Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2

a game by Westwood
Genre: Strategy/War
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review, 4 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.2/10 - 40 votes
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See also: Command & Conquer Games, Red Alert Games, WW2 Games
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2

Considering all the delays, hype and disappointment that surrounded last year's release of Command & Conquer sequel TiberianSun, Red Alert 2 has, in comparison, had a rather quiet time of it. Its announcement in May took many by surprise (including us) and now it seems barely has the marketing machine had time to get into first gear than the game has been finished, packaged and readied for release.

Consequently, thanks in no small part to the worldwide panning of Tiberian Sun, expectation for Westwood's new real-time strategy game has been only marginally higher than that we would reserve for a decent English summer. To its credit, developer Westwood has neither proclaimed Red Alert 2 be ground-breaking nor Earth-shattering and, after the tragic anti-climax that was Tiberian Sun, we wouldn't have believed them if they had.

Using an enhanced -unnoticeably so - version of the Tiberian Sun game engine and sporting many gameplay features and units from a four-year-old game, Red Alert 2 could be seen as a glorified remake of its predecessor. Westwood has done the same thing before, with Dune 2000 - the botched up remake of real-time strategy's most influential game - so it wouldn't be beneath them to do the same again.

Now before you all start sending me death threats for my cynical indifference, let me just say if I hadn't been so pessimistic before playing the game, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. Think about it - and be honest - what are your expectations for the next Star Wars game? I'd wager not too high after having wasted your money on Force Commander. But because we are all Star Wars fans, or at least we should be, there is the hope that the next one will be brilliant. However, in Red Alert 2s case I wasn't hoping for much at all. You'd do well to think the same, for if you do, I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Heroes And Villains

When you review a game - or at least when I do - one essential technique is to jot down pages of notes while you're playing, so when it comes to writing the review, you can refer back to them. Normally what is written down, though illegible, makes some sort of sense, but one of the last things I wrote was "missions good. Nothing special. Addictive". I am at a loss as to what I was on about, but I can tell you this: the missions in themselves are pretty undemanding, yet taken as a whole (and separated by a story that sees the USA being invaded) the two campaigns on offer (you can play as Allies or Soviets) are very engaging.

As is par for the course, you build a base, harvest ore, expand your borders and kill the unending trickle of enemy units until you overrun their base, all with scant regard for tactics - been there done that, we all have. With that in mind, what has been baffling me is why I enjoyed Red Alert 2 so much and yet could not derive any pleasure from Tiberian Sun. Both games are practically identical in structure, offering similar units to play with across a linear series of missions, liberally interspersed with high-quality video sequences. The only answer I can offer is a subtle difference in feel and mood. Where Tiberian Sun was a dark and faintly absurd yarn full of square-jawed heroes and boo-hiss villains, Red Alert anti its illustrious predecessor are somehow believable, despite being even more outlandish.

Graphically, Red Alert 2 is far from great. The animation for some of the larger units, ships especially, is juddery and the explosions are hardly spectacular. However, bearing bright colours and full of tiny details - like baseball and football pitches, fast food bars and houses - many levels are full of civilian life that have little impact on the game, but add a touch of fun to the proceedings. Sunbathers run half-naked on the beaches and cattle make themselves targets for your restless attack dogs on the farms. Elsewhere, across maps frozen with ice, all the buildings are draped with snow as if to fool us that they had been there forever. They haven't of course, but it's seemingly insignificant details like this that add a bit of colour to our interminably dull lives.

Animal Magic

In regard to the two sides you can choose to play, both are as distinct as any you'll find in a real-time strategy game. One of Westwood's strengths is that it always offers two very different challenges in all its strategy games, by throwing in units and buildings that look and play to different styles. Many of the units are standard fare with infantry and tanks in abundance, but there are a number of clever differences between even those.

Soviet conscripts are both cheap and weak, American GIs are marginally more expensive and can be deployed in a defensive role, able to fortify themselves in an instant within a cocoon of sandbags.

