Review by BigCj34

"A fantastic real-time strategy game involving the Allies versus the Soviets. One of my favourite games."

Westwood studios first game of the Command & Conquer series was, of course, Command & Conquer. Command and Conquer was released in 1995 and was very successful, with the basic principal of building your base by deploying a vehicle to build a construction yard or expand a ready made base. You would then, using what buildings were available to you, you train your own men or build tanks and vehicles. You'd then send your units to conquer the other team, planning strategies, defending attacks, etc, but as you had to control your whole army, you would select units and tell them to attack enemies. This series led to the advanced Command and Conquer Generals in 2003 but was sadly discontinued by Westwood.

Command and Conquer Red Alert was released in 1996, and was a hugely successful sequel to Command and Conquer. There are two sides you can take control of, the first is the Allied Forces and the other is the Soviets. In the past Albert Einstein stopped the rise of Hitler, thanks to messing with a bit of history with Einstein's chronosphere, but the major threat was now the Soviets. World War II never happened and Nazi Germany was no threat. The Soviet Union turned into a superpower that threatened the globe, and it's up to the Allied forces to stop them. Are you going to help Stalin with his European domination or stop the Soviets and attempt to drive back their forces?

The game infrastructure is quite simple. You have a 2D overhead view but you can see the fronts of the buildings and units, and with the aid of you mouse, you select units and tell them to attack enemy units and structures. Usually you have to build a base. You either start the mission with a base, sometimes needing expansion, but most of the time you are given a mobile construction vehicle, where you find a suitable place to deploy it and it turns itself into a construction yard, ready for you to build a base around it. If you want to build structures, you need money, so you have to build an ore refinery, which sends out an ore truck to mine ore, which can be traded in for cash. There are various other buildings, including the radar dome that displays a map of the areas you have been to; power plants keep power to your base, so if you don't have full power then production will be slower and some of your structures won't function. War factories, barracks and naval bases are for building tanks, units and boats. You can also build base defences, from the pill box to the power hungry tesla coil, a tree style structure that'll send an electric strike to any intruder!

The two sides in the games each have their own unique structures and units. Some of the buildings are the same, such as the construction yard, power plants, etc. but most of the units and many buildings are different. Put it this way: the Allies favour fast, mobile units, make efficient use of power and see the importance of good naval ships. The Soviets prefer to sacrifice speed for brutal force, their mammoth tanks are pillars of destruction that move like slugs plus they're very inefficient for power needed, if you want to build tesla coils, you'll also need one advanced power plant for each one you build. Their air force is a lot better than the Allies, with the aid of spy planes, paratroops, air bombs and the almighty MiG planes. The Allied navy is stronger with the destructive cruiser but the Soviet submarines are definitely annoying.

There is a wide selection of units to choose from, if you're the Soviets you can attack with a heavy tank, or send out the V2 rockets that fire a very destructive rocket, or if you are patient you can gang up lots of mammoth tanks onto the allies. Naval wise, you can scatter submarines about the place and take out the allied gunboats by surprise, and in the air you can send out the almighty MiG. The Allies offer you with a modest but quick light tank and medium tank, but infantry-wise they have rocket launchers that can shoot down aeroplanes and you can send spies into Soviet buildings. The long bow helicopter is very useful for taking out a few buildings, but in the navy you'll fear the destroyer's and a cruiser can tear a base to shreds in a couple of minutes.

The great thing about this game is the way they have used the strategy element in the game really well. There are plenty of battles, and sometimes the game requires a bit of multitasking. Let's just say you are trying to build your base, and next thing you know you are being attacked! First of all, you realise that you haven't improved your army much since the start of the mission, so you have your measly squad of three heavy tanks and two V2 rockets up against 6 medium tanks and three artilleries. While they keep you busy there's five rocket soldiers trying to kill your ore truck, then it's on red status once you realise what's happened and you have all your tanks queuing up to be repaired on the service depot. So there you are, adding a few more structures and building more tanks for next time, but you realise you are out of money, so you have to wait. Annoying. This is what the game can be like if you're not careful. If you opt for a harder difficulty setting, defend yourself carefully just in case you have an army of 50 odd heavy tanks asking for directions through your base.

The attacking front needs some careful planning as well, sending 50 tanks out to the enemy sometimes works, that does require a bit of patience building them, and you'll do well to have 20 tanks left in the end of wiping out a base. Alternatively you could use air-strike to pick on ore trucks, construction yards and gradually weaken them before you finish them with your tanks. You don't want, and it has happened to me, to send out an army of 40 tanks and they all get blown away.

Not only do you have two mission modes, the Allies and Soviets; there is a wealth of multi-player options to choose from. You can play across a LAN and internet play is supported. You can also play a single player skirmish, where you can be a side and play against up to seven computer controlled opponents, you can determine if you want to be allies or Soviets, how many credits you have, technology available to you (low tech level only lets you build units, high tech enables missile silos, GPS, etc.) and even whether you have bases.

There are a few bad points I have to run through now. The AI in the game can let itself down, for example when you try to send an aeroplane to an airfield, or an ore truck to it's refinery it can sometimes fly around in circles and go nowhere. When sending a large group of tanks to somewhere it can end up that you have a few tanks taking a detour, sometimes going through a danger area. There are a few collision problems in the game, the tanks can go through each other sometimes, and tanks are occasionally unresponsive to a new command, or attack something automatically that it shouldn't, like explosive barrels. Also, the two sides aren't evenly balanced in terms of strength. Although Soviets need a lot of power, there attack is very definitely stronger than the allies.

The games graphics are no ace for today, but it's not bad for a game from 1996. The graphics are a 2D top down view but you can see the front of buildings and men and the tops of tanks. The animations are smooth and crisp, and the environment does react if you fire at it. For example, firing at the ground shows a mud patch, trees set on fire, etc. For a resolution of 640x480 the game looks a lot sharper than what you would think for today. There are a few niggles, such as collision errors and bizzarly aeroplanes sometimes flash in the air, but this is 2D graphics at it's best.

The audio is quite good as well. There is a rather useful in game assistant that says when somethings happening, like if a building being built is finished or a unit has dies, although it is rather annoying when your base is under attack and you check and it isn't, probably as somebody has killed it already. The in-game CD music does really set the atmosphere and can set the mood to the mission. It's upbeat and you should spend that effort to go to the options and turn it on, although the game does freeze so the CD loads a new track sometimes. The soldiers have their own voice effects when you click, them although it does get a bit tedious when saying “Yes, Sir!” or “Affirmative” half a dozen times.

The in game movies are of a reasonable quality and aren't too bad. Although they sometimes are a little boring and you don't need to watch them, they sometimes are worth watching. They're usually video briefings before the mission and a CG view of the end of the mission.

This game should work on just about any PC, you need Windows 95 at least (with 75mhz and 8mb RAM) to run it, or you can run the low-res DOS version if you're using Windows 3.1. Bear in mind if you are using Windows XP you'll need a patch if you want to play the Windows version, although it disables LAN play so you may have to play LAN on DOS. As the Westwood server is down you'll have to find an alternate way to play the internet games.

Graphics Good for it's time, crisp 2D animations and neatly presented view. 8/10
Sound Great in-game music and sound effects 9/10
Game-play Strategy gaming at it's best, awesome 9/10
Lifespan Two sides, 15 missions each plus a skirmish mode, a long time. 9/10

Overall, Red Alert is a great sequel to Command and Conquer. A fantastic strategy game, lots of action, and only costs £5. A true PC classic. 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/21/05

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