Product Type: Electronic Arts PC games
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Command and Conquer - Red Alert 2 (PC)
Member Name: Moominpapa
Command and Conquer - Red Alert 2 (PC)
Date: 01/01/01, updated on 23/01/01 (81 review reads)
Advantages: The more action orientated approach of the gameplay
Disadvantages: Lacks originality, but who cares?
These days, unfortunately, a real-time strategy isn’t exactly original. Every other game released seems to be one, but most of them are merely very poor clones. The Command & Conquer series has, however, always provided us with good quality additions. After Command & Conquer there came Command & Conquer: Red Alert, then 3 years later Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and now Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. It would seem that when it comes to releasing games in linear order, Westwood just can’t be arsed. Red Alert 2 is set before the original Command & Conquer, but after Red Alert (hence the clever naming).
After playing and completing the first three games, the news of another addition to the series did at first arise the thought, ‘Do we really need another C&C game with the same units and gameplay?’ As it turns out, yes we do. Not because Red Alert 2 takes the genre to interesting and new levels of gaming, but because it does the exact opposite. Forget line of sight, 3D maps and multiple unit commands, what you get is a game with most of the strategy aspects removed and its heart set solely on fast-paced action. This would normally make the game a huge disappointment, but gamers hell-bent on blood-shed and death, such as myself, will absolutely love it.
Cast your mind back to 1997, when a new government made you redundant, and left you sitting at home frantically clicking your mouse to combat Stalin’s evil empire. Remember when you finally completed Red Alert. Russia stood defeated, Stalin was dead and the country lay in smouldering ruins. If you thought that was it for the war betwee
n the Soviets and the Allies, then boy were you wrong. Keen to avoid more casualties, the Allies placed anew leader, Alexi Romanov, at the helm of the Soviet Empire. But Romanov had other plans, and became intent on grasping revenge for the destruction of ‘Mother Russia’. So he secretly developed weapons of mass destruction and mind control without the Allies gaining knowledge. And now the time for revenge has come. Romanov launches a surprise attack on America and before they can retaliate Russian troops are already camping on US soil.
As always the choice of playing the goodies or the baddies is available. Whichever one you choose, don’t expect to see much daylight from a couple of days solid playing as the campaigns, which have three difficulty levels, easy, normal and hard are absolutely massive.
Both campaigns contain dozens of missions stung together in linear fashion with the completion of each requiring a certain number of objectives to be met. In most missions these objectives involve establishing a base and then finding, destroying or capturing someone or something. To achieve this you’ll need to collect resources in order to amass an army. Once done, it’s time to wade in with all guns blazing. When attempting to complete most of the missions in the game you can take as long as you like to meet the set objectives, and the length of time taken to only being reflected in your ranking at the end of the mission. Every now and then, however, Westwoods spices things up a bit by throwing in a timed mission. Complete the objectives before the time runs out, or it’s game over and you’ll have to start over. With the pressure on beat the clock, these missions make up the games most exciting parts.
Timed, or not, complete a mission and your reward is a small video that develops the plot and provides you with the necessary information on your next task. The quality of the videos
is fantastic and indicative of Westwoods production values. No expense has been spared. Impressive sets, ranging from the White House to an underground Communist bunker, give the game a feel of authenticity, while reputable actors help develop the plotlines. That said, it’s hardly Hollywood, but it’s good to see a games developer doing these things right.
Despite the superior quality of the video sequences, the units are the real stars of the show. At the beginning of the game, you have access to just a couple of them, like the foot soldier, but as you fight your way through the game more become available as a reward for completing missions.
Throwing new units into the game is all well and good, but there has to be a balance. One of the criticisms levelled at the original Red Alert was that tanks were too powerful and all the other units were left redundant. With this in mind, Westwood has clearly spent a lot of time fine-tuning the strengths and weaknesses of each unit. As a result, each one has a role to play in the game. Whether it’s a giant squid or a Rocketeer, each unit has qualities that make it invaluable to the completion of the game. Even soldiers – little more than cannon fodder in the first Red Alert – are useful, making superb defenders when fortified in buildings, as they can be deployed so that they build a sandbag wall around. This is also useful as it can stop tanks from crushing the infantry do easily.
