Kommand & Konquer, Komrade!
So, what's a game designer to do now that the Soviet Union has fallen, Communism has taken a severe beating, and the world is safe for capitalism? Why, let computer players beat up on some Red hynie, of course!
Command & Conquer: Red Alert, the long-awaited sequel to the smash hit, Tiberian Dawn, is finally out for the PC from Westwood Studios and Virgin Interactive. Run off of the same engine as the original and Dune II, Red Alert smacks of all the addictive goodness of Tiberian Dawn but doesn't offer enough significant improvement to be as ground-breaking as the first one was.
With many of the same units as its elder sibling, Red Alert carries the same feeling evoked by its gameplay, but in a different setting with a different plot. Due to dark experiments in time travel carried out in 1946, Adolf Hitler is assassinated before he becomes head of the Nazi party, and thus Germany never rises to power to become the aggressor in World War II. Unfortunately, Westwood Studios never really explains how the aftermath of World War I plays out, but we'll not deal with that for the sake of gaming convenience.
The absence of Germany as a dominant power gives Joseph Stalin a chance to increase the power of the Soviet Empire, and in true Commitern spirit, he decides that the time has come to unite Europe under the Communist banner. With the United States still caught in the throws of the Great Depression, it is up to Great Britain, France, and Germany to stop the big red machine. World War II has come, after all.
The game works great if you don't pay attention to the storyline. Gone are the well-crafted movie sequences of the original, replaced by a war room of guys with really bad European accents. And if it's World War II, what are the battling armies doing with such advanced technologies as mobile construction vehicles, Apache helicopters, Tesla coils, and temporary invulnerability?
Westwood should have taken a hint from Blizzard and included something like the Fog of War in the game, a totally realistic device that improves gameplay considerably. Instead, their answer is something called a gap generator, which amounts to stealth technology when we don't even have that capability now. Add to that time travel, instant teleportation, and even full-health power ups, and you get a game that has more than a few problems with believability. Oh yeah, and what's with these ore harvesters in the middle of World War II?
But enough with the criticism. This is the game you waited for ever since you bought Covert Ops, hoping to feed your C&C addiction, remember? Whatever problems the game may have, they won't stop you from chaining yourself to your computer, refusing to eat, losing sleep, forgetting to study for that final you have to pass unless you want to get kicked out of college, and all that other good stuff. Trust me. With an AI that's slightly better than your average wargame (though still lacking when it comes to concerted arms strategy), a booming soundtrack that can't help but make your ears bleed, and a variety of missions, from rescuing Albert Einstein to razing an entire village, Red Alert is just as itchy as you expected it to be, if not more so. Both sides are extremely fun to play. The Soviets have funny accents, really cool planes to fly around, and some interesting ways to kill infantry, but the Allied side gets Tanya, a hysterical character who just can't be described by mere words alone.
The synopsis? Red Alert is, sad to say, a lackluster second offering when so much more could be done with the Command & Conquer universe, but just see how much damage I do to you if you take it away from me.