What's better than a freebie? A freebie that's actually decent. Case in point: Electronic Arts is giving away three awesome real-time strategy games--one of which all but defined the genre.
For a total cost of zero dollars, you can download Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, and Command & Conquer: Red Alert.
Yes, they're old, but so is this giveaway--as I've just learned from CNET's John P. Falcone, who wrote about these and other free PC games more than two years ago.
Yes, the graphics look dated--really dated. And, yes, you have to jump through some downright obnoxious hoops to get them to run on Windows XP or later. (Hey, thanks and everything, EA. But would it have killed you to provide a simple installer?)
On the other hand, you're in for hours, days, maybe even weeks of solid RTS entertainment. The very first time I played Tiberian Dawn, which was originally known simply as Command & Conquer, I became a lifelong fan of the genre. Red Alert was even better, and GameSpot agreed, awarding it a 9.5.
There are no strings attached; EA has simply allowed the three games to become freeware. However, installing them can be a major pain. I was able to get Red Alert running on a Windows Vista-equipped laptop, but only by following the installation instructions to the letter.
(Bit of advice: Don't bother burning CDs. Use the free MagicISO utility mentioned in the guide. It's much quicker and much easier, plus it's all but mandatory for Netbook users, for whom I think these power-thrifty games are ideal.)
If you have enough tech savvy to get the games up and running, I think you'll enjoy them considerably. In the meantime, check out GameSpot's preview of, believe it or not, Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight.
In case you're interested, there's also an iPhone version of Red Alert, which arguably looks better than the PC version. However, it'll set you back $6.99.