Fool me once, shame on you…
Red Alert (RA) is an undeniably stylish game, just like its predecessor. I kinda like the alternate history approach the designers took in crafting the storyline. It’s still a little too B-movie sci-fi for my taste, but a step in the right direction, nonetheless. After all, you do get to kill Commies. “Better dead than Red!”
The graphics are significantly improved from C&C, at least in the Windows 95 version of RA. The units are still pretty small, and the overall look of the game isn’t as impressive as that of Warcraft 1 & 2, but it was an improvement. The enemy AI is not brilliant by any means, but it’s persistent, and it can throw you for a loop once in a while. Frankly, I’ve seen much worse. Westwood also included a solo skirmish mode this time around, which definitely adds to RA’s replay value. Why didn’t they think of that before?
I liked the slick packaging and the shiny, thorough instruction manual. They both fooled me into thinking RA was going to be a fun game to play.
Let’s face it: Red Alert is still a C&C game, which means it’s a big, cheesy, buggy mess. Surely all of the critics who said RA was even better than Warcraft II were joking.
RA is at least as unbalanced as the original C&C, perhaps even more so. While I appreciate the thought behind making the two sides distinct, the game is spoiled by the fact that the Soviets clearly have the better units. The Allies are inferior in ground and air forces, and while they have the superior naval forces, that won’t do you much good unless you are playing on a water-based map. Whichever side you choose, the unit variety is strictly for appearance’s sake. For example, I can’t see why a Soviet player would produce anything but the heaviest tanks. And thus the infamous RTS “tank rush” phenomenon was born, I suppose.
Units continue to be woefully unresponsive to orders. Or else they just respond so stupidly as to be beyond belief. If there is an unnecessarily long and circuitous route for your units to take to get from Point A to Point B, you can rest assured that they will find it! It’s also still a challenge just to select your units and get the selection to stick for very long. Maps and missions continue to be too puzzle-like for an alleged “strategy” game. It’s the same hair-pullingly maddening design as before, just slightly upgraded, tweaked and repackaged as a brand new game. Why didn’t the professional reviewers mention any of this stuff when RA came out?
The Bottom Line
If you liked C&C, you’ll probably like Red Alert even more. If you’re like me, though, you won’t care for either one.