Of Tiberium And Time Chapter 4: Command and Conquer Red Alert 2
For chapter 3 discussing Tiberian Sun, see here.
For chapter 5 discussing Generals, see here.
A mere year and a couple of months (October 2000) after Tiberian Sun hit the shelves Westwood Studios followed up by releasing C&C: Red Alert 2 to the masses. Electronic Arts were still thankfully doing a largely hands-off approach to Westwood, and the game was a massive hit. The inevitable expansion pack, Yuri’s Revenge, was definitely the most popular of those for any game in the series, so much so that even I played both it and the multi-player for it.
Red Alert 2 is based on an alternative version of what happens after the Allies win in Red Alert and basically starts its own continuity at this point. None of the actors from the first game return, and even Tanya (though considering she hasn’t aged, and now has joined the army you could argue it’s a different Tanya) and Einstein, the only recurring characters, have new actors: Kari Wuhrer and Larry Gelman respectively. The game opens with an amazing intro that I highly suggest you go take a look at.
As I mentioned in chapter 2 the first Red Alert took some steps towards this place, but Red Alert 2 has its feet firmly planted in Batshit Country. Not only is there more time-shifting stuff, there’s also mind control, zeppelin bombers, turning the Eiffel Tower into a giant Tesla Coil, attack dolphins and squids, and the Soviets doing a full-scale invasion of the US before being invaded themselves by Korea. It is utterly ludicrous, and the game embraces its insanity whole-heartedly. As you see in the intro, and the intros for the other games as well, it says Westwood “Proudly Presents”, and I feel they have good reason to be proud.
The set-up is that the Soviets were beaten and humiliated after the last game, and a puppet Premier named Alexander Romanov (Nicholas Worth) was installed by the Allies after Stalin’s death. The game takes place about 20 years after the previous one, though the exact year is never stated. As we see in the intro: The puppet cuts his strings and Soviet forces invade the US. Romanov’s new advisor Yuri (Udo Kier) helps him stop the US missile retaliation via his psychic powers. The American president Michael Dugan (Ray Wise) is forced to fight off the invasion the old-fashioned way.
If you choose to side with the Allies, you will be introduced to your liaison Lieutenant Eva (Athena Massey, and I see what you did there) who says you’re the only Commander left alive. You get to meet the president and General Carville (Barry Corbin) who sends you and Tanya on a mission to liberate New York. After you complete that and take back the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, you return to find both the president and the general under Soviet mind-control. You free them, flee to Canada and set up your base there as you call out to Europe for help and plan to launch an amphibious assault across Lake Michigan to take Chicago. And that’s merely the first few missions.
If you join the Soviets you are introduced to your liaison Lieutenant Zofia (Aleksandra Kaniak). Like Eva she serves as the in-game announcer. She patches you through to Romanov and Yuri who greet you as Comrade General and you are tasked to invade Washington DC and level the Pentagon. Seems like a tall order for the first mission, but it goes quite smoothly. Then you sink the fleet down in Florida (with the ‘help’ of General Vladimir (Adam Gregor)) before invading New York City and setting up a mind-control device to take over everyone in it. You quickly see how Yuri is manipulating Romanov, but the Koreans invade the Soviet Union and you have to beat them back. Then you lead a strike force to take Paris, by turning the Eiffel Tower into a giant Tesla Coil, to discourage European involvement. Afterwards you’re sent to destroy the Allied fleet at Pearl Harbor. Yes, really.
For this game they did a pretty big re-design of the interface. It is still basically the same set-up, enough that it looks familiar. Before I go deeper into it, let me just demonstrate it with a screen-shot I did. (Not sure when they added to ability to take those, but I appreciate it.)
The first thing of note is the command bar at the bottom. There you can click to select group 1 and 2, to select all units on screen, to deploy units, to set units to guard and enter waypoint mode. Not quite sure why it was added or why they chose those commands specifically, but either way I must confess I’ve never actually used it as I find the keyboard commands much handier.
On the right-hand menu we have the credit counter at the top. They did away with the need for silos in this game so money can potentially go up infinitely (or as far as the counter can count). Below are the buttons for mission summary (on the left) and options menu (on the right). Then you have the minimap and the repair and sell buttons before you run into the construction tabs. Construction has now been split into four tabs: Base structures, defencive structures, infantry and vehicles (land, air and sea). Apart from a more orderly aesthetic, the major new thing here is that you can construct base and defencive structures simultaneously.
The way the battlefield worked has once again been tweaked a bit. They didn’t go as crazy with the terrain as in Tiberian Sun, but it still plays a role, giving the advantage to units up high. Projectiles could still get caught on terrain, and tank shells are also now treated as proper projectiles, meaning a fast vehicle can dodge them, which I believe is a first for the series. Bridges can still get blown up so Engineers will have to fix them. Veterancy works a little better now, I’d say, with progression being easier to follow. You might get tired of hearing the “Unit promoted” announcement though. And certain units now count as invisible to radar, meaning you won’t ever see them on the minimap, which means you have to be extra alert. The game feels a lot quicker as well, though it’s still not at Generals‘s level.
