Command & Conquer: Red Alert

a game by Westwood
Genre: Strategy/War
Platforms: PC, Playstation
Editor Rating: 8.1/10, based on 6 reviews, 9 reviews are shown
User Rating: 9.6/10 - 5 votes
Rate this game:
See also: Command & Conquer Games, Red Alert Games, WW2 Games
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Right... it's nearly " finished, it's pretty much sorted, and as long as everything goes according to plan, it'll be in the shops in a couple of months. After a year of tweaking, fiddling and fine-tuning, the Westwood chaps are about to unleash the second C&C instalment. Except... er, this isn't the second in terms of the story - it is in fact the first... and the original C&C (which was apparently subtitled Tiberium Dawn) was episode two. Does that make any sense? Just think about Star Wars and the way all that's going to work when the new films happen. Does that help? No? I'll shut up then.

Anyway, Red Alert is coming out this year to help piece together some of the ambiguities of C&C. It's been designed to answer any questions about the history of the series before the sequel (part two, but actually the third game -but hey - who's paying attention?) C&C: Tiberium Sun kicks in next year with a new game and graphics engine.

Shut up... er, what's it like?

Unlike the first game, Red Alert takes place in the past rather than the near future and deals with an alternate timeline set between the 1940s and the late 1980s. Taking WW2 as a basic time reference, the story begins with a different conclusion to the war. Rather than the Allies achieving victory, in this story Stalin and the Soviets manage to remove Hitler from power by adopting very aggressive military tactics. Fair enough... could've happened - Russia's a big country with a lot of soldiers and stuff. The thing is though, in Red Alert we now find that Stalin has gone completely barmy and is using the captured troops and military forces to try and take over the whole of Europe and turn it into a massive Soviet super-bloc. So there you have the sides - Europe on one side and the Soviets on the other.

Although the new powers are very different from those found in C&C, the game doesn't completely ignore the Brotherhood of Nod and the GDI. As you progress through the Red Alert storyline you soon learn quite a bit about things that you are already familiar with. Both forces rise, become more powerful and gain funding from either one government or the other.

As you can no doubt see from the screenshots, superficially both games look very similar - but Red Alert is actually a very different game from its predecessor. Thankfully, it seems that the team behind the game have listened to many of the comments made by people who had played the original extensively (and there are a lot of you) and addressed them quite thoroughly.

The first and most obvious improvement is that the game now runs in svga so it looks fab and... well - see for yourself. Secondly, we now find that the story elements of the game are nonlinear. There are loads of different cut-scenes throughout the game (just like CSC), but these are affected by events that happen on the battlefield. This time round we find that there are more 'characters' in the war and more soldiers which you can develop some kind of emotional attachment to. But this is all by the by... what's really important is the new stuff.

Cool new stuff

Although no one seemed to be expecting much new stuff, we've actually found that there are loads of new things to get to grips with - so here they all are in one hugely enthusiastic spooge-fest.

Unit-wise everything has been overhauled completely... many of the soldiers found in the original game are here, but it's the new stuff that is really cool. Most importantly, we have the new commando (everyone's favourite, we think) who is now a rock-hard chick who struts around with two machine guns mowing down absolutely anyone and anything that happens to get in her way. Then we have the spies who are capable of imitating any enemy troop and then infiltrating bases. Once you have one of these guys ensconced you can access all of the information you could possibly want about your opponent - you can see his radar, the units he has and even how much dosh he's stashed away. And the cool thing is that veiy often no one will ever know that he's there. The only way to actually find out is if your opponent tries to control this particular troop, he won't be able to click on him and make him do anything.

What else? Oh yes... the engineer characters have been given a major overhaul and they now come in different flavours - there's original (who just go in and take things over) and new blue minty 'renovator' flavour who are capable of bundling into partially destroyed buildings and units and getting them to work again (for you) using bits of string, blue-tack and belly button fluff. Although not strictly a 'troop',the other completely new 'soldier' is the guard dog - a vicious rottweiler/Doberman type creature that you can have loitering around near the doorways to important buildings. These are incredibly vicious creatures and they're almost as much fun to deal with as the dogs in Quake.

Now then... weapons. This is where it starts getting really juicy. It seems that the designers at Westwood have been having an absolute ball designing all the new goodies, and we find that all the weapons are now divided into three different categories: naval, air and ground. The ground stuff is all pretty similar to what we're used to - although there are a couple of new units in the shape of mine-layers and these rather fab gadgets called 'mobile gap generators' which are little trucks that can re-introduce the 'black shroud' that envelops the battlefield in CSC to hide any particularly nasty attack forces that you are assembling.

The air and naval stuff is where the fun starts, though. For airborne fights, rather than simple air-strikes, we now have bombers that can chuck out either paratroopers or er, well... bombs, MiGs and other such jetfighters that can attack specific targets, low level strike craft (sort of Yak type things) that can be used for mowing down troops, spy planes and even orbital spy satellites.

In the sea we have destroyers that have some seriously powerful long-range artillery, water transports and (the coolest) submarines. Fantastic. As you would expect, all of these new weapons also have appropriate buildings with which to service them - new airstrips, submarine docking stations, harbours, factories and the like and all of these serve to make the resource management side of Red Alert far more pronounced than in CSC. If subs don't have somewhere to pop up, they get into trouble; aircraft need somewhere to land, and so on and so on. Of course in order to build and fund everything, you need some kind of resource to back up your plans, and whereas CSC dealt with Tiberium (and this does start to appear towards the very end of Red Alert), in this you have to mine for basic ores which you can either use to build things, or simply sell to get your hands on more dosh.

As far as we know at this stage, Westwood have just about finished the game, so we'll be bringing you a full review in the next couple of months.

No doubt you'll all be wondering how it's going to stand up against Z (see review on page 55), which to all intents and purposes appears to be the new benchmark for this kind of title.

Multi-player stuff

Multi-player Command & Conquer proved to be extremely popular and as a result the Red Alert team have put a lot of thought into enhancing this element of the game. We now find that there are many specific multi-player missions along with missions split up into all out combat, co-op play (multiple people either against another group, or against the computer) and a rather cool practice mode called 'skirmish' where you play against the computer which is supposed to behave more like a human player. Multi-player games allow you to choose individual countries to play, and each of these will display subtly different attributes. Once you've exhausted all of the options that the game offers, it's been hinted to us that the final game will include a map editor so you can make things really difficult for yourself.