The Allied Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) is another interesting unit. Alone it is a weak reconnaissance tank, armed with a simple rocket launcher. But put a Gl inside and its turret becomes a powerful anti-personnel platform. With an engineer at the controls it alters into a mobile repair vehicle and there are other transformations that can be achieved by trying out other, more potent infantry units inside. Things like Rocket Launchers, Tech Yards and Gap Generators we've seen before, but many units, both old and new, can combine in interesting ways.

Place some Tesla Troopers with their electrifying weapons around a static Tesla Coil and they'll boost the power of it and keep it charged even when the power is down during an enemy attack. As in all RTS games, both sides' infantry units are easily overrun, even in large numbers, but this time around they can find shelter in many of the neutral buildings that pepper the levels. It's a feature that is long overdue in a Westwood game (Age Of Empires IIanti the soon-to-be-released WWII RTS Sudden Strike both offer the same option) and although not every building can be captured, certain ones that are can be a powerful complement to your base by creating chokepoints through which a lightly armed enemy can quickly perish.

Furthermore, there are four neutral Tech Buildings that can be procured - Airports, Hospitals, Outposts and Oil Derricks - all of which can support and replenish units that might otherwise have to make a long journey back to base.

The Soviets are still the side of cheap mass-produced technology, underhand and willing to sacrifice numbers for victory. In contrast, the Allies rely on fast, high-tech units that are more adaptable, yet weaker if left in a sustained fight with Soviet units of similar role.

One aspect in which Red Alert always won out over CSC was its use of naval units. And once again, Red Alert 2 gives the Soviet side a greater underwater navy, while the Allied fleet is predominantly surface-based with Destroyers, Cruisers and Aircraft Carriers going against the Russian Typhoon Subs and Giant Squids.

Trained animals play a larger role in this sequel than they did in the original Red Alert. The Allies now have attack dogs, as do the Russians, and against the Squids the forces of good rely on herds (or pods if you want to be technical) of clicking dolphins and their sonar attack.

Bring Your Friends

Even though the storyline and the level-by-level feed of new technologies are enough to keep you entertained throughout the two campaigns - and there is always the option of the skirmish game - there comes a time when the war will be over against the computer and the time will come to take on a human opponent.

We won't even pretend that we have played Red Alert 2 online yet, no servers are running anyway, but we did play over a LAN and, thanks to the diversity in units and the immediate familiarity of all of Westwood's games, playing against a real opponent was tremendous fun. In multiplayer or skirmish games you not only have to pledge allegiance to the Allied or Soviet sides, you have to choose an army from a particular country, each of which have a particular special unit they can use: Germany has tank destroyers; Libya has demolition trucks; Cuba has terrorists; the US has paratroopers; and Britain has snipers. Not a deal-clincher, as Steve Hill would say, but fun all the same.

As was the case in CSC, Red Alert, Ttberian Sun and now this, multiplayer games are all about throwing forces (onward to eat away at the opponent's defences. As you do so you are constantly thinking about what concoction of forces to send in next and while you leave your units to get on with it, you're cooking up another batch to send in. Westwood has never made strategy a priority in its games and here, too, the multiplayer game is about a slow pace of play that always ends up in spectacular fashion with entire bases wiped away by just one weapon. This - what we might term the railgun factor' -makes each game a race to build the most devastating weapon available rather than a plod through attack, counterattack and stalemate.

The Bit At The End

About as ground-breaking as Windows 98 is to Windows 95, Red Alert 2 is no less essential for it. The interface has certainly improved since Tlberian Sun and the missions, varied and interesting, are carried along by a storyline that doesn't take itself nearly as seriously as other CSC games - for every cheesy line of dialogue, there's a knowing smile behind.

Remarkably well-rounded, the phrase 'more than the sum of its parts' could easily have been written with Red Alert 2 in mind. Unspectacular graphics, an AI that is clearly artificial and with little in the way of true innovation, Red Alert 2 is, nevertheless, an excellent game, well-designed and carried through with wit and style. In these times where realism is de rigueur, Red Alert 2 feels like a breath of fresh air. Just remember not to expect too much and you'll be as impressed as we were.

Back To The Future

Red Alert, the story so far...

In theory it's a good plan, but the greatest theorist of them all failed to realise the implications of his actions. After developing a timetravelling device in post-war America, Albert Einstein returns to 1923 to wipe Hitler from the history books. Unchecked by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, lead by Joseph 'Madboy' Stalin, embarks on a European crusade to turn our continent a nasty shade of red.

