Video Game Thoughts: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 was a 2000 real-time strategy game by Westwood Pacific (a division of Westwood Studios) for the PC. My friend had played Red Alert 2 with some of his relatives and told me it was a great game. The only real-time strategy games I had played at that point were from Blizzard Entertainment. I had gotten used to all the conventions they had in their games. It was refreshing to play one from a different company. There was more “newness” to it.

Red Alert 2 took place in an alternate Cold War history. The units and technologies were mostly realistic, but there were some science fiction elements too. The Allies were the most technologically advanced with lasers and time travel. The Soviets were just brute force with the strongest units and some units that could mind control. I found the differences between the two sides to be a lot of fun. I had briefly tried out the first Command & Conquer game, but the two sides were pretty much exactly the same. Once I had played a lot with one side, it was no fun trying the other side. Red Alert 2 was much better with a whole set of unique units per side.

Those things were pretty similar to other real-time strategy games, but what set Red Alert 2 apart from the others were the cutscenes and story. Almost all games have cutscenes, but Red Alert 2 took things a step further by having real actors and sets. It was like watching an actual movie, not computer graphics. The acting would have been just “okay” if it were a Hollywood movie, but for a game it was perfect. These cutscenes were placed throughout the game too. They had one before and after every mission for briefing and debriefing, a few within some missions during major events, and some for the endings to each campaign. I could tell they put a lot of money into the game. It made me want to replay the campaign many times to see these scenes again.

Another thing Red Alert 2 did great was the skirmish mode. Skirmishes are missions that have no story. They are just for fun to play the game. The player can tweak settings before starting to make the game just how they like it. The key thing Westwood did for skirmishes here was having good Computer AI (artificial intelligence) settings. On the lowest setting, the game was a cakewalk. On the highest setting, it was very hard. All other real-time strategy games I played had Computer AI players that were way too good. Skirmish mode never got much play time in those other games, but here in Red Alert 2 I spent hours playing skirmishes.

Yuri’s Revenge expansion

A friend ended up buying the expansion for me for my birthday. This was a welcome surprise. I hadn’t gotten the expansion on my own because I didn’t like the new race they added. Rather than a totally new race, it was just an offshoot Soviet group that focused more on the mind control stuff. I was lucky I got Yuri’s Revenge for free because I found the new campaign missions to be a lot of fun. They were just as good as the base game’s missions. They also had a slew of new live action cutscenes for the new campaigns. They kept up with the production values. In the end though, I only played through these missions twice before getting bored. The story had become pretty convoluted with Allies and Soviets time traveling back and forth to cancel each others actions out. Time travel in stories can only be used sparingly.

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