The major new addition was tech buildings, which were an expansion upon the occasional civilian structure you could capture in Tiberian Sun. There were the Oil Derricks that gave you income, the Hospitals that could heal infantry (and gave all infantry regeneration in Yuri’s Revenge), the Airport which gave you the paradrop ability, and the Tech Outpost which could repair vehicles, had a turret for both air and ground defence and allowed for building placement around it to live up to its name. Additionally they added Machine Shops in Yuri’s Revenge to give all vehicles regeneration.
The different sides have been further diversified with no buildings looking the same on each side, even when they serve the same function. And there are only a handful of units that look identical this time: the Engineer, Attack Dog, MCV and Amphibious Transport (hovercraft).
The Allies have the disadvantage in the early game. Their basic vehicles don’t really match up to the Soviet ones, and though they get access to Harrier jets and Rocketeers early on, the Soviets have cheap and effective anti-air. The Allied GI also costs more than the Soviet Conscript, but their ability to entrench rapidly does make up for that. Entrenched GIs are more durable and use a bigger gun. The IFV is a curious vehicle though. Faster than sin and armoured with cardboard; this little vehicle is mainly anti-air, until you put people into it. Each IFV can carry one infantry unit, and its function differs depending on what unit it is. They’re still very weak though, so unless you’re using them against infantry it might be best to leave them in their anti-air state, or simply use them as repair vehicles, until you get access to more advanced infantry. In certain scenarios they can also make decent transports.
Later in the game things get more interesting though. Like in the first Red Alert the Allies are still superior at sea, though the Soviets definitely have a lot more versatility now. That both sides have their own attack sea-creature I find a little amusing. The Soviets do get the heaviest units with the Apocalypse Tank and the Kirov Airship dirigible. However the Allies get access to advanced infantry like the Spy and Chrono Legionnaire, and advanced vehicles like the Mirage Tank and Prism Tank. Used correctly these units can easily turn the tide of battle.
I still remember one multi-player battle where I snuck a Spy into an enemy War Factory, and then started constructing Prism Tanks with +1 to Veterancy. They shredded everything my opponent had in about a minute or two. All he had left were a couple of Kirovs he had just made, as the Prism Tanks have no anti-air capability.
Even the Harvesters are no longer the same, with the Allies getting the Chrono Miner which instantly teleports back to the Refinery when full, and the Soviets have the War Miner which has a big machine-gun on top to fend off infantry and light vehicles.
The defencive structures are now far more equivalent than they have been previously, and yet they still function in slightly different ways. The Allies have been working on a machine to control the weather in addition to their chrono-shifting. The Soviets don’t really have any new superweapons, but they have developed Nuclear Reactors and Cloning Vats to boost their power output and numbers in record time.
I will give another shoutout to Frank Klepacki who yet again composed the musical score and even did a second version of the famous Hell March track from the first Red Alert.
The mission structure has now become entirely linear. We get to see images of the map, but you no longer get to select the area you go into or do any bonus missions. Crates are back with a vengeance, incorporating many more types like speed, armour and firepower boosts. The AI hasn’t changed much from Tiberian Sun, though it feels like pathfinding is a little better in this game.
I don’t usually say much about the expansions because I rarely play them. I have played a bit of Yuri’s Revenge though. It’s an interesting one. Following up on the Allied ending: Yuri comes back with his own faction and aims to take over the world with his psychic machines. Not exactly grade-A material, but introducing a third playable faction was interesting, even though there wasn’t that much to it. I mostly remember playing it with friends on LANs though.
In multi-player you not only selected side, but also nation. Each nation had its own special unit, some of which were arguably more useful than others. Battles were usually both crazy and fun. It’s been too long since I played to comment on balance issues, though I do remember I preferred Allies and Germany. I do wonder if anyone still plays the multi for it.
As with Tiberian Sun, I will have to say the game holds up remarkably well. I had a blast going back to it, though there are certain issues with playing it these days, even with the updates The First Decade brought with it. I had one crash which I think was related to another program running in the background. Thankfully the game now autosaves at the start of each mission.
So join me next time as we take a look at the third franchise of the Command & Conquer series: Generals.
For chapter 3 discussing Tiberian Sun, see here.
For chapter 5 discussing Generals, see here.
Posted on August 20, 2012, in Games, Retrospective and tagged analysis, Chapter 4, Command & Conquer, EA, Of Tiberium And Time, PC, RTS, serial, videogames, Westwood Studios. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.