Defeated by an uncharacteristic display of unity, Stalin is killed by European Allied forces and Premier Romanov takes over Soviet control. Seemingly compliant and peaceful, he is of course quite mad and plotting his revenge against the Allies, he decides that America is ripe for invasion. Using mind control technology, the USSR sabotages America's nuclear capability and a huge invasion is launched into New Mexico, Texas and California. Which is where you come in to save the day.

Download Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

It's an unfortunate fact of online gaming life that the more popular a game is the better it will be. For instance, amazing as Shogun: Total War is as a singleplayer experience, as an online game it loses something almost intangible, and thanks to a few bugs, inherent lag-ridden play and a bunch of good-for-nothing cheats, the game has lost much of its online audience as a result.

Not so Red Alert 2, which like its predecessor, is one of the biggest real-time strategy games played online and off. It's easy to see why: not only is CSC itself a tag as popular in gaming circles as Westlife is in pap music (and infinitely more enduring), but the gameplay mechanics have changed little since Westwood single-handedly invented realtime strategy with Dune 2, back in 1993. It's a cinch to learn, runs on almost any PC and you don't have to fart about with IP addresses, obscure applications (to the simpleton anyway) like GameSpy or pay a monthly subscription. You just dial-in, click and play. Everything is navigated through the flAPmenu system, you won't have problems finding people to play against, day or night and if you're new to the delights of online gaming, there is no better place to start.

Ranking Furiously

If you've played Red Alert 2 s Skirmish game, you won't have much of a problem with its Multiplayer. In fact, the only difference is that your opponents will be more vocal and varied in skill and predictability. Online, however, there is a ranking system in place. And, in theory, finding a like-skilled player to mouse-duel should be simple thanks to the fact you can click on their name and see at a glance where in the world they are from and how high they sit in the RA2 rankings. In practice, rankings aren't that helpful and sometimes don't even show up. As a guide, lose your first tournament game and you'd probably go straight in at 40,000. Play someone ranked around 300 as I stupidly did (he was tagged as 'unranked' when I chose to play him) and you can expect a mauling. Still, the RA2 community is a pretty friendly bunch, whether they win or lose, as long as the game is a good one there are plenty of virtual handshakes and cocktails by the pool afterwards.

Life's Simple Pleasures

One game not available to the skirmisher is World Domination. First introduced in last year's C&C: Tiberian Sun add-on Firestorm, it is essentially a series of linked missions set across Risk-like maps of Asia, America or Europe, depending on which server you are connected to at the time. You choose one of the contested territories, fight, and whether you win or lose, the overall map changes colour and, at the end of each day, a side is declared victorious. No big shakes really, but it's bizarre why you can only play Domination in 640 x 480 resolution.

So, little has changed then. Online Red Alert 2 is just as good as all the other Westwood games have been since time began. It's not as good looking as many other RTS games we could mention, neither is it particularly the most strategically challenging game around. As long as you know each unit and every keyboard shortcut, you can pretty much rule the online roost. While you're there, however, Red Alert 2 is a lot of fun, easy to play and unendingly popular - and if you've already got the game, it would be a crime not to bring your modem to the party.

Walkthrough

It's not all 'destroy the base' so If you're stuck we've hopefully got the solution. Enjoy It while It lasts because it looks like it's the final 2D version to come from Westwood. And then we'll only have the Army Men series to look forward to in that genre. Oh dear.

Soviet Missions

Red Dawn

Train about 15 conscripts and head to the north. Mend the bridge to the west of the second small base to get your hands on four tanks. Go up and attack the Pentagon. Easy.

Hostile Shore

Capture the Allied refineries to get some cash. Construct a shipyard, build six or seven Subs and take them down south to sink all the Destroyers and the Allied shipyard. Build a lot of tanks and head down the left of the map. Destroy the construction yard (the barrels nearby make it easier) and they'll give up and shut down the base. Finish everything off and remember that the Chrono Miners count too.