Download Command & Conquer: Red Alert

PC

System requirements:

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

Playstation

System requirements:

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

Game Reviews

Old and creaky it may be but Red Alert remains a true strategy classic, more so than Westwood's original C&C, despite the fact that underneath the alt-Cold War storyline there wasn't much fundamentally different between the two.

But what a storyline it was, eh readers? Al Einstein goes back in time to assassinate a young Adolf Hitter and save the world from World War II, only to leave a power vacuum that would give Joe Stalin free reign to draw the Iron Curtain across the North Sea and start an altogether different war, with you, as was the Westwood way, able to lead to victory either the Reds or the Allies. Although remembered for it's groundbreaking skirmish mode and mix of contemporary units and outlandish buildings, with military units as diverse as guard dogs, submarines and the wonderfully effective Tesla Coil, Red Alert was also a superb multiplayer game, one that introduced Westwood's easy-peasy-no-farting-about-with-IP-addresses gaming service. But would we play it today? Probably not. For a fiver though, were there someone somewhere without a copy, we'd certainly recommend they purchase it, if only just to own what is and will always be one of Westwood's finest games.

Mission Guide

The radar dome and destroy all Allied forces

Yeah, yeah, we're starting with the fifth mission. If you can't get this far then frankly you're probably beyond help. Okay, quite a toughie this. Taking over the radar dome with an engineer is relatively easy (remember you must destroy at least 75 per cent of a building before you can capture it), but clearing every last enemy unit on Khalkis Island can be very time-consuming.

Whatever, deploy your MCV immediately and construct all the usual basic buildings (power plan, ore refinery, barracks and war factory), plus a radar dome. Build-up plenty of heavy tanks and V2 rocket launchers, at least six Yaks and two or three engineers, as well as a second ore truck.

Ore to the south is limited, so you'll need to head north, clearing the way with tanks. Destroy the Allied ore truck as soon as possible - depriving the enemy of cash is vital and, with this mission in particular, you need all the ore you can get. Continue round to the east and, from a safe distance, destroy the turrets with some V2s.

Enter the base with a few tanks and engineers and capture the enemy radar dome in the middle. Watch out for a 'surprise' visit from an APC via the road to the north -it's filled with engineers desperate to recapture the dome! In case of emergency, just sell it!

Okay, things get tricky now. Defend the coastline with several V2s and, if you're careful not to shoot the barrels, you may be able to capture the Allied construction yard, the refinery and possibly even the sub pen. Problem is, the naval fleet surrounding the base will probably be very strong. You'll probably be better off concentrating on the island for a while. That is, revealing terrain with the spy plane and attacking enemy refinery (or refineries) with your Yaks. If you've acted quick enough, you should be able to stop the Allied forces getting a foothold on the island and you can just pick off enemy units with your Yaks. Left it too late? Then you'll need a naval yard plus several transporters and submarines to get your units across. Oh, and a lot of patience. The south-west corner is a good landing position but watch out for enemy landings in the same location.

Get cargo trucks to the east island intact

Simple one this. Move your MCV west immediately, along with the trucks (which must be protected at all costs) and the APCs (which are filled with useful infantry and engineers). Fight off the initial attack with what's left. Now set up base to the west, somewhere near the ore fields, constructing all the usual buildings (you will probably find a service depot useful in this mission) and an extra ore truck (there's plenty of ore around). Repair the construction yard if it took any damage. It's not necessary to defend your base as such, but you'll need to watch out for minor tank and infantry attacks from the south and, later, attacks from the sea to the north. It's fairly easy to consolidate your position, so concentrate on building up a large force of heavy tanks and V2 rocket launchers (the latter are useful for taking out enemy ships), as well as half a dozen Yaks.

If you've used your spy plane effectively you should have exposed the enemy base which is on the main road in the centre of the map. Send Yaks into the base and destroy the Allied refinery as soon as possible. Repair the Yaks regularly and take out what you can. Send at least ten tanks in and you should have no problem mopping up.

There'll be at least four tanks defending the bridge which leads to the east island. If you can, draw them out before pummelling them, and then send across the cargo trucks, guarded by tanks, to complete the level. There's a good chance, however, that the bridge will be become impassable. No problem - just build a sub pen and clear the sea with submarines. Now load all your tanks into transports and send them across, followed by the cargo trucks. Easy.

Deactivate the four coolant stations with engineers within 30 minutes

Indoor mission! Hurrah! First things first, hit Escape and slow down the game. Moving quickly, guide the infantry down the east corridor, move across to the west and shoot the barrels. Move out south and follow the red line all the way west, passing by the guarded room. Shoot the barrels to free the (friendly) guard dogs. Head west using the south passage and shoot the barrels. Send at least six dogs west and follow the enemy through the crates (watch out for the explosion). Kill him before he gets to the top, move up to free the hostages and send them all back south.

Send dogs/troops en masse to clear the guarded room you passed earlier (shoot the barrels in the room before you move in). Send engineers to the four control centres in the north (they're in pairs either side of the main room). When these are deactivated turrets mysteriously appear to wipe out Tanya and her chums guarding the large control centre. De-activate this to finish the mission.

Destroy all Allied units on and around the island. Oh, and the locals

Bit of an epic mission this. Build a barracks as soon as possible as this forces the enemy to retreat. Now construct an ore refinery and a war factory (and then all the usual stuff). Scout around a little and you'll find several entry points to your base. For now you should guard all these as best you can with a splattering of heavy tanks and infantry, but you'll soon discover exactly which routes the enemy likes to attack from.

Ore is in very short supply in the area around the base so you need to take command of the region to the west. Five heavy tanks will probably suffice, but expect to make runs back to the service depot for repairs. Use three trucks to speed up the ore collecting.

You need to get a big picture of the island so send a sub out to reveal all of the coastline. Use the spy plane to check out the enemy base (in the north-west) and the enemy's main ore field (in the north-east). Drop paratroopers behind enemy lines to cause a little chaos and to expose more Allied territory. There's a small base just to the north of your start position. Destroy it or take it over - it doesn't really matter.

