Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
With the latest Command & Conquer announced, I thought I'd celebrate by writing a review for when the series was spectacularly successful. The series did this twice: once with Red Alert 2, the other with Generals. And since I've already reviewed Generals, RA2 was the obvious choice.
Now, time to get to it.
Red Alert 2 by the now deceased Westwood Studios (sniff) proved that no matter how popular FPS and RPGs get, RTS will still have it's place in gamers hearts.
The game, set after the original Red Alert, used a modified version of the Tiberian Sun engine, in that it had sharper visuals in exchange for the loss of the deformable terrain. This proved to be a good move as the terrain deforming in Tiberian Sun was a bit of a joke anyway. The story of Red Alert 2 was that after Stalins defeat in the original Red Alert, the US inserted a puppet dictator, Romanov. Romanov hired a psychic assistant called Yuri, who later became the focus for the games expansion pack. Anyway, one day Romanov 'cracks' and invades US soil. Naturally, the US doesn't like this and fight back. This is where you start playing.
The controls are the same as Tiberian Sun, with a few added bonuses. Now, waypoints will be unit specific and you won't have to delete them after they've been used. Patrols can still be made, and these are a lot easier to do. There is a new hot key for waypoints as well. Other than that, it's all mouse work.
The interface has changed though. Now, the build menu is seperated into 4 categories: Buildings, Defences, Infantry and Armour. These are accessed by the tabs above the build menu. The icons are pretty self explanitory. Buildings allows the construction of the core base structures, such as power plants and war factories. Defences allows for the construction of base defences, such as walls and turrets, as well as offensive structures like super weapons. Infantry gives the ability to train infantry and Armour gives tank, aircraft and ship building opportunities.
But building things isn't as much fun as destroying them is. Being a Command & Conquer, your main goal is to conquer your enemy. Fortunately, you are given many tools to do this with. If one method doesn't work, another might. If an enemy has a large amount of air defences, try a naval attack. No unit has the ability to kill everything. If it can, it will be very weak in one area, which you should exploit.
How you exploit it is dependant on who you play as. Each side has it's own set of units now. Although some are shared, like the Engineer and the Hover Transports, there are subtle differences. The Soviets Rhino tank, for example, has more armour than the Allied counterpart, but has less speed. There are units specific to each side, that have no similarities to any unit from the other side, though. These include the Allied Prism Tank and Soviet Tesla Trooper.
In online and skirmish matches, there are more options besides just being Allies or Soviet. By picking a country to play as, you get to effectively boost your arsenal even further. Each country has it's own special unit which can be deployed as soon as you can build it. Well, almost each country. The US don't get a unit, they get the ability to call in paratroops.
But, this is pretty much offline, as the game is probably not very popular online anymore. But, it does come with 2 discs, so LAN games are a possibility.
Before I make my reccomendations, I would like to tell you about the special Collector's Edition. This comes with the game itself, a DVD on the creation of Red Alert 2, a figurine of either the Tesla Trooper or Chrono Legionairre, and a soundtrack of the game on CD. This is not really worth purchasing if you need to hunt it out. If you can find a copy really easily, then get it. If not, then you're not missing out on much.
Although still a good game, Red Alert 2 is getting on in years, and should only be purchased for a cheap thrill. And boy, what a thrill.
This is highly reccommended to C&C fans (who probably own a copy) and for any classic game lovers. Also for RTS people who don't have it already.