Review by Chaos Control

"The only game I can think of in which nukes are useless"

Westwood Studios brings an incredibly fun and exciting strategy game with some familiar faces. This game basically takes place in an alternate time zone in which Albert Einstein messes with the past, takes out the leader of Germany, and instead of Germany coming to power, we have Russia threatening world peace. And of course, the Allied forces do not want to see the Soviets prevail. There is so much to do in this game, including a campaign mode, skirmish, and multi-player. There are new units, structures, and missions. The question is, do you want to save the world and join the Allied forces, or take over the world and join the Soviets?

The actual game play borrows the same idea from previous games. You initially begin with an MCV, or mobile construction vehicle, and build a base. You build power plants, an ore factory to harvest gold, and build up an army. You see the map of the battlefield in an overhead, 2D view. The fronts of structures are visible, and you can move single or groups of troops with the click of a mouse.

The general idea, in most cases, is to destroy all your enemies units. There are so many ways to do this, so there is a lot of room for strategy. Yes, brute force will occasionally work, Red Alert forces you to actually think and create an easy path to the heart of your enemies base. Why charge through the heavily fortified front, when you can sneak through the unguarded back? I must admit though, the first time I picked up a skirmish game, I built up an uncountable army of tanks and just rushed at the enemy. While it is really fun to watch, the losses were heavy. Instead of rushing in head first, a better idea would be to soften up the enemy perhaps by sending in an initial strike force to take out annoying defense units, or even using a naval fleet to shake up the defenses. You actually have to take the environment into account too, which greatly adds to the replay value and excitement rating.

There is also the option of using super weapons if enough tech structures are built and there is sufficient power. The super weapons are overrated, as there is only a Chronosphere and the nuke. The chonosphere is very useless, as it can only transport like one unit anywhere on the map before transporting it back after a certain amount of time. Infantry cannot be transported, and after several usages, will cause time warps to wreck havoc on the battlefield. The nuke is basically a huge explosion that kills most infantry in one hit, but hardly effects units and structures. It's not as useful as I hope, as it takes a long time to charge and sucks up a lot of energy and resources.

The campaign mode is where the creativity really shows, as you get to pick between the good guys and the bad guys to control the "fate" of the world. Of course, I chose to play as the Soviets first, and I was quite surprised. Not all of the missions were "build a base, defeat the enemy style". Several missions require you to work with a small group of units with only occasional reinforcements. These types of missions require stealth, careful planning, and cautious movements. You could run into enemy troops at any time and they always outnumber you. Losing even one unit can lead to Mission Accomplished or Mission Failed. Other objectives could be destroying certain airfields, bridges, structures, whatever. You can also see FUNNY cutscenes or mission briefings after completion of a mission. There are some scenes that will raise eyebrows or just be so laughable. The ending movies are pretty hilarious, even ironic.

I feel as though one again, money speaks. If you have money, then you can build mass amount of units. If you have mass units, you don't need strategy, you just need to storm the enemy in a suicidal attack to get this mission done and move on. Heck, you can even build a line of defensive structures right up to your opponents base! Whoever has the most money, generally wins.

There are a variety of new units each side can mess with. Allied forces get the light tank and medium tank, while the Soviets get the heavy tank and mammoth tank. While this may seem unfair, it is kind of a reflection of the Allies and Soviets in real life. No matter, light and medium tanks are faster, but they are weaker. It's all about the strategy, and hopefully the AI will make stupid mistakes that let you complete the mission.

I spent most of my time playing the skirmish mode, where you can customize the battlefield, opponents, and starting options. It is really quite entertaining to actually test various battle conditions and see if you can win. You can even set the tech level down to one, in which armies will consist only of the most basic infantry unit and see who wins a battle without cheap tanks, navy, and air forces. There is also the option of alliances, where you can choose to ally with certain computer players. I don't really see the point in this, but I can move in my troops into the base of my "ally" without getting attacked, and then declare war on them.

There is also a multi player online mode, although I have never used it. The option is there, but most of the fun comes from the skirmishes anyway. I never had many problems with the controls, and they are rather easy to pick up for beginners, anyway.

There is kind of a story here, where you play as either the Allies or the Soviets and complete their missions. As one general, you have to task of completing missions one at a time from your superiors in an effort to recognize their dreams. There appear to be no other capable generals besides you. The story about the war is convincing enough to be possible in real life today, but still pretty much fantasy. The story is good enough to make you want to finish it, but there are several challenging missions that will have you looking for guides or cheats!

For a Windows 95 game, the graphics are actually quite good. The cutscenes actually look like movies, and the recording is done smoothly. The actors do a good job with it. Although nothing fancy is done because the actors usually sit in a chair and talk, it is still impressive enough.

The actual units and structures themselves look different from each other and recognizable. Structures that camouflage with the environment do, although you can still tell they are there. The buildings to "break" and catch on fire then they lose half their HP, but can be repaired at a low cost. Vehicles that die blow up in a tiny ball of fire, ships sink, and infantry die with their head in a puddle of blood. Quite violent, but satisfying to watch. My favorite structure has got to be the Tesla Coil, because it can zap and fry any infantry with one hit.

The battlefield and environment has been polished and updated. There are rocks, trees, rivers, and so much more. All the little details are carefully added, and maybe if you force fire on a tree it will catch on fire. You can fight on multiple types of terrain, including oceans, grass, and snow. The battlefield will also have holes in the ground from the cannons and gunfire.

Yes, the nuke does explode in kind of a "mushroom" way. Disappointingly, the nuke does little damage despite the way it looks. The range of the explosion is quite small, although troops do still get hurt by the lingering radiation.

The user interface is easy to use, as you can recognize what units you are building, how much they cost, how much money you actually have, and nice little mini map you can use to see which part of your base is being attacked.

Once again, the sound is very good considering how early in the stages of development this game is in. The voice actors in the campaign missions do their job well. The voice that "narrates" your battle is good, the one that tells you when your base is under attack, what units you are building, and very annoyingly when you run out of funds. Units also have their voices, although they repeat the same few lines when you order them to move or click on them. Infantry do scream a bit when they die.

There is a music soundtrack in this game, and I don't really notice it while playing because the actual fighting is so crazy. But over time, I did nothing one or two tracks that I like. The rest however, are very plain battle music which doesn't seem to have much life into it. The gunfire and explosions are nothing out of the ordinary. You can tell that there isn't much to expect from this game besides standard war sounds from the moment you play your first mission.

The play time is quite long and good, and you should be enjoying most of it. The separate story lines can take several weeks of patience to complete. Most of the time will be spent in "free battle" mode playing skirmishes or playing against friends.

The game will let you create save files, so you can go back and replay any mission at any time. Some of these missions are fun enough to replay over again, maybe just to see the funny movie. Skirmishes are always fun, because you can play under different conditions and test your skill at strategy. You can try a different way to win, like instead of using tanks to rush, use infantry to rush or use naval units only.

I would certainly recommend this game because it is quite a lot of fun. People who seek serious strategies and want an experience greater than just Red Alert should pick up the sequel, Red Alert 2 instead. This game is still fun even though it has been years since it first came out. Playing the first in any series will let you know how far the series has gone since it begun, and Red Alert will show you the roots of what has become a magnificent strategy game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/08/07

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