Of Tiberium And Time Chapter 2: Command and Conquer Red Alert
For chapter 1 discussing Tiberian Dawn, see here.
For chapter 3 discussing Tiberian Sun, see here.
Already in 1996 Westwood Studios launched the next game in the Command and Conquer series: the prequel dubbed Red Alert. Virgin Interactive were still at the publishing reins at the time, though before the next game came out Electronic Arts had acquired the studio and the license. EA released the game as freeware in 2008.
This game was originally intended as a canonical prequel to the Tiberium series. Joe Kucan even appeared in the Soviet storyline as an advisor to Stalin (Eugene Dynarski) and Stalin’s mistress Nadia (Andrea C. Robinson) was a Nod agent. As the Red Alert series took off they ditched the idea of the games being prequels, though within the offices of Westwood they still saw the first game as a prequel while Red Alert 2 started an alternate universe. Electronic Arts consider all three franchises (Red Alert, Tiberium and Generals) to be completely separate and even edited out the cutscenes mentioning Nod when they released The First Decade.
Now while Command & Conquer was already rather silly and camp, Red Alert took its first stumbling steps into Batshit Country. As the series progressed it got ever crazier, while the Tiberium games went for a more serious approach.
Back in 1946 Albert Einstein (John Milford) completes his time machine (the Chronosphere) and with the help of his assistant travels back to 1924 and removes Hitler. This averts World War 2, or rather postpones it as when the 1950s come around the USSR has grown so powerful that Stalin seizes territory from China before invading Eastern Europe with the aim of stretching the great Soviet Union across all of Eurasia. The European countries band together as the Allied Forces with US backup to hopefully stop the Soviet advance and eventually take out Stalin himself. Whichever side you choose determines the course of history!
I’ll admit I didn’t much care for Red Alert when it first launched. I wanted more Tiberium games, and resented that they’d made this one instead, in spite of all the improvements they did with the game. And I also didn’t really like Tanya. I missed the Real Tough Guy, I suppose. Looking back I do see the game in a kinder light, and Tanya as well. A strong, capable female character who could easily take care of herself and kick enough arse to practically complete whole missions alone was a rarity back then, and sadly still is. They didn’t even sexy her up that much, though they kinda made up for that in the sequels.
Once again the game came with a superb sound-track composed by the talented Frank Klepacki, which you can also find on his website like the C&C sound-track. The track used in the intro cinematic (Hell March) is in my opinion one of the best pieces of videogame music ever created. Seriously. Go listen to it. Right now. You should put on that track while reading this. I have decided!
The gameplay worked much the same as the first C&C. You had a construction yard, which built things, harvesters that collected resources (though this time it was harmless gold and crystals rather than the toxic Tiberium), soldiers and vehicles. There were more aircraft in the game this time, and they even added naval units. They also now allowed a single square of room between buildings you put down, but construction, repair and selling still worked the same way, and you still needed to construct a building to access the map, this time called the Radar Dome. Engineers had also been changed. If they were to capture a building it now needed to be severely damaged, otherwise they’d just sabotage it. I seem to recall it took four Engineers to capture a Construction Yard that started out at full health. And then a fifth one to repair it again, because that was a new ability for Engineers now. Even the AI had gotten slight upgrades, with them knowing they could run over light barriers like barbed wire or sandbags if they were heavy enough, though pathfinding was still a little iffy. They even experimented with having indoors missions like what was eventually implemented in Starcraft, but they dropped those for the sequels. And control groups were now given a visible number.
While they were getting some competition at the time in the form of Warcraft 2 and Total Annihilation, Westwood still walked their own path and created yet again two notably diverse sides that required different play-styles to compensate for the weaknesses each side possessed.