Now concentrate on building up a decent force comprising heavy tanks and V2 rocket launchers (keep these in small defensive groups), plus at least six Yaks. Watch for naval attacks, particularly along the south coast. You'll need to build a few extra subs to keep things under control, although you can also use your Yaks quite effectively. Destroy enemy mine layers as soon as you can (they can cause big losses later). Civilians cohort with the Allies, so clear them out too. To wipe out the Allies, group all of your forces together (you will need at least 15 tanks) and charge in from one direction, concentrating your fire on one target at a time and running over enemy troops with your tanks. There'll probably still be some enemy boats around so, with eight or so subs, circle the island and pick them off one by one. It's not a quick or elegant method but it works!

Destroy the cargo truck before the Allies leave the area with it

Now this is fun. What you're supposed to do, presumably, is dick about for an hour or so, taking control of the map before flushing out the truck and destroying it. There is however a rather good way to cheat at this level.

Destroy all the enemy occupying your base and repair all the buildings. Send the harvester south as there are ore deposits close by (build a couple more harvesters when you have the time and money). Construct an advanced power plant and train a couple of engineers as soon as possible. Now, as fast as you can, take the engineers and two or three tanks to the west coast.

Move up a little and you'll find a small undefended base with big potential for the opposition. Capture the construction yard and barracks (you can destroy anything else) and start knocking out 'bonus' Allied troops such as rocket infantry, a medic and, in particular, a spy This second base will come under attack eventually. When it does, just sell it and send all the units back to your main base.

While you're doing the above, keep a close eye on your original base. You can expect helicopters to attack your tesla coil, an APC to come in from the north (it's filled with engineers, so watch out), and a landing on the south-west coastline. Build tanks to defend your territory, as well as a handful of Yaks. Scout around directly to the north and you'll find a fairly small enemy base guarded by tanks on a bridge. Don't worry about destroying it, just uncover the whole area with a spy and spy plane. You can only expose an area just to the west of this base temporarily, as it's protected by two gap generators. The cargo truck is next to the generator on the right in a small guarded pen.

The trick here is to send in a spy plane to uncover the truck and then, in the split-second before the map goes black again, target the truck with your Yaks. If you have at least four Yaks they'll have no trouble getting past anti-aircraft fire to destroy the truck before it makes a dash for safety. Sorted.

Protect the Soviet convoy moving through Allied occupied territory

This one's pretty easy. The convoy of trucks follow the closest truck, so leave that one where it is for now, moving the other three west. Use the spy plane to uncover the terrain ahead, attack each enemy unit or installation using focused fire (ie pick a target and get everything to attack it simultaneously) and then move on. Kill rocket infantry by running them over (watch out for some hidden behind trees). Other infantry (and the ships) can be cleared with the aircraft once you've destroyed nearby AA guns with the tanks. Shoot all the barrels as you go and watch out for the power-up hidden beneath one of the oil wells. Collect this with a group of tanks and they all return to full strength. You're given a little cash so if you lose any aircraft, simply replace them with MIGs.

As you head west reinforcements arrive in the form of engineers. You can attempt to take over the base half-way along (it could be useful for repairs), but it's not really necessary. Keep heading west, carefully clearing everything in your way and, once you're through, send the convoy across.

Move up a little and you'll find a small undefended base with big potential for the opposition. Capture the construction yard and barracks (you can destroy anything else) and start knocking out 'bonus' Allied troops such as rocket infantry, a medic and, in particular, a spy This second base will come under attack eventually. When it does, just sell it and send all the units back to your main base.

While you're doing the above, keep a close eye on your original base. You can expect helicopters to attack your tesla coil, an APC to come in from the north (it's filled with engineers, so watch out), and a landing on the south-west coastline. Build tanks to defend your territory, as well as a handful of Yaks. Scout around directly to the north and you'll find a fairly small enemy base guarded by tanks on a bridge. Don't worry about destroying it, just uncover the whole area with a spy and spy plane. You can only expose an area just to the west of this base temporarily, as it's protected by two gap generators. The cargo truck is next to the generator on the right in a small guarded pen.

The trick here is to send in a spy plane to uncover the truck and then, in the split-second before the map goes black again, target the truck with your Yaks. If you have at least four Yaks they'll have no trouble getting past anti-aircraft fire to destroy the truck before it makes a dash for safety. Sorted.

Protect the Soviet convoy moving through Allied occupied territory

This one's pretty easy. The convoy of trucks follow the closest truck, so leave that one where it is for now, moving the other three west. Use the spy plane to uncover the terrain ahead, attack each enemy unit or installation using focused fire (ie pick a target and get everything to attack it simultaneously) and then move on. Kill rocket infantry by running them over (watch out for some hidden behind trees). Other infantry (and the ships) can be cleared with the aircraft once you've destroyed nearby AA guns with the tanks. Shoot all the barrels as you go and watch out for the power-up hidden beneath one of the oil wells. Collect this with a group of tanks and they all return to full strength. You're given a little cash so if you lose any aircraft, simply replace them with MIGs.

As you head west reinforcements arrive in the form of engineers. You can attempt to take over the base half-way along (it could be useful for repairs), but it's not really necessary. Keep heading west, carefully clearing everything in your way and, once you're through, send the convoy across.

Destroy the Allied naval fleet and base

After the variation - and comparative ease - of the last couple of missions, you should find this one a more familiar scrap. And a pretty darn tough one at that. It's very difficult to give specific advice but here, in no particular order, are some useful pointers.

It's a very confusing map, so scout around as much as you can early on. Use the transporter to expose coastlines. The Allied naval yard is in the north-east corner. Uncover it, drop some paratroopers just behind and it's history.

Ships will attack from the east and the west (seemingly appearing from nowhere) and transports will attempt to land across the north of the island, but don't get too carried away building submarines to defend. Tanks and V2s should be able to cope with beach landings, while six or so subs in each southern corner will see off naval attacks. This said, expect some heavy losses when you attack the ships guarding the north of the map.

You need a lot of cash for this mission and while there's a lot of ore on the main island, the isle to the east contains even more. Try to take control of this as soon as you can (it's guarded by tanks), but make sure you destroy the nearby cruiser first as it will attempt to blow up the adjoining bridge!