Big Apple

Capture the three derricks in front of your base. Fortify the building down the slope. Use about fourV3 Rocket Launchers to clear up any pillboxes on the way north. Mop up infantry with Tesla Troopers and tanks. Destroy the pillboxes around the base with V3s again while using everything else to destroy enemy structures. You can use some engineers to repair the skyscrapers around the base to give you a fortified advantage if you want. Before you capture the battle lab, train ten Flak Troopers and place them nearby. Beef up your tank division then hold on tight until the timer runs down.

Home Front

There's two ways to do this, an easy way and a hard way. Guess which one we went for? Build up two or three Subs to guard the shore and about four Flak Cannons to defend the air. Now the sneaky bit: send about five conscripts and Tesla Troopers to the east to take over and guard the lighthouse at the end of the map. When the invasion starts an Allied MCV should attempt to set itself up close by. Blow it up before it can build anything or else you're going to have a lengthy battle on your hands. Your own base should be safe from attack if you've fortified the buildings nearby and left a few Tesla Troopers guarding it.

City Of Lights

Go to the left and capture the derrick to get some cash. Travel around, fortifying the buildings near any enemies to give you an advantage. Keep some engineers nearby to repair them if they get damaged. It's best to go in by the middle enhance to the north and take out the tanks in the park before moving in your Tesla Troopers to charge the Eiffel Tower.

Sub-Divide

Start up your base and quickly send some troops off to the left to stem any landings. Take some conscripts over to the house on the small island to gain a bonus. For another cash bonus, take an amphibious transport along the bottom left until you reach land and you'll find a crate. Build up some minor defences, then concentrate on building Subs and a few Sea Scorpions. Deploy them near the housed island to take out the Koreans when the timer runs down. Keep the dreadnought reinforcements at a distance.

Defend your shipyard from any remaining ships while stocking up on Subs. Head to the west and then up the small channel in the middle. Use your Dreadnoughts to take out the Prism Towers. Then sub-rush the Allied fleets and the shipyards. And you don't even need to set foot in their base.

Chrono Defense

You need to defend all four points of your base. Before you do, send a couple of Tesla Troopers to take out the propaganda van to the west, then send some engineers over to the far east derricks to get some extra cash. Build three miners to harvest the north field, guarded by a few tanks and Troopers. Churn out some Flak Troopers and cannons around your battle lab. Hold out and build up a few heavy tanks, some Apocalypses and Terror Drones and position them next to the entrance (two of each should do the job) along with a whole bunch of Tesla Troopers. Build some Tesla Coils nearby and add others when you've got the money. A few dogs should sort out any spies as well. The attacks keep getting stronger but as long as you keep an even mix at each point, you'll be able to hold them off. Phew.

Desecration

Defend your base from Paratroopers as you build. Send a few tanks, backed up by four V3 Launchers and Tesla Troopers over the bridge. Take out the Prism Towers and the buildings with V3 Rocket Launchers. When you've taken out their units, send a few engineers over to capture what's left.

Build one plasma coil to the north-east. Keep a good supply of Terror Drones to help take out enemy infantry and mix with a few Apocalypse tanks. Money can be tight here so send a few units to destroy the memorials and make some cash when there's a lull in the fighting. To penetrate the White House base, the best thing to do is to amass your forces up at the north-west and assault the left wall. Enemy buildings can spring up pretty quickly, so take out the construction yard with Apocalypses first of all while using V3s on the war factory. Then just clear up the power plants to take the coils off line and destroy the barracks. Kill any remaining units and capture the White House.

The Fox And The Hound

Kill the two guards in the base to the north with the IFV and mind control the engineers to take over the base. Take over another IFV, build an engineer and put him in one to turn it into a repair vehicle. Take the two up to the northeast base and blow up the pillboxes and guards, using the repair IFV to fix any damage. Send the rocket IFV down south to destroy the enemy IFV outside the east entrance. By now he should be to at full strength. Get rid of the repair IFV and use the psychic commander to take over the sniper, who should then take out all the guards and dogs standing at the entrance. Build a spy and send him into the base. Position your IFV at the south wall and launch rockets at the power plants while your spy takes the power down. The two tanks should pose no problem if you're at full rank. Snipe the remaining infantry and send in a psychic commander to take over the President. A job well done.

