Review by gamefreak99

"Fun For the Whole Family (TM)!"

Wacky. Unusual. Unique. FUN.

These words spring to mind when describing Westwood's Red Alert 2. As any real time strategy enthusiast will tell you, Westwood has carved out a position as one of the top RTS developers, period. It doesn't matter if you like Age of Empires or Starcraft, you have to admit that Westwood is a force to be reckoned with. Recently returning from the flop that was Tiberian Sun, Westwood joins the fray yet again with the revival of a very popular game, Red Alert.

Red Alert was heralded by fans and critics alike as a great game. It was on the spot with what people wanted; good graphics, an interesting story, multiplayer, and, most importantly, a game that was just plain, old fashioned fun. Thankfully, Westwood has continued this tradition placing an even bigger emphasis in the fun factor this go round.

The story of Red Alert 2 is a bit unusual; the United States basically plants a puppet in the Soviet Union who eventually becomes their leader. Romanov eventually gets tired of all the peace and says to hell with them; invading the US along with the help of a physic friend named Yuri. In fact, in the opening cutscene, we see zeppelins and paratroops floating down in New York, tanks storming into Texas, and so forth. It's from this very cutscene that we learn that this game doesn't take itself very seriously. We see cheesy acting that makes us laugh. And it's obvious that these guys aren't really serious, they're acting about as cheesy as humanly possible. From this cutscene alone, we know we're in for a treat.

You can play through the main story, which is quite fun, as either side. The missions are varied but the Allied ones generally consist of defending the country and the Soviet ones feature destroying it. I personally find that the Soviet missions are more enjoyable. In an early mission you basically storm over the allied forces and destroy the White House, Pentagon, and Washington monument.

The basic game play involves you harvesting “ore” and bringing it back to your base to get money. From there you abstractly build buildings; there are no worker units or anything, a timer just goes down and then you place it. There's a building for every genre of unit, defensive buildings, power plants, and the like. Most of you already have this idea down and you'll fit right in.

But that's not really the core of the game. The game's core lies in the units. These are some of the most fun and creative units I've ever seen. The Soviets have physics that can take over enemy troops. The Allies have teleporting soldiers who literally warp enemies out of time and space. The Soviets have a suicide bomber-esqe unit called Crazy Ivan who plants bombs on stuff. Allies have tanks that blend into their surroundings when they're not moving. These unusual units are fun to play with. You can take control of a cow, place a bomb on him, and send the poor bovine into enemy territory (and we though we had mad cows...). I mean, who would suspect Bessy the Cow is a walking time bomb? You can set ambushes, having camouflaged tanks waiting. There's spies that can take on the appearance of enemy troops to steal money, take down power, steal technology, and a multitude of other things.

One of the best parts of this game is the Superweapons. These are varied beyond the old nukes we've come to love from Red Alert. You have a weather machine that rains a storm of lighting upon the enemy, incinerating everything in its path. You have the iron curtain that grants you temporary invulnerability. You have the chronosphere which teleports units anywhere on the map. These seem a bit skewed towards the Allies however as it seems the weather machine is at least twice as powerful as the nuke. As soon as you start one the enemy automatically sees where it is and a countdown timer starts. Once the time is at zero, the madness starts. If the enemy still hasn't destroyed it after the first launch, the timer goes back and the fun starts again.

There are various factions- Iraq, Libya, Russia, Britain, France, the US, etc. While the sides aren't as different as the Zerg and Protoss for example, they all feature a unique unit. Iraq has desolators (so there's where those WMDs went!) which zap people with radioactive beams or plug their weapon into the ground to make a green, nuclear wasteland that's death for any troops that come by. Libya has demolition trucks which are industrial strength car bombs; these things are packing small nukes. America has paratroops and Britain has a sniper unit. Other than units, the factions don't have any other bonuses which means you can pick up and play any but there's not much depth strategically.

That's the major downfall of this game; strategy. Most of the time a game consists of building up units and then rushing and destroying everything in your path. The problem with this is that the AI let's you get away with it. They will come and pester you a bit during the game but they're mainly isolated. Sometimes your attacks will fail but when they do you see no counter attack and run back to your base to rinse and repeat. There's really no incentive to lay ambushes or act smart when the computer can die in a major stampede of marching death. Most of the time you don't even need to build any defenses for your base. You end up having all these wonderful units that unlock so many possibilities but you don't end up using them which is a shame.

The units, while varied, aren't too numerous. There are three or four types of troops, tanks, planes, and ships leading to the rock-paper-scissors method. While this isn't bad per se, the games we have now have moved on to a great plane of existence.

Graphically, this game is showing some of its age. The units are 2D much like Age of Empires and not 3D ala Warcraft 3 or Command and Conquer Generals. The textures for the different types of “ground” are pretty generic and they won't hold your attention too long. The units are nice and detailed but they aren't anything you haven't seen before. The plus side is the low requirements, this game runs perfect on my old 800 MHz machine with all settings maxed. And besides, graphics don't make games (... right?).

In summary, this game is very interesting and unique but is just plain old fun. The graphics and some concepts are a bit dated now but it's nothing that you won't be able to look past. This game is pretty bug free but some balancing issues have been fixed in the newer patches. The main flaw is the lack of strategy, your enemies (unless you're playing multiplayer which is quite good) can't think too well so you won't need to be setting traps or even looking out for them. While a bit plain, Red Alert 2 is a great game. If you can look past some of its flaws, it's a must buy.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/23/04, Updated 07/23/04

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