The only landing position is opposite your island to the north. It's not especially well guarded but it's littered with mines. Clear these by firing randomly with helicopters (hold Ctrl and click to force fire), but watch out for the pesky rocket infantry. Obviously you're going to have to land plenty of heavy tanks and V2s via transports, but don't forget your air-power. In taking out tanks and turrets, a dozen or so MIGs can make the big push into the main base a lot, lot easier (concentrate fire on AA guns first though!). Everything has to be destroyed for the mission to end, so watch out for the camouflaged pillboxes.

Capture the tech centres. 'Use extreme caution!'

Straight into the action here as you're dumped next to an enemy base. Retreat the V2 north to a safe distance from where it should target the turrets. With the tanks, run over as many enemy infantry as possible, while attacking the enemy armour. Keep the MOV north until you have destroyed all units.

Deploy the MOV just south of where the enemy's laid, so you're closer to the ore. Money's tight, so build a power station and barracks, but before training infantry make sure you have enough left for a refinery. If you have any infantry left, don't go exploring just yet - you could provoke attack.

The build-up from this point is fairly slow, so help things along a bit with at least one extra ore truck. Build a kennel and a couple of guard dogs and then knock out as many tanks as you can. Meanwhile watch out for a troop-carrying helicopter and thief heading for your base, a mine layer in the ore field just to the east and tank/infantry attacks from the south.

When your position is consolidated (ie you're defending comfortably and building a decent force of tanks and V2s), scout around and go on the offensive. Capture the base in the south-west. Take the Allied tech centre and you'll get a GPS which exposes the whole map. Now aim to capture the base in the south-east and build a sub pen. Load everything you have into transports and attack the island from the south. Finally, remember to capture - not destroy! - the three tech centres.

Destroy all enemy units

Uh-oh - bug alert. According to the game's mission objectives, you're supposed to destroy all the radar domes and then capture the Chronosphere in the south-west corner. However, we've yet to find anyone who has completed the mission this way. Do as it says and you'll get a "Mission failed" message. Whatever you do, don't go seeking out the Chronosphere, even with a spy plane, as the Allies panic and destroy it. If they do, it's mission over. Indeed, this is the only Allied building or unit you must leave standing in order to complete the mission (yes, you even have to find the camouflaged pillboxes). Don't go destroying bridges either -it can make navigation around the map very tricky later on.

The beginning of the mission is quite tough as you'll face beach landings to the north (protect here with tesla coils) and an onslaught from the south. The south is where the main base is, incidentally, and you should attack this first (the nearby ore trucks are easy to get). You'll find minor bases positioned along the edge of map to the west. All are covered by gap generators, making assaults extremely hazardous. A sizeable force of heavy tanks, V2s and mammoth tanks will win you through.

Build plenty of MIGs (we used ten), as they're very effective at hit and run'operations, particularly on ships. The bulk of the Allied naval fleet is best taken out with subs. You'll need two sub pens, to the north and south of your base. To build on the coast you may need to form a link from your base. Use something cheap, such as kennels or silos, and sell them when the pens have been built. You have the Iron Curtain technology for the first time (which makes units temporarily invulnerable), so use it!

Destroy all enemy

All this way and you've finally hit the shores of East Anglia! There's no reason to get stuck on this level - if you've come this far, you should know all the tricks in the book.

Getting a decent grounding is, however, extremely difficult. You're under assault straightaway, so build up a base as soon as possible, including naval defences, tesla coils and three harvesters (you'll need lots of dosh). Watch out for landings from the south and south-east (block their path with tanks and mines), tank attacks from the north and east and heavy naval assaults. Oh, and helicopter attacks too! Make sure that you protect your mammoth tanks at all cost -until you've got time to build SAM sites, this is your only means of air defence.

For your first sortie, aim to build-up a large group of tanks and head north from the base, across the bridge, concentrating fire on specific targets such as the turrets. Get in and destroy the power plants. Now work on taking control of the western side of the island.

The enemy onslaught does slow down eventually, giving you plenty of time with which to build up a huge army. Again, use a combined force of tanks, MIGs and the invulnerability option to the full.

For the final onslaught, load everything you have (and you should have a lot by this point) into transports and head north via the east channel, landing on the beaches. This is Great Yarmouth, presumably. Moving across to the west, take out the power plants first and clear up every Allied unit and building from there. You think you've finished, right? Well, actually you have. Time to buy the Counter Strike mission disc...

People say:

8

Red Alert is by far the most complex realtime ' strategy game to hit a console system. Its complexity is a double-edged sword, because it makes the game beg for a keyboard or a mouse (you can use a PS mouse), instead of the standard PlayStation controller, which is ill-equipped for this type of game. After a while, the controls can be mastered, but not before some frustration. If you're willing to stick it out, Red Alert is a rewarding game--and a very deep one. Red Alert's world consists of two combating factions known as the Allies and Soviets. You can play as either of them, depending on which of the game's two CDs you pop in. Red Alert has a wide variety of missions ranging from destroying bases to infiltrating them, and there's even an occasional raid that you carry out with the help of a naughty commando named "Tanya." There's plenty of missions to keep you busy because the PS version of Red Alert has some exclusive missions, in addition to also containing the PC expansion disc. Although the game supports link-cable multiplayer combat, it's impractical for most gamers. Fortunately, there's also a "Skirmish" Mode that simulates a one-on-one multiplayer battle with the computer. Although Red Alert isn't as good as its PC counterpart, you won't find a better realtime strategy game on the PlayStation.

8

Red Alert is one of the best realtime strategy games around. I suggest you go get it right now, assuming you don't own it on the PC already (if you did, you wouldn't have reason to buy the PS version now, would you?). It's fast, frantic, deep and with a little practice, you'll get the hang of the controls in no time. Tons of challenging missions and the few cosmetic changes from the PC version make this a .great deal. It's better than Warcraft II.

9

The original C&C was not a bad game by any means, but this one's better on every level. The graphics are more detailed (it's now easier to differentiate troop types), and later missions offer an incredible variety of weapons and gizmos. Plus, you get the same slick between-mission scenes and awesome music that gave the original so much personality. And if you're one of the 10 people with a Link Cable, you can battle against a pal.

