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Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2

By JcDent04-01-2013
Leigh Cobb (editor)
Blankdoor (editor)
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2

The Defence

Electronic Arts
Westwood Pacific
Release Date:
US 23-10-2000
EU 27-10-2000

The Prosecution

Intel Pentium 266 MHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia 2 MB card
AMD equivalent
64 MB
350 MB

A long, long time ago, when it was still OK to make a 2D RTS game, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 came out. Back then the idea of a Soviet invasion of the USA was still relatively fresh (there weren’t any competing FPS franchises with creatively bankrupt designers to drive in into the ground so hard it’d resurface in China), and FMV cut scenes showed up from time to time. Naturally, RA2 quickly became my favourite RTS of all time (or at least till someone made Company of Heroes).

It starts, as any good story does, with the Soviet invasion of the continental USA. Due to Einstein’s fiddling with time-travel technologies, this time line is a little different (first Red Alert featured Second World War fought between the Allies and the USSR) and has some different tech. That’s why a teleplath is able to cripple USA’s nuclear arsenal; and invading Soviet blimps can be seen floating between skyscrapers in New York.

An extremely doomed Allied assault - even dolphins won't save it.

An extremely doomed Allied assault - even dolphins won't save it.

Here the player can become the commander for either the Soviets or the Allies (read “USA”, since it’s a well known fact that Americans are physically incapable of playing a game with a non-American protagonist). Each has it’s own story, and ending, and is dotted by excellent FMV cutscenes. Of course, you can also partake in skirmish battles or multiplayer fights (which are just like skirmish battles with opponents you can hate).

For anyone who has played earlier CnC titles, the basics will be nothing new. You have your HQ, which you need in order to build other buildings, you have your power needs to attend to (by spamming power plants), ore to mine and units to build. Starting with a power plant, a refinery, barracks and a radar is advisable to both Soviet and Allied players. Buildings can only be built within a certain radius of other buildings, so you won’t be able to place sentry turrets wherever you please (you will also want to invest in building a wall around your HQ, so it wouldn’t be stolen by a sneaky enemy engineer). Luckily for us, the build menu has now been separated into 4 tabs you can switch between: buildings, defense buildings, infantry and vehicles. Sometimes neutral buildings dot the landscape, just waiting to provide their benefits, to any player that captures them with their engineer.

The two factions that we have, - the Allies and the USSR, - are quite different in terms of what can they build. The soviets have very little air power ( except for the incredibly awesome Kirov Airship) and are more suitable for a blunt force approach. The Allies are all about speed, precision and air power (since their artillery can’t fire over terrain features). This distinction can be see even with the harvesters: the soviet one is a sturdy machine with a machine gun on top, while the Allied one can teleport home.

Barring superweapons, only Prism Towers can slow down an Apocalypse Tank column.

Barring superweapons, only Prism Towers can slow down an Apocalypse Tank column.

As you can guess, the game has some interesting units. Like allied chrono troopers, that teleport around and erase units from existence. Or soviet crazy Ivans, that can place explosives even on your own units, all while cackling like a maniac. The soviets can also use giant squids to crush enemy ships. Too bad EA looked at these units, thought “Well, they are somewhat funny” and decided that Red Alert 3 must replace all the fun with zaniness.. My favourite is the soviet Apocalypse tank. It’s a fast, heavy tank with two barrels of fun and anti-air capability to boot. They’re a tough nut to crack, especially when they advance into third level of veterancy (it adds, among other things, health regeneration). Then again, every unit is cooler after veterancy... Also, some of them have secondary abilities, like entrenching for the Allied G.I.s. I mention it specifically since it’s the sole unit that will spam the ability; others can make do without its use (unlike in Red Alert 3...). Infantry can also garrison buildings. This doesn’t just add nice visuals - the units inside the building become totally immune to all damage and do fearsome damage to any land unit that comes nearby. The only real cure from garrisoned buildings is massed artillery (or aistrikes).

All this, thrown in one place, makes for one hell of a fun ride. Even sentry dogs have to be built, because letting an Allied Spy unit (comes with the obligatory Sean Connery accent) into a base can tip the scales, tremendously (there’s a lot more thought put into that unit than the whole single player campaign in Battlefield 3). Soviets might do human wave attacks, Allies might try to outflank the enemy with helicopter transports. The skirmish AI will launch nigh suicidal attacks to insert an engineer into your HQ (and then promptly sell it, which pretty much means the end of your war effort).

The graphics are quite nice. It was released, after all, towards the end of the era of big budget 2D RTS’s, so it ages quite nicely (unlike early 3D games do). Of special note are the collapse animations for some buildings, which are quite superb. It’s also fun to see small details, like special agent Tania casually throwing her pistols in the air while idle. The FMVs show quality too, and, if IMDB is to be believed, Joseph D. Kucan - the same guy who plays Kane in Tiberium related CnC games - is behind it.. Udo Kier is excellent as the psychic Lenin-lookalike Yuri, Ray Wise is as POTUS as one can possibly get while Kari Wuhrer sped up puberty in her role as Tania. All in all, the actors are chosen damn well for every role (Aleksandra Kaniak, who plays the assisting Leutenant Zofia in the Soviet campaign, is Polish and that is dangerously close to hiring actual slavs to play slavic roles). The sets in the videos look like they were crafted with love (in comparison, the more recent CnC games feature sets that make Babylon 5 interiors look expensive and gratuitous). The sound part is superb, too. The unit quotes are proper and memorable, without trying to be witty one-liners (the way Tania says “I’m so good!”...). The music is insanely good - the best RTS soundtracks I’ve yet to hear (try “Hell March 2” on YouTube).

Ah, the time honored tradition of spamming carrier drones!

Ah, the time honored tradition of spamming carrier drones!

This is looking a lot like a love letter to RA2, so I would be obliged to say some negative things about it...if it didn’t have an 86% rating on GameRankings. It’s mostly my subjective criticism on the lack of medic/repair units. And, maybe, I’d like to see more troop carrier units and the both navies and the Soviet airforce fleshed out.

All in all, it’s a great old-school RTS that is easy to learn and probably not that hard to master (then again, Dwarf Fortress would make even Victoria 2 blush...). The gameplay is fun, the cut scenes are excellent and everything runs smoothly, like the Soviet invasion of the USA.

Comments (2)
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Posts: 8

i remember my self yelling " i can see the pixels !!!" ;p

Posts: 596

Oh my god, I have so many great memories on that game. Red Alert 3 was actually a close modern fit though. I think EA did a good job on it, but it can never have that "thing" that Red Alert 2 had. Really loved this game and still when I just see the name I want to play it again! :P