Review by Chaos Control
New title, but mostly the same as the original
Command & Conquer Red Alert: The Aftermath is yet another sequel to a great game that has you wondering whether you put the right CD or not. The game is basically the same as the first Red Alert, but Westwood Studios still brings an incredibly fun and exciting strategy game with some redeeming value. The Soviets and Allied are still fighting each other, even after the world war ended, but this time, there are new units, structures, and 18 missions. What else is there to say? Just command and conquer.
The actual game play hasn't changed at all. 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, navy, or air force. 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 same controls are used, so you can still group units into teams and command the team using a keyboard shortcut.
The general idea is to destroy all your enemies units. There are too many ways to do this especially with many new units, so there is a lot of room for strategy. Yes, brute force will occasionally work, Red Alert: The Aftermath 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 in through the side by blowing up a conveniently placed barrel? Instead of rushing in head first, a better idea would be to soften up the enemy by sending in an initial strike force to take out annoying defense units, or even using a naval fleet to shake up the defenses. While a stupid war tactic, I often just mass produce tanks and storm the enemy base. The losses are heavy, but the AI isn't strategic enough to repel a hundred tanks. Also, you actually have to take the environment into account too, which greatly adds to the unpredictability.
There is also the option of using super weapons if certain technical structures are built and the base is sufficiently powered. The super weapons are overrated again like they were in the first game. The Chonosphere is still obsolete, as it can only transport like small numbers of units 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 mushroom explosion that kills most infantry in one hit, but hardly effects units and structures. The nuke looks like it should do more damage than it actually does. It's not as useful as I thought it would be, 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. 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. New to the aftermath are completely new missions which really don't affect the main storyline. You can complete these missions at any time, but there isn't an incentive to do them other for completion. And I warn you, these new missions are serious because they are really difficult. You may have to replay the same missions over and over again before giving up.
Once again, money is the dominant force in the game. If you have money, then you can build mass amount of units. If your troops outnumber the enemy 5 to 1, strategy becomes a detriment, and you just need to storm the enemy in a suicidal attack to get this mission done as quickly as possible. The same strategy of building a line of Tesla Coils or Turrets right up to your opponents base will work again. Whoever has the most money, generally wins.
There are a variety of new units each side can mess around with. The Soviet's finally have a counter for the Allied Cruiser in the form of their Missile Sub. This sub is not as dominating as the Cruiser, but it's missiles can destroy land bases very quickly. This sub is quite inaccurate though, because sometimes these subs will just be firing away at empty land. There are new Tesla units, like the light Tesla tank and the Shock Trooper which are slow but can't be run over. These new units are interesting to play as, but I still feel like I'm playing the same game, not an expansion.
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. 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 are new battlefields to choose from, which may or may not be important. They are built similarly to the old maps, but a little change once in a while is good.
There is also a multi player online mode, although I still haven't and will never use. 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 the exact same as the predecessor.
For an old game like this, 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 because you can see the base of the structure. The buildings "break" and catch on fire then they are halfway dead, but can be repaired at a low cost. Vehicles that die blow up in a tiny ball of fire, ships sink, and infantry explode with bursting blood. Quite violent and unrealistic, but satisfying to watch.
The battlefields and environments are the same, I think. There may have been minor graphical tweaks, but it was fine already. There are rocks, trees, rivers, and everything else you expect. All the little details are carefully added, and so if you shoot a tree it will catch on fire. You can fight on multiple types of terrain, including oceans, grass, and snow. Same old, same old. The battlefield will also have craters 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. When infantry bunch together, it may be difficult to pull out the ones you need, which makes it easier just to sort them into teams or don't mass produce units.
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.
The sound still hasn't changed even though they added new voices for the new units. 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 individual voices, although they repeat the same few lines when you order them to move or click on them. Infantry do scream in a way that makes you feel guilty for making them 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. The Aftermath features some new tracks, but they are just as boring as the originals. Most of the tracks are very plain battle and techno music which doesn't seem to capture the life of war. 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 or the first skirmish map.
The play time is slightly shorter than the original Red Alert because you've done it already, although you should still enjoy most of it. The separate new missions for each side 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 build lines of defensive structures instead.
On a side note, the AI still hasn't changed. They will still use their army to attack your well fortified base at times. But unlike you, the AI as an infinite fountain of military might as long as you don't destroy all their structures.
I recommend playing Red Alert: The Aftermath because it is still quite a lot of fun. A good idea would probably be to borrow this game from a friend, or buy the game if it is cheap enough. This isn't a game that will amaze you because it looks and feels exactly the same as the original, but it's nice to see how originals in a series can be improved upon. People who seek serious strategies and want a greater experience should pick up the sequel, Red Alert 2 instead.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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