9

Every time I sit down and play a good strategy game, it's like a step into another world. I feel like the commander of that army- but that's only if the game is good. Red Alert is one of those games. This one is better than the first with a cooler story line, more professional FMV and really nice graphic effects and interfaces. The control can be tricky but the PS mouse solves that problem. This one is well-made--solid from beginning to end.

Before World War II, before Hitler rose to power, before Command & Conquer, another enormous empire was about to storm across Europe: the U.S.S.R. The prequel to the bestselling Command & Conquer, Red Alert puts you face to face with the mighty Soviet Empire, which is poised for conquest under the leadership of the tyrannical Josef Stalin.

Fighting on land, at sea, and in the air in this combat strategy game, you manipulate a new arsenal of machinery, munitions, and manpower, including attack dogs, chemical bombs, saboteurs, subs, paratroopers, land mines, bombers, and cruisers. Among the game's other new features are an enhanced A.I. that's tougher than ever, a Skirmish mode that lets you practice maneuvers, and larger maps that are double the size of those in C&C.

With three paths to victory (two as the Allies and one as the Soviets) and at least 13 missions per path, Red Alert provides a full combat experience. Here's your chance to "Just say nyet" to Communism.

Anticipation overload! Command & Conquer: Red Alert is finally here after a brush down and a facelift that will delight its many devotees.

Stormin' Stalin

Red Alert is a prequel in the C&C universe timeline, charting a new history in which Hitler never comes to power and the West is threatened by the marauding forces of Stalin. Two CDs contain the 40 singleplayer missions (20 for each side of the conflict), 20 multiplayer maps of varying sizes and styles, 20 skirmish mode scenarios, a map editor, and Westwood Chat software.

Fortunately, the singleplayer missions have plenty of variety, ranging from using a single mercenary to spy chases to all-out obliteration of the enemy. Some missions take place within buildings, giving the story line a more detailed air that's backed by superb cut scenes.

The historical setting means that the technologies of the units are not advanced into science fiction, although some "experimental" weapons were included. The Chronosphere (a teleportation device) and the Gap Generator (shrouds an area from the enemy's sight) are very useful and add greatly to the strategic planning needed for success. New air units and sea units--destroyers, submarines, and gunboats--add a whole new angle as well.

Land, Sea. and Air

For C&C veterans, the more detailed SVGA graphics will stand out. The screen layout, however, remains identical to the original. As for effects, explosions are plentiful and sound great. The acceptance of commands from units is at times a little strange but ultimately endearing.

Moving the mouse rapidly over the screen, selecting units, moving them, and ordering them into combat is generally a breeze. Be sure that your orders take effect, though, as occasionally the limited A.I. of the units causes problems with your well-planned, carefully plotted attack.

More of the Same

For C&C fans, Red Alert is an absolute must. The new units, the great story, and the variation of mission styles make up for the limited improvement in the A.I. The multiplayer action is still superb, so rely on the intelligence of your buddies to uncover Red Alert's lasting and compelling gameplay.

ProTips:

  • Create units of grenade launcher infantry to defend against air attacks.
  • Coordinate attacks to use the sea and air forces as well as land. Beware of submarines lurking in the depths.
  • In multiplayer mode as the Soviets, build some heavy tanks and storm into enemy bases. Take out the turrets first.
  • When attacking a base, aim for the oil drums to cause a huge explosion. Use tanks to run over infantry--it's often more effective than trying to shoot them.

Overview

What if you could travel back in time and assassinate Adolf Hitler prior to World War II? Every science fiction reader has pondered this very concept. Countless books have treated us to variations on the theme. (Those who enjoy this type of storyline should pick up a newly reissued copy of The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan -- highly recommended.) This thought-provoking idea is the premise of Westwood's new alternate-history wargame, Command & Conquer: Red Alert.

Red Alert plays around with time in more ways than one. It's the follow-up to the fabulously popular Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, but the events in Red Alert actually occur before those in the previous game. It's a prequel rather than a sequel. The new full-motion-video cut scenes unfold a storyline that explains the world situation that led to Tiberian Dawn's conflicting GDI and Nod forces. The plot revolves around Albert Einstein. A grief-stricken Einstein, attempting to prevent World War II and the Holocaust, discovers a time machine and assassinates Hitler before he rises to power with the brown-shirts of Munich. With Hitler out of the way due to Einstein's time manipulation, the Nazis never rise to power, and World War II as we know it never occurs.

Unfortunately, Einstein has forgotten what we know today through hindsight: that the existence of a united Germany as a major military power was important for other reasons. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was universally reviled for his 1938 Munich Pact, which was called Nazi appeasement. Many forget that he had other things on his mind: namely, preserving Germany as a protective buffer between Western Europe and Soviet Russia. The idea didn't work out very well; but in the alternate world of Red Alert, it turns out even worse the other way around.

Without Germany to counter them, Stalin's forces make quick work of Eastern Europe in the forties and fifties, and then start west. They don't mention the exact date at the start of Red Alert's main story line, but the game seems to take place in the early 1960s. The Cold War has become a shooting war. The United States, never drawn into conflict by Axis provocation, appears to remain isolationist and uninvolved. Soviet forces are sweeping into Western Europe, and it's up to you to stop them (when you play the Allied side) or unite the continent under Communist rule (when playing the Soviet side). Your Allied commanders are German and Greek; as a Soviet you report to Stalin and his top generals. You'll receive several promotions along the way, and become privy to the inside politics of the Allied and Soviet commands. On the Soviet side, you'll learn that Stalin's inner circle is not a safe place to be, as assassinations and purges become routine. On both sides, you'll command several missions involving Einstein and his new Allied weapon invention, the Chronosphere.

United against a common enemy as never before, the Allied Command of Red Alert eventually becomes the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) that is familiar to players of Tiberian Dawn-. Watch the Red Alert cut scenes closely -- you'll notice that Cain, future leader of the evil Brotherhood of Nod in _Tiberian Dawn, gets an early start in the war business as an aide to Stalin. The only puzzling element to the story is that it's possible to conquer Europe and win the game on the Soviet side, which would seem to make the Tiberian Dawn future impossible. But perhaps that's an alternate universe.

