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Just when you thought the Cold War was dead and buried Westwood/EA Games release the latest game in the Command and Conquer (CnC) genre for the PC Red Alert 2! That’s right the Commies are back! This time they are taking over the world starting with the USA! Hooray! Only trouble is that unfortunately this isn’t a good thing, it’s a bad thing - boo hiss!
Red Alert 2 is the sequel to Red Alert with Tiberian Sun lodged in between. Why? I think its because everyone slated Tiberian Sun because it was set too far into the future, whereas Red Alert is in the present – well all except for the Cold War issue! The story is quite bizarre and totally unbelievable, where the Russians afraid of being a second rate nation after the decline of the Cold War, decided to go back in time (as you do) and tart up their weapons and their technology with little ribbons, bows and tesla coils??? After building up their arsenal (without the aid of Adams, Wenger, Bergkamp & Henry) over the last 30 odd years, the sneaky so-in-so's decide to conquer the world starting with an all out assault on America. First item on the agenda is destroying the Statue of Libearty. How dare they! Well, it’s Tanya the super soldier and her other GI Joes to the rescue – in the same select, move, think, fire game that we now come to expect over the years with other CnC games. This time the actions and motion of the units is slicker, smoother, highly detailed, bright and very cartoon in feel rather than the pixel-ly efforts from the original game. Tanya now has t…t… (sorry can’t say it!) GUNS instead of pixels! Your mission should you chose to accept it is to save the world from the communist invasion – the world in America’s case as North America!
Red Alert 2 comes in a very slick DVD case on 2 CDs. It’s memory requirements a very thirsty 350 Meg, minimum 266MHz PC and 2 Meg graphics card. This won’t be suitable for a 2-3 year old PC. The installation wasn’t that straight forward. It didn’t auto-run and it was doing some stealthy and underhand with Win Explorer, which took about 15 minutes to start to install. The installation was then very slow and boring. As the game was installing, Westwood/EA Games decide to show you a movie of the story background. I found it very drool (‘coz I wanted to play the game immediately) but it came in handy for writing this opinion. Total installation time was analogous to installing windows in around 25-30 minutes on a PIII 450.
I’m a hater of the interaction between game play and movie sequences. If I wanted to watch a movie then I’ll go to the cinema. This game is heavily into movie sequences. I must say that they are very impressive and hop between the goodies and the baddies. The goodies included super soldier Tanya who remarkably looks like Lara Croft! So that’s where she is hiding! ; )
Red Alert 2 has a number of different games play options. These are the role of the ‘Allied Force’ through the usual set of campaigns and battles leading to the ultimate goal of victory of kicking the Commies butts! Another option on the second CD, where you take control of the Commies and kick the American butts (sounds appealing if Al Gore or Bush Jnr are in power)! Other options including the network option so that you can play the game across the local area network at work or via 2 PCs linked together via modems or whatever. My favourite is the Skirmish modes. Where you can take control of your forces in a one-off battle and try to dominate and kick up to 7 other computer butts at the same time. Also, there is an Internet mode where you can hook up with other people and play command n conquer over the Ether and pretend to be PC generals.
Red Alert 2 is like I said previously is slicker, faster, more cartoon like and the graphics are dazzling. The colours are superb compared to its previous outings. Everything is multi-coloured and higher in detail. The people look like people rather than just pixels. Each unit or person has its own sayings: “Yes, commander; I’m there; Ha ha ha; I won’t be late; argghhhh (in my case)…”
The game play is very smooth and most of the annoying problems from the previous games have been ironed out. The ore harvesters (used to harvester gems, crystals & ore which is processed to make money) are fully independent; therefore they don’t wait around for you to send them out looking for ore. The infantrymen (sorry isn’t politically correct just yet) are very important in this game rather than cannon fodder in previous outings (sorry isn’t politically correct just yet!). They have the ability to dig in and hold position without getting squished or overpowered like before. According to the number of kills they get promoted (and demoted – happened to me once) and heal themselves over time – this happens with other units. The GI Joes can now garrison within buildings. This allows them to hold up, fortify their positions, which makes your positions stronger and more powerful.