Weathered Alliance

It can be a little hard getting started but guard the shores with Tesla Troopers and a few tanks while you build up. Build plenty of Flak Cannons and Troopers to protect from air attack. When your base is established build plenty of Subs, two or three Dreadnoughts and a couple of squid and take out enemy naval units near the coast. Use the Dreadnoughts to take out the beach defences and clear the area. When that's done, stick a load of Apocalypses, Tesla Troopers and V3s into amphibious transports and take them over. Use the V3s to take out Prism Towers and surge in with the rest to knock out the base. Build a silo while you're doing this so it's ready when you capture the battle lab. Defend it from any air attack while you wait for the countdown to finish and can nuke the weather control device.

Red Revolution

Bloody hard this one. The trick is to give yourself some breathing space at the start. As soon as possible, send an Apocalypse and two heavy tanks to the east until you reach a small valley. Take out the Patriot Missile launchers up the hill then head through and take out the other by the water. You can attempt to destroy the next one, but you'll probably die. Meanwhile, waypoint the two airships so they travel east then north towards the base and target them to take out the barracks, war factory, construction yard, psychic beacon and hopefully the nuclear plant before they're both shot down. That should make things a lot easier.

Back at the base, send some engineers to take over the derricks to the left and right. Build dogs and Terror Drones to help kill psychic commanders and some Apocalypse tanks to guard the front. Put Tesla Coils to the far left and far right and charge up with Tesla Troopers. Remember to build a service depot at the front to get rid of any enemy Terror Drones.

Before you build a nuclear silo, make about ten Flak Cannons and 15 Flak Tracks. Place the silo at the back of the base and use everything you can to take out the airships as they arrive. You'll need to launch two missiles, so prepare to spend about 20 minutes doing that before you can nuke the Kremlin.

Polar Storm

Build a barracks and train ten Tesla Troopers and ten Flak Troopers. Fight off any Chrono invasions while you work. As soon as possible, lay some Flak Cannons and Troopers along the west side to stop any Rocketeers and Harriers from that direction.

Build a shipyard, make some Subs, Sea Scorpions and about three squid, then head west to destroy the Allied fleet and shipyard. Make three or tour Dreadnoughts and make your way around the main coast clearing all the defences you can. Once that's done, churn out a load of Apocalypses, Terror Drones, Tesla Troopers and V3 Launchers and transport them over to the landing point. Make your way up and around taking out the power plants. To make things a little easier, send a few airships towards the north-west corner to uncover good places to nuke before they get shot down. If you get your Apocalypse tanks ranked up, they should have no hassle storming the base, backed up with whatever else you've got left at the time. When you reach the Chronosphere, blow it up and that's that.

Allied Missions

Lone Guardian

Use Tanya to sink the Dreadnoughts and head east and then north to the base. Train some GIs and an engineer to repair the bridge. Take them over to destroy the V3 Launchers and use Tanya to take out the buildings and infantry.

Eagle Dawn

Take Tanya north-west, swim across the lake in front of the base and take out the Flak Cannons and infantry. Use the Rocketeers to destroy the sentry guns. To destroy the enemy base, it's easiest to go in the back way. Take Tanya and a few tanks down to the south-east comer and blow up the barrels to gain entry. Use the tanks to defend Tanya from any vehicles as she sticks explosives about the base. Take out the construction yard, war factory, and Flak Cannons so you can send in the air units and finish off.

Hail To The Chief

Fix the monument nearby to gain some cash. Build an airforce command and four Harriers to take out the small base just over the bridge. It's easy after that and there's plenty of cash around. So just make your way up to the north east with a whole bunch of Rocketeers and tanks, enter the base on the right side and take out the defences around the psychic beacon before destroying it.

Last Chance

Another deceptively hard mission that's simple when you know how. After taking out the beach defences, build a base and make some cash. Then build Rocketeers, GIs and a few tanks and head up the north road to the bridge. Fortify the buildings and use the tanks to take care of Flak Tracks. Destroy the psychic amplifier with your Rocketeers and that's it.