About Westwood Studios

The Command & Conquer series comes to us from Westwood Studios, creators of the well-received role-playing titles Eye of the Beholder, Lands of Lore, and Legend of Kyrandia. The series actually began with the 1993 release of Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis. Both C&C: Tiberian Dawn and the new C&C: Red Alert are evolutionary products of the Dune II game engine. Tiberian Dawn has recently appeared on the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation platforms, and has spawned an excellent mission disk called Covert Operations. Now that Red Alert has shipped, Westwood plans to start work on the sequel to Tiberian Dawn, to be named Tiberian Sun. Westwood included a brief full-motion-video sneak preview of Tiberian Sun with the Covert Ops mission disk, and showed that the sequel will probably include Mech-style battle suits.

Westwood is gearing up to release Lands of Lore II for the 1996 holiday season, and a Windows 95 version of C&C: Tiberian Sun is due in early February of 1997.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

C&C: Red Alert is a real-time strategy/action/war game for both the MS-DOS and Windows 95 platforms. In a way, it's somewhat similar to turn-based, hex-based wargames that you may have played on paper or computer, except that it does away with the turns in favor of real-time action, and makes the hexes invisible for a more realistic gaming experience. Most of the military units are very familiar (tanks, infantry, helicopters, etc.) while some of it tends toward the exotic side (Tesla coils, gap generators). The core of the game is Credits (money). You earn Credits by harvesting Ore (called Spice in Dune II, Tiberium in Tiberian Dawn). Credits allow you to build buildings and military units. The game is organized into missions; criteria for winning a mission vary, but usually involve the total destruction of enemy forces. You can play against the computer AI, or with up to eight human opponents on a network.

You manage your battle campaign through an intuitive mouse-based user interface. Just click to select a soldier, click on his destination, and "Yes sir!" off he goes. Click to target an enemy and he'll attack it. Don't try this game if you aren't skilled with a mouse; in the heat of major battles I often find myself clicking over a hundred times a minute. Game speed is adjustable, though, which can make things easier on those afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome (I sometimes feel I am after a few hours of total battle concentration).

The main screen shows a partial overhead view of the battle map, which you can scroll by moving the mouse to any edge of the screen. Blackness covers the unexplored areas. Westwood calls it the "Shroud." Warcraft II uses a more elegant term: the Fog of War (although unlike Warcraft, Red Alert's uncovered areas stay uncovered permanently).

Sending your units out to explore will uncover the black areas and reveal more of the terrain (although some enemy units can keep terrain hidden). In the meantime, enemy units will be out looking for you. When the two sides meet, battle ensues. Your forces will fight back automatically when the enemy comes within range, but it's always best to direct their fire yourself.

As the credits come rolling in, you have to divide your spending among base defense, building/expansion, and offensive unit production, with the cost of occasional repairs thrown in. It's the mental multitasking that this requires that makes the Command & Conquer series so addictive.

Relation To Previous Installment

While Red Alert uses the same basic engine, the creators have done much to improve the balance of gameplay over Tiberian Dawn. The designers' first order of business was obviously to remove the "easy outs" that allowed unfair advantages and/or quick endings in the previous game. In the original, you could build sandbags to your heart's content any distance from your base, and the computer-controlled enemy forces would ignore them. You could build a line of sandbags right up to the enemy base and wall his units inside until you were ready to deal with them. Red Alert tackles this problem by making the computer AI consider the sandbags as both removable barriers and as enemies. Not only will the computer destroy a line of sandbags approaching its base, but it will also run straight through a sandbag barrier on the way to wherever it wants to go. Tanks can squash sandbags simply by driving over them.

Another common practice in Tiberian Dawn was the "Engineer Raid." A single engineer was able to capture an enemy building instantly. Many players devised the tactic of loading up one or more armored personnel carriers with engineers, and driving them into the middle of the enemy base. Even a strong base defense couldn't prevent one or more engineers from getting through and capturing your construction yard. Essentially, this meant Game Over. In Red Alert, engineers can only capture buildings that have been pounded down into the red on their health bar. If you send a single engineer into a healthy building, he'll only damage it slightly; he won't capture it. To compensate for this major reduction in engineer usefulness, Westwood gave engineers the ability to repair any friendly structure instantly, just by entering it. This comes in handy during a pitched defense against a base assault when you don't have time to repair a critical structure normally.

Westwood also revised the structure-placing limitations. Now it's easy to build a base with an open layout so that your forces can move quickly to trouble spots. Structures no longer have to be adjacent to other structures; you can place them a short distance away. This makes for a much more flexible base design. Barriers (sandbags, barbed wire, concrete walls) don't count as buildings for the purposes of building placement. This means that you can't build a line of sandbags out from your base and put a turret out on the end of the line (another use for the old sandbagging strategy). Now buildings need to be near other buildings.

Base Defense is much weaker in Red Alert, and there are few effective long-range strike capabilities (no more Advanced Guard Tower, Ion Cannon and Air Strike). This makes for much faster-moving, mobile game play. You can't just sit in an impregnable base and whittle away at the enemy from afar. Single-player games in Red Alert feel much closer to the pace of multiplayer games in Tiberian Dawn. Compared to Tiberian Dawn, Red Alert removes two of the previous structure types and five of the unit types, while it adds ten new structures and eighteen new unit types (see the accompanying Cross-Reference Chart). Fixed-wing aircraft and seagoing craft are significant additions to the bread-and-butter units, while the new Gap Generator and Chronosphere add some interesting wrinkles. In particular, I really enjoyed the MiG attack aircraft, battleships and transport ships. Land masses are much more fragmented in Red Alert, with a lot more water space, and it's fun to be able to wage war in multiple ways. That keeps things from getting boring. When you send your MiGs to strike a cruiser that's firing on one of your tanks, you realize how well it all integrates.

There were a few new units, however, that I found less than useful. The parachute bombs don't seem to do much damage at all, and their Badger bomber is a slow and vulnerable target. Laying anti-personnel mines manually with the new mine layer vehicle took time that I could have spent more effectively elsewhere. The mines always seemed to get run over by an enemy vehicle, causing little or no damage, before any enemy infantry stepped on them. The cruiser's long-range bombardment is nice, but it's completely defenseless, and actually dangerous to use when you have to avoid blowing up a particular structure. It fires inaccurately at any enemy structure or unit within range, and can't be kept from firing (except by forcing it to fire continuously at a particular spot, which looks rather silly). The lack of a Soviet reconnaissance vehicle also disappointed me slightly. This forced me to do recon with heavy tanks or infantry. But these are minor quibbles.

