MS: Command & Conquer
Revisiting the original Command & Conquer (now often subtitled Tiberian Dawn) is like opening up a time capsule from the mid-90s. The game was a significant turning point for the strategy genre, arguably the best of the misguided full-motion video movement and an audio-visual showcase.
At the core of C&C‘s ambitious presentation and a big part of its nostalgia-factor is its iconic soundtrack. Greatly inspired by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, Frank Klepacki’s score blends an electro-industrial sound with many other genres including hip hop, orchestral and metal.
On paper this might sound like a recipe for disaster but in practice this unusual fusion works amazingly well. The grungy, synthetic industrial vibe perfectly reflects the mechanical and constructive elements of the game. The broad range of additional genres not only runs the gamut of emotions portrayed in a typical mission but also provides a little something for everyone to enjoy regardless of musical taste.
Part of what was so stunning about the score at that time was the fidelity of its live streaming sound. While most video games were still using MIDI to render their music, the rise of high capacity CD-ROMs enabled the use of Klepacki’s original unaltered tracks. Combined with the game’s ambitious and often cinematic visuals, Command & Conquer was a real treat for both the eyes and ears.
Developer Westwood Studios were apparently so happy with the score that they produced a separate CD release of it. This was my first time encountering a game soundtrack album and likely my first indicator that video game music might actually be a big deal.
Fun fact – these album versions of the tracks feature additional voice samples originally planned to be used in the game but were removed because of potential clashes with in-game dialogue. Several of these feature samples lifted from well-known movies like Top Gun and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Before the games industry became completely corporate you could still get away with stuff like that.