Darfc Night

Take Tanya and the spies up north. Use a spy to take a power plant and get Tanya to blow up the coils. Be careful to take any dogs out first, though. Get another spy in the battle lab to open up the map. Up at the second base, use Tanya to shoot the barrels to the south and enter the hole in the wall to get to the silo. Head back to the south-west around the lake and up the slope to find some trapped units. Free them by blowing up the barrels, then take the tank to destroy the walls to the south-east of the silo. Take Tanya in to the right and blow it up.

While you're doing that, take a few Rocketeers north up the river to destroy the two lonely refineries at the top of the map. The Soviets will start using Terror Drones, so build a service depot to help you. After all that, scout out the base over the bridge, then make kamikaze Harrier runs on the construction yard, and Tesla Coils. Take the ground units in to finish everything else off.

Stock up on units and head north east, keeping to the right of the map. Blow up the east wall near the power plants and send up a few spies in a Nighthawk to shut them down. Bring in the tanks to take out the Flak Cannons and Flak Tracks and let the Harriers and Rocketeers destroy the Soviet buildings from the air. Then just mop up.

Liberty

The enemy will come from both sides, but they'll be strongest on the right so concentrate most of your defences there. Fortify the buildings at the left as well, mind. Build up about three.

Deep Sea

Build a few Prism Towers at the north-west edge of your base. Stick a few tanks nearby, and a few on the south beach just in case. Keep your shipyard guarded with Rocketeers while you build a fleet of destroyers and aircraft carriers. Sail over to the enemy island to the east and take out the Flak Cannons on the shores before sending in about eight Harriers to take out the construction yard. Then concentrate on all other defences you can reach with your Destroyers before sending some transports on the north side. Train a few spies to shut down the coils (using some tanks to shoot any dogs) and destroy the war factory, barracks, and then everything else.

Free Gateway

Take Tanya south west along the freeway. Go left towards the beacon, take out the barrels and then destroy the remaining power plants. Don't take out any Tesla Coils but take out the remaining power plants instead before destroying the amplifier. After that it's just a straightforward base attack. Fortify nearby buildings, build some good defences and make a full assault on the enemy base.

Sun Temple

Swim your Seals down to the bottom of the map. Get on land and work your way up the right side of the base taking out whatever you can without drawing the attention of enemy vehicles. You should destroy enough power plants to take the Tesla Coils off-line. Then go up north and release the prisoners. Fortify the huts for a while to help you defend from vehicles. Afterwards send everything you've got down into the base, using the Seals to blow up the buildings and infantry while the tanks and troops take care of vehicles and whatever's left.

Mirage

If you want some extra cash, send an engineer down to the bottom south-east to find a damaged refinery. Repair it and you'll get a free chrono miner in a crate nearby. Take your other MCV and build defences near Einstein's lab. Keep on the defensive until you've got enough forces and go for the base to the east first. Finish that, then take the top two from the west. There's not that much ore around, so attacks should slow down after a while.

Fallout

Guard the bridge from attack. Protect the outside refinery with Rocketeers and destroyers. Dot some prism towers and prism tanks around. Once you've built the Chronosphere, train some spies and some Seals and take them over in a Nighthawk to the south east corner. Attack any dogs then send the spies in to shut down the plant. Get the Seals to take out as much of the defences as they can (avoiding the miners) before they get killed. Send in destroyers to attack from the sea and transport some Prism and Mirage tanks to finish off the construction yard then everything else. Send more spies if you haven't got rid of all the coils.

Chrono Storm

Train GIs and fortify all the buildings aound about the base. Build up, but remember to keep structures well-spaced in the event of a nuclear attack. The less damaged, the better chance you'll have to fix it in time for the next one. Defend at first until you can make some Seal units. Take them over to the north entrance of the base to the right and get them to destroy the buildings, backed up by one or two tanks.

Send a few spies down the left side of the map with some more tanks and Seals. Shut down the power, destroy the coils and level what's left. Send your forces from there to the south. Build a set of Harriers and fly them in from that angle to take out the Flak Cannons and the nuclear reactors at the bottom. Send in Rocketeers to attack the coils and as many tanks as you can to take care of buildings. Work your way around. You should have built a weather control device by now, so take care of anything left in the middle, the nuclear reactors on the right side (finish them off with Harriers) and, finally, the Kremlin itself.