This time it was the Soviets that had the big guns. Even their smallest tank had twice the firepower of the largest Allied tank, and they could build the feared Mammoth tanks. In airpower they were completely dominant as well, with an assortment of attack craft to constantly harass Allied forces. Their naval power was not as great though, with them only being able to build submarines that could only attack other ships, though they were invisible if they weren’t attacking. Even their defensive buildings were beefier, with Tesla Coils and SAM sites denying anything from ground or air. Great power at a great cost, so reliance on a steady income was much more important. As their super weapons they had the Iron Curtain which would render all friendly units and buildings invincible for a short time, and the nuclear missile silos.
The Allied Forces had naval superiority with their Cruisers, Gunboats and Destroyers, but lagged behind in everything else. They relied on cheap units with superior mobility and more specialised roles. Their low-level defences were better than the Soviets though, with both Pill Boxes to ward off infantry and Turrets to stop vehicles. They could also construct cheap AA guns to thwart Soviet air power, and at higher levels they simply constructed cloaking fields to hide their entire bases, almost a way of getting around the whole problem of the fog of war not closing back in after enemies leave the area. They also employed spies that could enter enemy buildings to gather intelligence and provide you with an edge, but Soviet Attack Dogs could sniff them out. Their superweapons were Einstein’s Chronosphere which could use Chrono-shifting to teleport units around the map, and a GPS satellite that would reveal the entire map and provide free radar.
As in the first game, both campaigns featured videos with real actors that only referred to you as Commander in-between missions (not in-between every mission this time, but often enough) and little CGI videos to introduce you to the mission you were entering. The videos were better tailored to their respective missions this time, which was definitely a nice touch.
On the Soviet side you mainly dealt with Stalin himself, his mistress Nadia and his General Gradenko (Alan Terry). The commander of the Red Army, Marshall Georgi Kukov (Craig Cavanah), also showed up occasionally. They helped guide you in your conquest of Europe until you finally capture London and break the Allies. You celebrate with Stalin and Nadia, and he insinuates that you have become too powerful and need to be dealt with, but it turns out Nadia has poisoned him, and she proclaims the the USSR are now under control of the Brotherhood of Nod, and you are supposed to be its puppet ruler, but Kane executes her without warning and instead tells you that you are much more important than what she said.
If you choose to side with the Allies, you are immediately introduced to your Commander-In-Chief, the German Grand Marshal Günther von Esling (Arthur Roberts), his second-in-command, the Greek General Nikos Stavros (Barry Kramer) and finally Tanya Adams (Tanya Brassie) of the USA, who says she’s just a civilian volunteer. I still find it rather amusing that a German is commander-in-chief. Your first mission is to rescue Albert Einstein himself, and with him on your side you slowly beat back the Soviets until you break their stronghold. Stalin survives just barely, but is buried alive by Stavros. Westwood have said this is the ending that leads to Tiberian Dawn, while Red Alert 2 is an alternate universe created by more time-travel shenanigans, but it could just as well be interpreted that the Allied ending leads directly to Red Alert 2.
The game actually received a port to Playstation in 1997, though I can’t say I ever tried it, nor felt tempted to. RTS is just not a genre that works well on consoles, but I think the title actually sold decently. You can find it on PSN right now if you’re interested.
There were also two expansion packs for this game: Counterstrike and The Aftermath, which were compiled into one pack called Retaliation for the Playstation. I was dirt poor at the time, so I couldn’t justify spending money on the expansions, but from what I saw of them they looked cool enough.
I can’t really say much about the multi-player, because I didn’t really play much of that before Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2, and even then it was very little as I’m mainly a single-player person. From what I’ve heard it had pretty remarkable multi-player for the time, but I never heard of it reaching the same popularity as the sequels would.
And that concludes our look at Command and Conquer Red Alert. Next chapter will be about part 2 of the Tiberium series: Tiberian Sun. Until next time, remember: In Nod We Trust. Join The Brotherhood.
For chapter 1 discussing Tiberian Dawn, see here.
For chapter 3 discussing Tiberian Sun, see here.
Posted on August 6, 2012, in Games, Retrospective and tagged Chapter 2, Command & Conquer, EA, Of Tiberium And Time, PC, Playstation, Red Alert, RTS, serial, videogames, Virgin Interactive, Westwood Studios. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.