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Command & Conquer: Red Alert (Windows)

Teen
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
92
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  CKeen The Great (145)
Written on  :  Aug 25, 2011
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars

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Summary

HEY! What's with all the bad reviews here? This game is a masterpiece

The Good

Command & Conquer is the most well known RTS franchise alongside Starcraft. The two franchises have similar gameplay, as both were heavily influenced by Westwood's Dune II. Red Alert came out two years before Starcraft did, and the main difference is that while Starcraft has a heavy emphasis on rushing, Red Alert is more focused on control over territory and resources. Both games however deliver very fast paced gameplay and intense fights. So I'm really not sure why many people here dislike this game, it is one of the most important RTS games to date, and is still a lot of fun to play today.

Starting off in 1946, at the Trinity site in New Mexico, the opening to Red Alert shows Albert Einstein as he is preparing to travel backwards through space and time. After his experimental "Chronosphere" device is activated, he finds himself in Landsberg, Germany, in the year 1924, where he meets a young Adolf Hitler just after the latter's release from Landsberg Prison. Following a brief conversation between the two, Einstein shakes Hitler's hand, and this somehow eliminates Hitler's existence from time and returns Einstein to his point of origin.

With the threat of Nazi Germany having been successfully removed from history, the Soviet Union began to grow increasingly powerful under the rule of Joseph Stalin. Had Adolf Hitler risen to power, Nazi Germany would have emerged as a force standing in the way of Stalin's own ambitions of conquest. Instead, left unweakened, the USSR proceeds by seizing lands from China and then begins invading Eastern Europe, in order to achieve Joseph Stalin's vision of a Soviet Union stretching across the entire Eurasian landmass. In response, the nations of Europe form into the Alliance, and start a grim and desperate guerrilla war against the invading Soviet army. Over the course of the game's story, the Allies and Soviets fight out a devastating conflict for control over the European mainland, in what has become an alternate World War II.

Most of the story is told through well executed cutscenes for both sides, which explain the story and the characters after each mission you play.

The gameplay of the game is very simple, yet takes a lot of time to master. The basic premise of a normal match is that you have a starting unit called "MCV", which stands for Mobile Construction Vehicle. You can deploy this unit at the desired location and it turns into the Construction Yard, which is the heart of a base: it allows for construction of other structures that in turn unlock other parts of the tech tree and allow for construction of more advanced structures and units. There's a wide variety of construction and unit types: the buildings you'll have to construct more often are called Power Plants: they serve to maintain a good power level of your base. Having a good power level is very important because having low power has many negative effects: Units and Buildings take a longer time to build and some structures (such as the radar and defenses) will not work at all. This gives an important point for the game as you may want to take out the enemy's power plants before taking out the defenses themselves, as this will power them down and allow for an easier invasion. Another vital structure is the Refinery: once you construct one, it automatically comes with a Harvester that collects ore and gems (which are more valuable) in the battlefield. They then return to the base with the resources, and they do all of this automatically. You can construct more refineries and harvesters and this makes collecting resources faster, however these structures are also a key target as their destruction will cripple a player's economy, so it is important to keep an eye on them.

Then there's various unit production structures like barracks, war factories, airfields and naval yards, that can produce a variety of ground, naval or air units. A good thing about this game is that it follows a kind of rock-paper-scissor-type of gameplay: Each type of unit is strong and weak to a different type of unit or structure: for example tank cannons and rockets are not really effective against infantry, but machineguns and artilleries can take out infantry very quickly. At the same time, machineguns are generally ineffective against buildings and tanks but are effective against light vehicles and infantry, and missile infantry is strong against tanks but not so much against actual infantry, and so on. This creates various situations that weren't present in Warcraft II, in which you always need to have the right unit at the right time in order to win a battle, as usually there are ways to counter most attacks if a player is well prepared.

The enemy can be attacked in various ways: By air, sea or land, you can steal the enemy's money using thieves, infiltrate enemy structures using spies and even capture enemy buildings and use them as your own thanks to the engineers, which are very versatile but vulnerable units.

The campaign has various missions and you can play as either the allies or the soviets. What's good is that the campaign offer various types of missions, like missions in which you get to command only a bunch of units and need to sabotage a base, and other types of missions in which you usually are at a disadvantage compared to your enemy and must find a way to turn the tide of the battle at your advantage. Each mission is different enough than the previous to make the campaigns for both sides very fun to play.

And I'll tell you straight up... I really don't want to sound offensive, but whoever thinks there's no strategy or thinking involved in this game either has not played the game at all, or is a complete idiot. There's a lot of management and strategy going on in this game: you have to use the right units at the right time, come up with good battle plants, explore the area and find out the enemy's weak spot: I've played enough of this game online to tell you that there's as much strategy here as one could possibly ask for. Sure, it is not as realistic or nitpicky as many of the more complex RTS games, but you know what? Those complex "RTS" games aren't RTS at all. They are slow and they are boring, there is no action whatsoever, they aren't real RTS games, they are management games, while Red Alert is essentially the thinking man's action game. So if you don't like action games, you most likely won't like this game.

The graphics are pretty decent, if a bit low-res but for 1996 standards they do the job well. The sounds and music are also very effective, and the soundtrack is VERY good.

One feature new to this game is Skirmish, which allows you to play against the AI in various maps. This is a very good feature that was not present in Tiberian Dawn, and essentially allows you to play a balanced, "normal" match as opposed to just the campaign maps. Since the game also has online play, it can offer hours and hours of fun if you play with friends or even competitively.

The Bad

It is true that this game is kind of like a graphical swap of Tiberian Dawn, as it uses many of the terrain tiles and even some of the units look the same. However, it is different enough to feel like a completely different game.

This game has just two major flaws:

Sometimes, the units may not behave the way you expect them to do. If for example you're ordering a large group of tanks to cross a bridge due to the fact the bridge is occupied by the tanks that first arrive, the other ones often decide to pick alternative routes to the location, and these routes are often unexplored and may either be very distant from your target or may have hidden enemy units or turrets that may destroy your tanks. Also, on few occasions units won't attack if you press the attack button too many times on a single unit, but this is easily fixed by doing it just once or twice. Fortunately, these situations do not happen too often.

The other problem is the lack of a queue system, but back in the day, no RTS games had it as far as I know. (in fact, Warcraft 2 didn't have it either). It isn't very bad but it would have been a welcome addition. Fortunately, later RTS games had it.

The balance of the game could have used some more work: for example the allied Artillery is almost completely worthless. What's good, however, is that it is very easy to edit the game's configurations with just notepad, and with the 3.03 patch you can play online games with your friends with edited units, so you can easily fix by yourself the few balance flaws of the game.

The Bottom Line

This is perhaps the most important and influential RTS game ever alongside Dune II. Most of its flaws are purely technical and are due to the fact this is one of the earliest RTS games, and thus these things are to be expected. If you're willing to forgive them, this is one of the most fun games you'll ever play, and is still lightyears ahead of most RTS games released after it.

Those who gave bad reviews on this game need to keep one thing in mind: when this game was released, the only real alternative to it was Warcraft II. And let me tell you one thing, as much as I love Warcraft II, this game is A LOT more varied than Warcraft II, which is basically a rushing simulator. This game offers so much more, and even if it has some balance issues, it's nothing that can't be overlooked if you're just looking for fun. Therefore I suggest readers ignore the nitpicky reviews and only focus on the fun factor of a videogame.

Westwood has almost created a whole genre with this game and its predecessor, Tiberian Dawn. Calling this game bad is an insult to the entire RTS genre. Red Alert did it first, and did it better than most games that came after it. Deal with it.