Overview

America invaded. The President under attack. Russian armies are on the move again. Now is the time for war, now is the time to strike back. Would you take the helm of the allied forces and fight back with the remnants of the American army, seeking to take back the US homeland from the evil Russian invaders? Or would you become the Soviet commander, fighting for Premier Romonov, backed by the psychic commander Yuri, seeking only the glory of the USSR?

And thus we have Red Alert 2, one of the latest releases from Westwood Studios and the newest title in the Command & Conquer family of titles. Red Alert 2 is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game created by the company which practically invented the concept and it more than lives up to its predecessor's reputation.

With both a detailed single player campaign and some very fun options for multiplayer, including the World Domination Tour created for Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2 gives a rich and expansive RTS experience.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Far and away Red Alert 2’s strongest category, the gameplay will not disappoint. Gone are the problems with tank rushes and engineer raids, as Westwood has decided to focus on ‘balancing high,’ a fascinating principle. It relies on strong units that can deal out large amounts of damage, preventing the original problems with tank and engineer rushes. In fact, they are so confident in this concept that they’ve included a host of powerful combination attacks, rather than just the old engineer rush, that would have unbalanced any other game of this type.

Like a normal RTS game, Red Alert 2 relies on the creation of a base with a series of preset buildings. As these buildings are created, they serve any number of uses -- from building units to providing new technology with which to wage war. The way this is handled is a slight disappointment from games of this genre, as the basic rules governing creation of buildings and units are the same as they’ve always been in Command & Conquer, with little innovation.

The single player experience in Red Alert 2 consists of a series of 12 missions for both Allies and Soviets, with each mission having a Full Motion Video (FMV) cut-scene, which explains the backstory and the next mission. These FMVs are grea,t in my opinion, as they portray the story purely from the side of the game you’re playing (allied or soviet), and none of the story relies on having played from the opposite side. If you only want to play through the Allied missions, everything will make sense.

Graphics

Following Gameplay, Red Alert 2’s graphics are its second strongest element. Each unit has a lot of detail and, although only in 2D at 16bit color, they are highly detailed and move very well. Combine that with maps that are wonderful to look at in and of themselves and you’ve got a graphically impressive title.

Audio

Although the sound effects in Red Alert 2 don’t have the sheer mass of such games as Starcraft, they do have a relatively unique character. Each unit has a distinctive series of sounds, many of which are obviously faction specific, from the eerie sounds of the psychic trooper to the southern drawl of the Rocketeer commandos.

Red Alert’s soundtrack is entirely too appropriate for the missions, strong and dramatic for the allies, and grim and determined for the soviets. The two major problems I found with the soundtrack were its repetitive nature and complete lack of any action specific music, such as battle music that heightens as the fight grows more intense.

System Requirements

Miniumim: PII 266mhz, Win95/98/NT4.0 with Service Pack 3.0 installed, 64MB of RAM, 4x 32bit CD-ROM, 350MB HD Space, 2MB Video Card w/16-bit Color.

Multiplayer: Two player -- 56kpbs modem, TCP/IP Connection, or IPX LAN. 3-8 Players -- P450, 128MB RAM.

Reviewed On: AMD K6/2 400mhz, Win98, 64MB RAM, 4GB HD, Diamond Viper V700U, Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE 64, 24x CD-ROM.

Relation To Previous Installments

Without a doubt, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 does everything that Tiberian Sun should have, but didn’t. It shines, it sparkles, it destroys even the toughest of stains. With vastly improved graphics, enhanced gameplay, and a far easier interface, Red Alert 2 is definitely the most advanced Command & Conquer title ever produced.

Room For Improvement

Unfortunately, the same gameplay that makes this the best Command & Conquer title ever, is also its greatest hindrance. Although certain bugs in the balance of forces have been resolve, nothing has been done to change the basic feel of the game. There isn’t any innovation in the areas of building or unit production and ‘superweapons’ still take minutes to charge and function like one shot weapons.

Bottom Line

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 is probably one of the most entertaining RTS titles I’ve played all year. I came, I saw, I saved Washington, DC from certain destruction. Although the gameplay hasn’t changed much from the original, the updated graphics and the resolution of minor bugs make this a wonderfully enjoyable title.

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