Formations are more of a problem. This is a new feature in Red Alert, which allows you to group your forces and have them maintain a particular formation as they advance. It's less than successful in practice due to the long-standing problem of C&C unit movement routing. If you send two units across a bridge, for example, while the first unit blocks the bridge, the second unit won't wait for it to cross. Instead, it's liable to take a huge detour (frequently through enemy territory) to find another way across the river. This behavior persists in Red Alert, and plays havoc with the new Formation feature. If you send a formation through an area that's only as wide as the formation itself, the rear units will think that the front units are blocking the passage, and suddenly take off in the opposite direction. In fact, if a formation is composed of two types of units with greatly different movement speeds, they'll have trouble maintaining the formation even in open ground. All of this makes the formation feature rather useless.

Westwood talked about a "waypoint" feature during Red Alert's development, but that feature apparently didn't make it into the final game. This would have been a nice addition. C&C veterans are familiar with the tactic of sending their helicopters to a quiet corner of the map, then ordering them to attack their real target indirectly. That way, they avoided a flyover of an enemy SAM site on the way to the target. Waypoints would have allowed you to do this automatically. The lack of a waypoint feature is more annoying for the new fixed-wing aircraft, which you can't land anywhere but on a friendly airstrip or repair pad. The only way to make them attack indirectly is to order them to attack some other enemy unit off in a map corner. Just before they fire on the dummy unit, you redirect them to their real target. That takes some tricky mouse work, and if there aren't any enemy units in the area to use as dummy targets, well, you'll just have to fly over that SAM site.

In my reading of Internet newsgroups and CompuServe gaming forums, it seems as though some people are afraid that Red Alert would be too much like C&C: Tiberian Dawn. It is a fact that the engine is almost unchanged, but there are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle differences in gameplay. Personally, I was afraid it would be too different from the original. In the final analysis, I think they've struck a very good balance between originality and appeal to fans of the previous entries in the series.

Enemy AI

Red Alert greatly improves the artificial intelligence. The computer will almost never make the same mistake more than twice. If you blow up an ore truck, the computer will accompany the next one with a guard patrol of tanks. If your SAM sites decimate the computer helicopters, they'll either stop coming altogether, or go off and attack your ore trucks out of SAM range. The AI doesn't have such a giant knee-jerk response to attacks on its ore trucks as it did in Tiberian Dawn. Computer units actually retreat sometimes if they face overwhelming odds. Rather than using the same attack strategy over and over, the AI does a terrific (or is that painfully efficient?) job of coordinating multiple simultaneous attacks. First, a flight of helicopters takes out a defensive structure; then, tanks attack from two directions at once. It's hard for a human to juggle things that well.

Still, the AI has some weak points (which is good; otherwise you'd never win). Helicopters will almost always attack the Tesla coil nearest the computer base, so you can make a safe bet on putting a lot of SAM sites in that area. Sometimes the computer will actually send its ore trucks straight through your base in pursuit of ore that it could have picked up closer to home. As in previous versions, there's usually some strategic weakness designed into the enemy base.

Graphics

Every unit in the Command & Conquer series can face eight different directions. Rather than drawing the graphics by hand, Westwood modeled the units in 3D and rendered them in each rotation. This makes the look more consistent. Each unit also includes a large number of animation frames -- turret rotation, weapons firing, smoke pouring out when the unit gets hit, etc. The graphics really add to the suspension of disbelief and immerse the player in the game.

Red Alert now supports SuperVGA, and this does take some getting used to. Since the resolution is higher, the size of everything on screen is smaller. C&C veterans will find the first few missions a bit disorienting. I felt like I was sitting too far from the monitor. It also makes some of the wonderful animation of soldiers and other units more difficult to see. I would have welcomed some kind of variable zoom feature, but in any case, after a few missions it felt like home again. Other than the resolution and size change, and change in appearance for many of the units, the graphics are the same as in Tiberian Dawn, except for the new interior missions. Yep, a handful of the missions now take place entirely indoors.

I halfway expected the Windows 95 version to have a resizable window and floating toolbars, a la Blue Byte's Battle Isle 2220, but no go. It's a full-screen-only DirectX title.

Audio

Red Alert retains its predecessors' excellent variety of sounds. Every unit responds verbally when you give it orders, and the battle sound effects are superb. The voice of the user interface (which provides such helpful information as "Silos needed" and "Your base is under attack") is now male.

The voice acting, and acting in general, is well done, although the foreign accents are not entirely successful. I have an opportunity to hear Russian spoken quite often, and it's a shame that Westwood couldn't find some Russian expatriates to do the Russian-accented voice acting. They aren't the worst fake Russian accents I've ever heard, but they could have been better. Sometimes it feels like all the tanks are piloted by Chekov from Star Trek ("Yes, Keptin.").

The FMV has a very good frame rate, which Westwood achieved by eliminating alternate horizontal lines, giving the video a bit of a "window blind" look that's not objectionable.

In the full-motion-video scenes, the actors for the Soviet side do the best job, with Eugene Dynarski as Stalin chewing scenery wonderfully at every turn. I have no idea if this is the same Gene Dynarski who's had bit parts in a dozen films or so, including Close Encounters, but I suspect as much. Arthur Roberts, as the German Allied commander Von Esling, can't quite figure out what nationality he's portraying, and Barry Kramer seems confused as Stavros, the Greek second in command.

System Requirements

Windows 95: Pentium CPU, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM (16 MB strongly recommended), 1 MB PCI or local bus video accelerator (ISA video cards not supported), Windows 95-supported sound card, 2X CD-ROM drive or faster, 40 MB free hard disk space, 14.4 (28.8 recommended) modem for modem play, IPX network for LAN play, mouse (for Internet play, 28.8 modem or direct Internet connection, Winsock 1.1 compliant TCP/IP stack, 16 MB RAM)

DOS: 486/66 or higher CPU, MS-DOS 5.0 or higher, 8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended), VGA graphics, SoundBlaster/SoundBlaster Pro/SoundBlaster 16/SoundBlaster AWE32/Gravis UltraSound/Gravis UltraSound MAX/Ensoniq Soundscape/Roland RAP-10/ESS Audiodrive/MS Sound System/Gold Sound Standard/Pro Audio Spectrum 16, 2X CD-ROM drive or faster, 40 MB free hard disk space, 14.4 (28.8 recommended) modem for modem play, IPX network for LAN play, 100% Microsoft compatible mouse

Documentation

Red Alert includes a full-featured 107-page manual, and two handy reference cards that show the structure and unit building precedence charts. There's a nice tutorial in the manual, but it lacks an index. All the hot keys and shortcuts left out of the Tiberian Dawn documentation are included (and some have been added -- like the "E" key to select every unit visible on the screen). It could have had a bit more detail on what exactly the various units do and what they cost, but I suppose finding out is part of the fun.

