Review by MCJess

"Arrogance is to America, as milk is to cookies"

Personally, I've never really been a fan of the RTS genre, but after sampling some movies and demos of C&C, I felt it to be a necessary purchase. So I'm sure the question on everyone's lips must be, does this game deliver the goods, after the horrific experience that was Tiberian Sun...

Graphics

Good, not great. This game takes place in real cities, which means you'll see quite a few unique landmarks as well as a variety of civilian buildings. There are multiple levels of terrain that adds a bit of variety to the levels, although the implementation of the ''levels'' on grass or dirt result in weird and ugly angled ground instead of a smooth gradient.

Units are pleasant to look at and well animated, but very small. This might be a product of me playing at 1024x768, but it's often hard to tell units apart. It's also very common (especially with Naval units) to get units really crowded together. This is especially a problem when you're trying to select a single unit (for example a dolphin in a group of ships) - it's next to impossible.

Red Alert 2 uses a modified Tiberian Sun engine, which means the lighting effects are quite nice. Unfortunately there is no concept of time in RA2 so there is no day/night missions that were a neat concept in Tiberian Sun. Prism towers fill the screen with flashes of blue laser light, smoke comes off the tanks being shot at, potholes form where tank shells hit.

The mini-map is alright in RA2, it has some nice effects such as highlighting areas which are under attack or are otherwise worth noting. But, the map itself is pretty tiny so forget trying to move units by clicking on the map. It's very un-precise. I also found it pretty hard to see your units on the map.

6/10: This is definitely one area of the game in which the developers could build on.

Sound

For the most part, the sound is middling. Yet you do get tired of hearing the same acknowledgement as you move units a step at a time, but the weapon effects are good. You can usually hear and identify a unit attacking before you can locate it on your screen. Radiation, especially, sounds very cool. Music is nothing special; I hardly noticed it, which is good, but when I did listen to it, it wasn't particularly noteworthy.

6/10: It does the job, has nice SFX yet gets repetitive.
Never judge a game on its sound though (unless of course the game revolves around music...)

Gameplay

I like RA2 even though I'm pretty bad at strategy games. I like fighting in real locales, and one of the best additions to the game is the ability to garrison civilian buildings. Pop a bunch of foot soldiers in a building and you instantly have a powerful defensive (or offensive) weapon. While inside the building, the units don't take damage and have an increased firing range. Of course, with enough attacks the building will crumble and your units will be exposed again. Keeping an engineer nearby to fix the building when it's about to be destroyed is a very good idea.

There are a LOT of units in RA2 and that's a mixed bag. I like the variety and every person can find a unit that works for them. For me, it's the Prism Tank. Nothing can touch it for range and if you back it up with a Seal, a couple tanks, and a repair LEV, it's a 5-unit group capable of destroying an entire base sometimes. There are immense amounts of strategy with having so many units at your disposal and that's bound to please you hardcore strategy fans out there. However, having so many units is like trying to play rock/paper/scissors except with 50 choices. Everything is strong against some units and weak against others. This is strategic as you always need to know what to attack or defend with, depending on what the enemy has. Though, it can get frustrating when you just don't have the right unit.

It's not a big deal and you learn quickly what's good against what, but there will be a lot of times where you'll find yourself unable to defend an attack simply because you don't have the perfect unit for it. It's a great feeling when you attack with the perfect unit and the enemy just can't defend against it, so I suppose it's hypocritical to bitch about it.

The AI is not very good, both for the enemies and your own units. Often times if the enemy is on the move you can walk right by and they won't attack. Your own units are often frustratingly dumb, as they won't properly defend your base unless you control them manually. They are also very bad at backing each other up. I wish there was a way to specify the type of units to attack first. I hate watching my Prism towers killing little soldiers when there's a mammoth tank that's not being touched. I also hate watching squid destroying my aircraft carrier and my dolphin is just sitting there motionless instead of saving the carrier. I didn't expect the AI to be perfect and there's no reason to expect it to just ''know'' what you want, but what I'm saying is be prepared to do a lot of micromanagement.

There are some other annoying points; I never figured out why I couldn't place certain buildings in certain places. I thought it was perhaps a distance from the nearest building, but it doesn't seem to be. It just seems pretty arbitrary and maybe I'm missing something obvious but if not then it's an annoyance. Often I'd build a Prism Tower with plans to put in a specific spot only to find out that, for some reason, I can't place it there. Perhaps if you would place buildings before they start getting built (as in almost all other RTS games) then you could make an educated decision about the usefulness of building it.

Control is also a tad annoying, I wish there was a way to arbitrarily draw a box around units you want to select. If you have units on the diagonal it would be nice to be able to draw a thin circle around them, instead of a huge box that might accidentally include other stupid units. There is also the problem of sending units far away on the map. Either you click on the mini-map and hope they're going somewhere close to where you want them to, or you slowly scroll over to the area and click, or you group them, click on the mini-map with nobody selected, select the group and place them. None of the three is very desirable, I wish you could click on the mini-map to scroll to that area, then click in the main window WHILE units are selected.

All this bitching aside, I still really enjoy the game. The missions were pretty entertaining and varied and I do like having so many vastly different units to choose from. The two sides are equally fun to play; I'm more of a Soviet guy personally. Can you think of anything more enjoyable then kidnapping the president, blowing up the Statue o' liberty and taking control of the US? Didn't think so. The cutscenes are pretty well done and the voice acting, while not great, is pretty good.

8/10: Some flaws but overall you can't fault the fun factor

Network Play

Multiplay is great fun, the specific countries add a bit of strategy as each country has a unique enhanced unit that change the gameplay style just a bit.

All the single player comments apply to multiplay, except that unlike the computer player, human players will most likely do something about a small attack force ''sneaking'' into the back of their base.
This is one of the main reasons I love this game.

10/10: Doesn't get any better than this, my wang my argue that fact though.

Overall

I wouldn't say this game is a 'Must buy', but if you've ever dreamed of bombing France, getting one over on the Brits or shutting Saddam Hussains gob for good, then look no further...


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/22/01, Updated 08/22/01


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