Review by Thes1s

Reviewed: 02/21/04

A mixed little title

Red Alert 2 is the successor to Red Alert released many years ago. The Red Alert game was a great success for Westwood, more so than Dune, if I remember correctly.
After a somewhat second-rate Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2 was looking to follow in the footsteps of Red Alert and going back even further – the original C&C.
The game opens with an introductory movie as to who your leaders are and the current world affairs, only the way this information is presented varies on either side of the “faction” you choose. The single player campaign starts with a gentle mission and you know that you are at the very bottom of the learning curve without a big neon sign telling you. The missions on both discs in Red Alert 2 are similar so no side loses out on terms of stealth, tactics or the good old tried and tested base building. At least Westwood kept it fair in this department.
The control is the familiar point, drag and click system with the keyboard hotkeys, which really sharpen the player and bring out the best in the fast-paced tacticians out there.
As far as missions go, there was certainly effort into thinking about the missions and bringing tactics when you were out-numbered and out-powered was beginning to show the diversity in the minds of those guys and gals at Westwood. The ways to complete the mission were limited; it felt more like badly disguised forcing than gentle pushing into the right direction.
The enemy AI is satisfactory, nothing amazing but then again, it wasn’t shoddy. You can expect the enemy to launch attacks at you and even on a higher difficulty setting like brutal, expect the majority of units in the attack against your base to consist of basic infantry. This is frustrating since you know the key to winning is with a large army of tanks that you happen to have sitting around your war factory waiting for the ‘opportune moment’ to strike your enemy down. Unfortunately, this opportune moment seems to be anytime after the initial 5 minutes in a skirmish and you have a few tanks. Alternatively, when playing missions where you have to destroy the entire enemy, it undergoes the repetition of building about 20 – 30 tanks and ruining the map.
The storyline of the game is reasonably well done. The installments given to you after each mission are briefings with a storyline slipped into the midst of it somewhere. Its not original but it will do, I mean, who cares about the storyline in an RTS when the main focus is on more important aspects like the gameplay and atmosphere?
This moves nicely onto the progression of the missions within the game. It is typical progression where you face more enemies (meaning more bases with more units) and more advanced units being thrown at you since the enemy base(s) is probably well and truly already established. Not forgetting you have to be limited in space and resources to build you base because the computer has all the good spots covered. Don’t forget that, it seems to be a RTS commandment.
Something that links well to the mission is the actual and overall gameplay – including the popular and important online play. Gameplay is fluid, with the right number of units the unfriendly looking army on the other side of the map can be desecrated in minutes although with the quantity over quality army coming into play (which almost always happens in a skirmish against the computer on brutal) it cuts down on the longevity. However, with that said Red Alert 2 will mainly be played online and the multiplayer will be discussed below. The base building, tech paths and units available make the gameplay well adapted and suitable for the online fanatics as well as the more casual gamer.
The graphics in Red Alert 2 are improved upon, if they didn’t then…well you all know. The graphics have pleasant strokes like the men being set on fire, running and screaming in agony of the irradiated ground of where a majestic nuclear power plant lay, now reduced to nothing. The graphics are good enough but there’s definitely better.
The sound and score in Red Alert 2 is impressive. The comments of your units as they move and the effects of destruction with the fluid gameplay and tactics required in an online dispute can be immersive and really draw you into the game. The score in the background is on cue as ever with a real atmosphere of war and tension.
Finally comes the best part about Red Alert 2 – the multiplayer feature. This is one of the best RTS multiplayer/online games you can get. There is a thriving community and the real life opponents offer far more of a confrontation than any brutal enemy could. This is where the gameplay comes in, the online ladder is very competitive with a good random opponent matching for ladder matches and if you want to show your friends who is the king at RA2 out of you lot then the easy to use interface and the common chat room before a custom multiplayer match of more than 1 v 1 matches will be a sure attraction. The strategists who take their gaming slightly more seriously will be honing their skills with the hot keys, setting way points to circle, move and fire when encountering tank fights and scattering the precious infantry when it looks like they might be compressed into the ground. The multiplayer will keep you engaged for more than a while and it’s always a relief to kick back and relax with a game of Red Alert 2 after ripping things up on a frag fest game such as UT or Quake 3. Even for those lagging behind with a 56k modem they can still bring their computers over to their buddy’s house and have a heated 1 on 1 game. (Of Red Alert 2 of course).
Overall Red Alert 2 is a mixed package. At times the gameplay is fluid and competent yet unrewarding due to an easy enemy, easy campaign and the single player just isn’t long enough – even on hard. This is made up for by the longevity it provides with the multiplayer feature and it is online where Red Alert 2 shines and the basic RTS features can be mixed with the supportive gameplay elements create a good experience and many a battle where the commander, yourself, will tell the tale of last minute victories to your grand-children.
Compared with other RTS games Red Alert 2 is a light-hearted game which can be fun, provided you have a decent internet access and time to practice those total-domination ambitions.

Gameplay – 8/10
Sound – 8/10
Graphics – 6/10
Storyline – 5/10
Replay value – 2/10
Longevity – 9/10
Overall (not an average) – 7/10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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