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SummaryA Hollywood blockbuster for the masses.
The GoodRecently I played Red Alert for the first time, almost 5 years after its release. I've always disliked Red Alert (and its sequels), without ever really playing it. It annoyed me that these games sold so well, while there were many games out there that were a lot more innovating. I kind of considered it the Britney Spears of video games. But guess what, after playing it for a couple of weeks I had to admit that it is actually not that bad it all.
The gameplay, although not offering much that we had not seen before, kept me coming back for more until I completed both campaigns. Somehow these RTS games are always addicting. I liked the variety of the missions, not every mission requires you to build a base and destroy the computer's base. The indoor missions were a novelty and I was surprised when the map, with which I started a mission, depended on the way you finished a previous mission. If you complete Allied mission 2 with a well fortified base, Allied mission 4 would be easier to complete. Moreover there are often two or more possible maps available for a mission. The maps and backgrounds generally look good (when you play the game in Windows with SVGA graphics, that is) and there is some interaction with the maps (blowing up bridges and barrels).
Red Alert has some nice units like the attack dog, the spy, the mine-layer and the engineer which allows you to capture an enemy building and produce your opponents units. With the wide range of units available, you can use a wide range of different strategies and often the "Tank Rush" tactic isn't your best option. The Soviets have a lot of very strong tanks and they can use the tank rush tactic, when you're playing with the Allies however, you'll have to pick your targets carefully (their units rely more on stealth and sneaky maneuvers). First use choppers to destroy the power plants or your tanks will be fried by the Soviet Tesla Coils. Generally, every attack strategy has a defensive counter strategy. Too bad the A.I. only uses a couple of them.
Some other things I liked about this game:
- The music and the soundtrack. The Russian accent might be a bit stupid but the explosions sound impressive.
- Both sides play really different.
- You can say what you want about the FMV sequences, I would not want to miss them. They keep the story going and I think the game would be less fun without them.
- The story line is a very unbelievable piece of nonsense, but I liked it. At least it isn't your usual "stop the alien invasion" or "in a post apocalyptic world two sides fight for the remaining resources" story. It was fun to receive a briefing from Stalin.
- You can easily add units to an existing group, and you can design a route around dangerous enemy units using way-points.
- The computer medic will automatically heal enemy soldiers.
- There's just one resource, which keeps you focused on the battle.
- It offers you a chance to play with the Soviet and crush the Allied forces.
The BadThe single player campaign is not very challenging because of bad computer A.I. The A.I. doesn't seem to respond or react to your actions. It never adapts its strategy, it just sits there and waits for you to come. Usually a mission is only difficult because you start out with a couple of units while the computer has a well-fortified base. But as soon as you have managed to defend yourself the battle is virtually over. All you have to do is build a couple of aerial units and take out those unprotected harvesters and you've won the game (unfortunately you usually still have to destroy all enemy units and structures, which takes quite a while). The computer never repairs his units, keeps attacking from a few directions (so dropping mines in front of your base is a cheap remedy against those expensive Mammoth tanks), keeps sending small groups of units which are cannon fodder for your base defenses (you can easily fortify yourself), and enemy units will usually not respond when one of their comrades is attacked (too bad your units suffer from the same problem).
Some other things I disliked:
- The graphics are very small, so it is difficult to find a medic in a group of soldiers. Tank and ship animations are poor, these units can only move in eight directions (East, NE, North etc.).
- The "formation" option is useless, everything gets messed up when units bump into each other.
- Units easily lose selection, very annoying.
- When attacking, guide everything manually or you will probably lose the battle. If you attack with a group, units in the back of the group will not defend/assist the front row.
- Pathfinding problems, tanks get confused when negotiating a narrow pass or bridge. Units take their own route when they hit an object (usually another unit) and walk straight into enemy fire.
- You can't build anywhere you want, a new building has to be placed adjacent to an old one.
- Some units become obsolete as the game progresses. Why would anyone want to build a light tank when you can also build a medium tank?