Installation and Setup

Installation under Windows 95 was simple. The installation screen appeared automatically through Windows 95 AutoPlay; I simply clicked on the installation button and was up and running in minutes. Installation of DirectX display drivers is optional, which is handy for those who have a graphics card with third-party DirectX-compatible display drivers that have not been certified by Microsoft (e.g. Matrox Millenium). The DirectX setup program overwrites uncertified drivers automatically.

Difficulty

Red Alert has an adjustable difficulty level -- Easy, Normal or Hard. This is a first for the C&C series. According to Westwood, this setting affects several factors, including unit effectiveness, speed, and cost. As a veteran C&C player, I found the Normal difficulty to be just right most of the time. A couple of missions were too easy, but there were a couple that were too hard on Normal, and I certainly wouldn't want to play them on Hard just for the sake of making those easy missions harder.

There are a couple of timed missions that are very tricky. These missions are my only objection in the difficulty area. They're virtually impossible to get through on the first try. These are interior missions that require you to deactivate traps in a complicated sequence that you couldn't possibly get right the first time through. Plus, the timing is so tight on a couple of them that it's very, very tough to get done in time. There was a moment when I considered giving up. If you find yourself in the same situation in that mission, don't give up! It can be beat. However, a timer increase wouldn't hurt.

Customization

There are hundreds of custom levels for C&C: Tiberian Dawn floating around on the Internet. Lovers of the game took it upon themselves to create level-design utilities, and of course the inevitable crop of add-on-level compilation CDs have appeared to profit by the efforts of those who produced the free levels. This time, Westwood included an excellent terrain editor, but for some reason didn't include any way to place troops and other units on the maps. At any rate, look forward to lots of free add-ons, and probably an upcoming official Westwood mission disk as well, along the lines of C&C Covert Ops.

Bottom Line

If you've read through the above, I'm sure you've noticed that I've leveled a few criticisms in Red Alert's direction. And yet I gave it a very high score. Why is this? As the old saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding." I drove thirty miles to get the last copy of Red Alert left in stock anywhere in our metropolitan area on the day of its release. I've finished both the Allied and Soviet sides in the past couple of weeks, and let me tell you, that is not a small investment of time. I've ignored my spouse and my cats. I haven't gotten enough sleep. I've experienced frustration. I've experienced triumph. Basically, I've had one hell of a good time. All of this without a single bug or crash -- does it get any better than this?

No game is ever perfect, but this is as close to gaming Nirvana as you're liable to get. There are enough quibbles to knock a point off, but a Westwood patch could remedy this via some simple gameplay balance tweaks. I wouldn't be surprised if they did just that. There were several patches to Tiberian Dawn that did more to address gameplay balance issues than to fix bugs.

I do recommend, though, that you buy and play through Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn before tackling Red Alert. Red Alert contains enough advanced concepts that it's much easier for C&C veterans to handle it; and playing Red Alert first would spoil you for the original, which would be a shame, because it's a damn good game, too.

Thanks, Westwood.

Red Alert, the follow-up to Command & Conquer, is actually a prequel which explains the background of the aforementioned C&C. Red Alert's plot involves the Allies and Soviets, and although it begins in the 1940s and ends in the 1980s, the complexity of the game easily eclipses Command 81 Conquer. There are many more units consisting of land, sea and air weapons in addition to indoor commando missions. Experimental weapons such as the Chronosphere and Iron Curtain can be used (some with consequences), while some old favorites such as the Mammoth Tank and Grenadiers will still remain in the repertoire.

  • MANUFACTURER - Westwood Studios
  • THEME - War Sim
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2

Strategy fans know that there isn't a more addictive experience than creating an entire army from a few measly soldiers and setting out to destroy your opposition. With that in mind, this sequel to Command & Conquer storms the PlayStation in magnificent fashion. This translation loses nothing from its PC predecessor-providing you have a mouse, a link cable, and a friend that owns a PlayStation. No sweat, right?

Red Alert fights on, though, making the best of its situation. The single-player missions have better A.I. than the PC version, and the sharp game-pad control will become your ally once you get accustomed to it. It's unfortunate, though, that you still can't save in midmission.

If you own the PC version of Red Alert, the minor A.I. and graphical improvements aren't worth another investment, particularly with the hardware con straints. If you're new to strategy games, however, or if your PC is AWOL, C&C: RA is A-OK. Ten-hut!

ProTips:

  • Special forces, like soldiers with rocket launchers, can do a lot of damage if you keep them on the back lines with grunts to protect them.
  • When your men are held prisoner near gas barrels, kill their captors during rescue missions without hitting the fuel or they'll all go up in flames.
  • Never send five men into battle when you can spare ten. This game's all about power, and meek attacks won't get you anywhere.
  • On missions with Tanya, use her as a sharpshooter, but keep the medic nearby to fix her up. If she dies, all is lost, but she's too good a shooter to keep off the front lines!
  • Send grunts ahead to scout for enemies: They're expendable and can tip you off to a massive assault.

Graphics

Sure, real-time strategy games aren't about graphics, but these vehicles and soldiers are relatively small and have a bit less character than the Ores in Warcraft II.

Sound

Red Alert's music is both exciting and subtle, with eerie chants in the background. The explosions and other effects are dead on.

Control

The controller will be a tough transition for PC players, but the interface works well. If you're lucky enough to have one, the PlayStation mouse works much better.

Fun Factor

Red Alert's dual forces, spread across two CDs, offer many hours of strategy and cunning. If only there were a better way to go head-to-head...

Snapshots and Media

Playstation Screenshots

Similar Games

Viewing games 1 to 9