The battle sequences also have many differences from the original. First, missions are much more immediate. There’s no starting off in a quiet corner of the map and spending an hour developing your base and collecting ore. Now you’re thrown straight into the action, lending an urgency to the gameplay. As well as starting each mission with a bang, Westwood maintain the intense action throughout each mission using three tools:
Quicker build times
n the original game, gathering ore and building units was slow , but in red Alert 2 it’s possible to do both things much quicker, erasing the long actionless pauses in the gameplay. Originally it was only possible to order the building or training of one unit at a time. A concept used in Tiberian Sun is ordering multiple units to be built one after the other without anymore interaction with the command bar being needed, and in Red Alert 2 up to 30 units can be built this way.
More aggressive opposition
In addition to the quicker build times, the more aggressive computer-controlled forces also ensure there’s no let-up in the frantic pace of the game. Rather than sitting back and awaiting your attack, the enemy constantly moves closer and closer, resulting in almost non-stop battling. The enemy also employs more devious tactics than in the previous Command & Conquer games. They often send sneaky engineers to capture your ore refineries so that you can’t get any cash to build units and the battle is lost.
Although sneaky tactics like this can work on occasions, the most effective one is still the ‘tank rush’. Amass a huge army of sh*tkicking tanks and just storm the enemy base, destroying each structure one by one, usually targeting power plants or the construction yard first. But don’t just think you can build loads of tanks and sweep the opposition. A balanced army is essential as the strengths of certain units against others are more profound than before. The new Tesla infantry, for example, is great at stopping tanks but can be easily reduced to a rotten corpse by a small group of men or a single dog. Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each unit under your command is crucial to battlefield success.
The last thing which makes Red Alert 2 more action-orientated is the smaller maps, which condense the action into tight pockets with the enemy base never too far f
rom your own. With the two sides almost camped on top of each other, the action never lets up. The smaller maps also serve to make each mission shorter, with the battle usually won or lost within 45 minutes (not as long a time as it sounds). This shorter game length makes the game easier to dip as it doesn’t require the same investment of time as the original, or any of the other Command & Conquer games.
When you get out onto the battlefield, the most obvious difference between Red Alert and Red Alert 2 is the graphics. PC technology has come a long way in the three years that separate the two games and Westwood’s created a rare thing of beauty in Red Alert 2. The animation of units is quite superb, with tanks rocking from the impact of cannon shells and ships rolling in the water as missiles explode nearby. The maps are similarly impressive, with incredible detail evident on all buildings and scenery. And nothing is safe. From trashcans to limos parked outside hotels, everything in the game can be destroyed. There are even police cars which roam the streets and often meets their doom at the hands of soviet troops.
In addition to the two single-player campaigns, Red Alert 2 comes equipped with a boot camp, skirmish game and multiplayer support. The boot camp is an essential first port of call for newcomers (but there can’t be many of them, surely?) while the skirmish mode pits you against one or more computer controlled enemies in a fight to the death. Lastly, we have the multiplayer game, which can support 8 players through either LAN or internet play (using Westwood online).
The final word
So is Red Alert 2 any good? In a word, yes. Red Alert 2 is accessible, immediate, engrossing and rewarding. Sure it’s too shallow for the tastes of strategy purists, bu then the game hasn’t been designed for them. Instead it’s for those people who like to jump into a game and get stuck in.
The smaller maps, more action and shorter mission lengths of Red Alert 2 are perfectly suited to this. And with balanced sides and well designed missions, the game is incredibly playable. An all round fantastic addition to the series, which fans will adore. Buy it. You won’t regret it.