn’t particularly live up to their predecessors’ names and so of course popularity dwindled. It is apt to note that EA took over Westwood Studios in 1998 and closed it in 2003. For all the years that it has laid dormant since the last 2013 release people have called for its revival, however no fan ever expected or ever wanted it to look like this. Taking something so ground-breaking and influential in the rise in popularity of the genre, a game that was so instantly recognisable for its style and great gameplay and turning it into …. well just watch and see.
At time of writing 2.1k likes, 50k dislikes on that trailer. [Edited: 06/04/2021; The trailer which corresponds to the above link can’t be reached as it has in fact been made private by EA]
Command A Cash-cow
C&C Rivals is but a mere husk of the franchises former glory days and in my opinion looks barely indistinguishable from any other ten a penny mobile game I see advertised all over social media. EA have created a knock-off version of a title they acquired, originally created by a studio they closed.
Yes perhaps you might say I’m falling foul of what I accused certain Fallout fans of in a previous article and yes, change isn’t always bad, just in this situation there’s no redeeming features. I’m not simply lamenting a different take on a treasured game, it’s the outright relegation of a pivotal series in the RTS genre to nothing more than a mobile game. EA are clearly looking to compete in that reputedly exploitative market with a nostalgic big hitting name. They think C&C is in the same gutter as pay-to-win games such as Clash Royale.
Now I am not entirely opposed to mobile games or even C&C ones at that, it’s more the practice of an exploitative market which all but forces you to make in-game purchases owing to dodgy games mechanics designed to do just that. Bringing out a new name in the series on mobile alone is an outright insult to a prestigious legacy.
EA have made an obvious attempt to cash in on the pay to win aspects of mobile games using one of the biggest names in RTS history as nothing more than a cash-cow. Shame on them.