Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Review by Jacen Solo
"The Soviets are COMING!The Soviets are COMING!And this time they're better..."
Let me say something before i begin.Im not into RTS games.Hell,of all my PC games the only RTS games i have are Warcraft2,Warcraft3 and RA2(Yuri's revenge as well).Why am i not into RTS you ask?Well,honestly?I suck at that.Yup,i admit it.I suck badly.My girlfriend kicks my ass in RTS,each and everytime we play together...Strangely though,i LIKE playing RTS games.I think my flaw is that i play RTS games like i would play games like SimCity.i would build,build and build but rarely make units...Well,im finally happy to say,i at least can do that with RA2.PLUS:RA2 is the FIRST FPS game i finished without using cheats AND on Normal difficulty.And now as they say....let's get on with the show!
Storyline:I never played the original seriously enough so i dont know what happened there but RA2's story seems easy enough to follow for somebody who's a definate newbie to the series.That's a good thing,in my opinion.If its accessible to the masses,more people can enjoy a great game.The voice actors are great in my opinion(i really like the actor who played Yuri and the actress who played Tanya(hehe...fan service:p).Westwood also has a talent for selecting actors who can play their roles well and not overact(Resident Evil on the PSX,anybody?).Personally,i prefer FMVs with human actors as long as they're decent.Sure CGI's may look snazzy and all but nothing can beat the human touch.The cutscenes before and after each mission are well done,with humor sprinkled throughout(i love a game that doesnt take itself TOO seriously).The story is pretty basic though but its bearable.RTS games are not known for their stories anyway.But i was interested enough to play through till the end to find out how it ended.And that's a considerable achievement considering how much i sucked at RTS games.I tend to give up the moment i hit a mission that i fail repeatedly.But strangely,when i failed repeatedly in RA2,i wanted to retry it till i get it right.And my reason was not to beat the mission so that i'd be happy.No,it was so that i would find out what happened because of what i did in the mission.
Easy to follow,satisfying to play through.What more do you want?
Gameplay:Whoever said that if you played one RTS,you've played them all was right.RA2 is nearly the same as the original RA or even the original Command and Conquer.The units may have changed but the basic gameplay is the same.Build a base,get gold,build somemore.Repeat ad nauseum.Why didnt ANYBODY change this aspect?The whole RTS genre seems to have stagnated,with the exception of the recently released Warcraft3 of course.But comparing the two is hardly fair considering,RA2 came out ages before Warcraft3.But that still doesnt give Westwood an excuse on milking the same style of gameplay for all its worth!For those of you not familiar with RTS(i hope you're just new to gaming or you have my sympaties),its basically a test of speed and ingenuity.Overwhelming odds dont usually win the day(but they sure do HELP).In RTS games,the fastest of the players will usually win.Why?Just because.Speed is nearly everything in a RTS game.Familiarity is the other side of the coin.If you're a newbie playing against a veteran RTS player,expect to get whooped.You'll wonder how they manage to get some many units while you're still building your barracks!Im the authority on losing in RTS,so i can tell you that with certainty as i experienced the same thing...a lot.RTS games are an inflexible lot.You must build in said order,with so and so bulding so that you can create so and so unit.This has to change in my opinion.Why not make it so that the buildings or units are only available after a certain time period as passed?This makes the game last longer for the newbies and not provide such a steep learning curve.RA2 also needs to have more detailed unit explaination.The only hint you're gonna get from your units are their names.That's all.Why didnt Westwood add in unit damage capability or if it has anti-air capabilities i dont know.Just these two options,could improve the gameplay quite a bit.Without them,the only way you're gonna win is by trial and error.Thankfully some times new units are explained in detail(only in the mission where the said unit appears for the first time.)But that's only in the single player game,players who just head straight into melee against others will feel totally out of sorts as they slowly come to grips with the units.The units are also pretty bland and very cookie cutter.You get the normal complement of grunts,some tanks,a few aircrafts and some ships...thats it.All of them have appeared in some form or another in previous Command and Conquer/Red Alert games.The tesla tanks are a good example...It wasnt until Yuri's Revenge(RA2 Expansion) that an original element came in.But take away all the flaws and do you still get a fun game?Yup.RA2 is still as fun as its older brothers.
I guess Westwood forgot all about originality in this one.But if it works,why tempt fate and try something new,eh?
Sound:Like the gameplay,if you've played any of the previous Command and Conquer/Red Alert games,you know what to expect.If you havent,its mostly rock with a hint of techno.It suits a game like this cause you cant help but be more aggressive when you're grooving to some beat that asks you to kill everything.All RTS games should have more upbeat music like this game,if you ask me.The sound effects are nothing to write home about but then again,you cant have much to complain.Everything sounds pretty much all right(i HAVENT listened too closely to how a machine gun sounds so dont blame me).On the other hand,i really like the voice quips though.They give the game some character.Most of them are puns or inside jokes to something.Its really funny when you hear a tesla trooper say''i keep going and going...'' in reference to the duracell bunny:D
Good sounding effects,music and funny lines all round out to make this a memorable game.
Graphics:Dont go expecting any 3d goodies here.Its all old school here.2D sprites are the only thing you're gonna see in this game.The sprites,as befits a good game,are all nicely detailed and animated.Even playing in lowly 640 X 480,the sprites look sharp and im even able to pick out minor details.It shows how much attention Westwood put into creating the sprites.Impressive,most impressive.I think the only way to improve the visual quality of the game would be to rewrite the whole engine and make the whole thing 3D cause Westwood has probably pushed the envelope when it come to sprite details.Explosions ARE nicely animated but can be pretty underwhelming.I mean,when i blow up a big building,i expected it to go BOOM! with debris flying everywhere...Here if i blow something big up,you just get 1,i repeat ONE,small explosion and 5 or 6 pieces of what looks like bent metal shoot out.Come on!What are they trying to pull with this?I want satisfaction of a job well done!Not some crummy explosion and a few scraps of metal...
Sprites are nicely animated and detailed but effects like explosions are severely lacking
Mutiplayer:You can play this game online using Westwood's internet matching service or against bots.I never play online(i SUCK),so the only experience i have is playing against bots.The bots are decent but they seem to follow a set strategy.Expand,attack,expand,attack.Over and over.They never deviate from that path...at all.Even higher difficulties doesnt change that.Higher difficulties only gets you a more aggresive opponent and more units rallied against you per attack.The AI also seems to always gang up against you,even when you're playing a game that forbids teaming up.Whats up with that?Cant they attack themselves once in a while?
Boring bots that seem to target you for no reason and always stick to the same routine
Summary:RA2 has its share of flaws,all games do.But what matters is there a good game beneath all the dirt and grime?Yes,definately.Its relatively to pick up,play and understand.If you're a newbie to RTS,you could do worse then make RA2 your first foray into the genre.Veterans though,may find RA2 lacking in originality and gameplay elements.RA2 is also significantly easier than its forefathers and this may in turn,turn off hardcore RTS gamers.Bottom line,pick up RA2 if you want a good time and dont really care about the minor flaws.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/02, Updated 07/21/02
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