Game Review - by James Allen
Ah, Command and Conquer: a bastion of the real time strategy et. I think we can honestly say that the Command and Conquer line changed games forever. So, what could be better than a new sequel to a classic: Red Alert 2. We still have the Allies fighting the Soviets, but this time it's personal: an invasion on the United States of America. Continuing the proud tradition of resource gathering and management, unit and building construction, and blowing stuff up, Red Alert 2 hopes to add another notch in the belt of real time strategy gaming. Are there enough improvements over its predecessor, or will Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 sink like a sunken submarine?
Just like the original Red Alert (you'll be hearing that a lot), Red Alert 2 features a single player storyline from both the Allied and Soviet point of view, and the infamous skirmish and multiplayer modes. As stated earlier, the Soviets have invaded the US, so we get to do battle around such vistas as the Statue of Liberty and Washington, D.C. The game options are all familiar by this point: you can play the AI in skirmish games, or over the Internet against "real" opponents. Most of the innovations (most=all) in Red Alert 2 concern the new units and structures in the game. Let's take a look!
The basic unit of the Allied Forces is the GI, a grunt who can deploy a heavy machine gun with the click of a mouse. The rocketeers (who float above the battlefield) and the chrono legionnaires (who can travel across the map instantly) are new units, and provide more options in your strategy making. One of the cool units included in the game is the IFV (infantry fighting vehicle), which changes attributes according to which unit is placed in control. The Mirage tank turns into a tree, and there are more naval units this time around, such as the aircraft carrier and dolphin. The chrono miner travels instantly back to base once it is full of precious ore. The Soviets have tesla troopers (you know you like the tesla coil), flak trooper, and Yuri, who can mind control opposing units to turn on their own. The terror drones dismantle enemy vehicles from the inside, and the war miner is equipped with a gun turret. In multiplayer games, which country you align with determines your special unit: the American paratroopers, French grand cannon, German tank destroyer, British sniper, Korean black eagle, Russian tesla tank, Cuban terrorist, Libyan demolition truck, and Iraqi desolator are specialized units available only to their respective countries. To create these wonderful units, you (of course) need the appropriate structures.
Again, like in the original Red Alert, the technology tree ("tech tree" if you want to be "cool") is firmly in place. Most of the structures present in the first game are here again, with some new additions and renamed places. The Allies have their own tesla coil now, called the prism tower. Allies can also control the weather and fly Harrier jets from the airforce command building. One important difference is that the Soviets are the only side capable of nuclear weaponry, which drastically changes the scope of the game. It seems that the Allied units and structures are geared towards strategy (like sneaking into battle and such), and the Soviets are armed to the teeth and favor assault by force. Still, while the innovations to the units are fun and interesting, and they do add a change in strategic approach, the same classic formula shines through.
The sound is good in Red Alert 2, and everything we have come to expect is present in the game. The individual units have several unique salutations. Explosions and gunfights ring around the levels, and the sound bytes of each side are included as well. Really, everything is so well done with the sound, continuing the tradition of (you guessed it) the original Red Alert, that not much more needs to be said, so I won't.
The gameplay in Red Alert 2 consists of the four Cs: Collecting resources, Constructing buildings, Creating units, and kicking the Crap out of the opposition. Directly derived from Red Alert Classic Edition, the formula seems way too similar and repeated here. Build a power plant, ore refinery, barracks, war factory, some tesla coils, and other peripherals, and have at it. I will grant that the AI is (still) pretty strong in Red Alert 2, and comes across as quite a challenge. The gameplay in the single player missions are much more varied in structure (like invading bases), but they still degenerate into the same formula. Sure, it's great and fun and all that, but it's been done so many times before, the same exact gameplay becomes quite stale after a while. Whereas Red Alert 1 was a groundbreaking game, Red Alert 2 just treads the same ground with some small novel changes.
All right, this is the area that I was expecting the most changes from Red Alert Uno. However, it's very, very similar. Very. Sure, the graphics look all right, but there's not the smoothness I expected, rather the pixilated glory found in Red Alert 1. All of the units and buildings appear nice, but the ground textures (especially in skirmish mode) look too washed out and bland to be striking at all. You might be able to tell the difference in the graphics from version to version, but it might be tough. I was expecting much, much more in this area than what was delivered.
Make no mistake about it: Red Alert 2 is a fantastic real time strategy game. But, with a few unit and structure changes, Red Alert 2 is honestly too similar to the original Red Alert. Some might say it "continues the tradition," but I say it is "too damn identical." If you never played the original installment, then by all means, go out and get Red Alert 2. Still, some people (including myself) might be disappointed at the striking similarities and few improvements contained in the game, even given that it is a sequel. Somehow, I was expecting more variations. Red Alert 2 is more of an expansion pack to Red Alert 1, since its gameplay elements are so strikingly similar.