Back come the customary tanks and out go the legged robots from Tiberian Sun! Woohoo! You can never have enough tanks! Tanks do it for me every time – well not really! This time they come in different varieties. There is a splendid model that has sneaky camouflage and turns itself into trees waiting for Ivan to come near and blast his head off! The equally superb prism tanks which can knock out as many as 20 units at a time with their in genius prism technology (design by Prof. Einstein). Plus the ordinary run of the mill tank which shots normal shells!
Back also come the navy that completely vanished in Tiberian Sun. Hooray for the guys in flares! You get the usual ships – destroyers (with planes), aircraft carriers (with planes) and other platforms with sea-to-air missiles. All come in very handy when Ivan is off your starboard bow! The boys in lighter blue, Biggles or the Air Force as they are know have the realistic and very dangerous Harrier Jump Jet and that’s it a part from the planes from the Navy guys.
The Soviets have an equal but effective opposition to the Allied Units – dogs, conscripts, tesla coil guys, bigger tanks, tesla coils, rocket launchers, submarines (which don’t sink of their own accord) and updates to all their buildings. Their barracks looks like a statue of Lenin.
The buildings have also witnessed a thorough going over. The Mobile Construction Yard is superb. It builds quicker. You can only build one building at a time like before. You now have unlimited queue for all your men, planes & navy weapons (5 was the limit in TS). All your buildings have a single build entry along with your defensive installations - prism lasers, patriot missiles & gun post. This speeds up the game play tremendously allowing more strategy rather than wasting your time down at the local arsenal – picking and choosing, do I need one of these missile systems or one of those; do I get discount for cash; and do you do home delivery and do you accept VISA? Every build runs smooth, which is good because this allows you to concentrate on the game play. The money rolls in its thousands rather than the annoying dribs and drabs in previous CnC titles.
The game settings come in three levels – easy, medium or brutal. I’m not one of the world’s best game players so I stick to easy as I can kick Ivan’s butt in the Allied campaign. The game play and the strategy are superior to previous CnC games. The units have more intelligence rather than standing around whilst their allied neighbours get blown up. Tanya (super women soldier) can now swim. She spots and shots enemy units more efficiently, although gets eaten by the guard dogs more efficiently, as well! All animal lovers will appreciate the added bonus of controlling animals to do your dirty work. Dogs roam around picking off Ivan at will. You even get loads of dolphins that have their sonic boom waves that destroy ships. Good on ya Flipper! You can even control cows and crocodiles! Although these animals are rather stupid, don’t expect Daisy, Buttercup or Bluebell to go and blow up the Commies whilst you sit in your field tent drinking a brew and talking about sex, farting and playing cards. In Skirmish modes, you can participate as different countries so you don’t have to be the team USA all the time - hooray! Each country has a different speciality unit, for example, good old team GB has the petrol tax dodger or is it the sniper? The USA has the WWF wrestler (you wish) or is it the paratrooper?
Red Alert 2 is a highly polished game compared to its previous outings. It sticks to the same rigid game play but more polished and refined. All lovers of strategy game or the CnC series should buy this game! The graphics are positively cooking on gas - very cartoon like and/or realistic, detailed and bright. You concentrate more on strategy rather than building and mining – although this element of the game still exists. You don’t go short of a bob or two like before and wait ages for the coffers to accumulate. The different modes of play are good. You can control either the Allies (USA, GB & Germans) or the Soviets (Commie Russians) either in campaigns, skirmish (custom individual battles) or via a network or on the Internet. I can’t commend on how Red Alert 2 fairs on the Internet because I haven’t tried it yet! Trusting Westwood/EA Games it will be on the same vain as Tiberian Sun that was very good – although you normally get you butt kicked by some smart-arsed spotty teenager. The movies are great and play a huge part between campaigns and between some objects within missions. Strategy is better than before. Instead of sending just all your tanks, you need to send an integrated combination of infantry, engineers (mechanised & building mechanics now), tanks, close air support, flipper (dolphin), lassie (dog) and buttercup (cow). You think I jest about Buttercup don’t you? Its true, Tanya rescues a herd of cows from a paddock from the crazed Russians and they declared themselves to be allies!
If you love the Command and Conquer series then Red Alert 2 is the brightest and best of the series!