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Picture yourself sitting peacefully in the comfort of your living room watching your favorite television program, when suddenly a newscast flashes on the screen declaring that invading Soviet armed forces have destroyed the Statue of Liberty and their next target is Washington, D.C. and the Pentagon. Such a dreaded scenario plays out in Command & Conquer Red Alert 2, the long overdue sequel to the RTS game that helped put real-time strategy on the map. If benchmarks are any indication, the original C&C Red Alert is still very much the standard against which many RTS games are measured. More often than not, recent RTS games have largely failed in their attempts at trying to improve upon that benchmark by introducing 3D accelerated graphics, eliminating all forms of base construction, or blending the RTS format with other types of games. In consideration of those failures, Westwood Studios was faced with the dilemma of either taking an innovative or conservative approach with Red Alert 2. In this case, they chose to take the conservative approach by creating a sequel that doesnt push the genre forward by any means, but nevertheless offers loads of fun in the classical RTS formula.
Sticking to the tried and true method of delivery, Red Alert 2 is a sequel that plays identically in almost every respect to its parent. This can be seen as either good or bad, depending on your expectations. Red Alert 2 has an entertaining and refreshing story, putting the Americans in a defensive position as the Soviets attempt conquering the North American continent. Missions are played from either the Allied or the Soviet side. Though the story is lacking in depth, it provides plenty of professionally produced cut scenes to keep it interesting. In addition to the cut scenes between each mission, the game is interrupted at various triggered points to display a newscast in the mini-map portion of the screen. Often the newscasts will inject new mission objectives or alter the overall goals of the mission, creating a less predictable playing experience. Taken as a whole, however, no predication is necessary to know that the best way to defeat your enemies is still by using the good old-fashioned tank rush. Without getting overly technical, its quite difficult to discern the game play mechanics of Red Alert 2 from that of the original.
At the heart of Red Alert 2 is the strategy of building a fortified base and managing it in a way that makes it impenetrable to the enemy while allowing a steady production of enough forces to take out enemy strongholds. One annoying thing about base construction is that its often difficult to find a place to plant a building because it has to be on a perfectly flat piece of ground with no trees or shrubbery in the way - not even a small rock. Also bothersome is the age-old black shroud that covers the map and must be cleared away. Bases are also held to the pointless rule that structures can only be built close to other structures. Resource gathering consists of sending out mining vehicles to suck up the various patches of yellow ore that grows out of the ground, just as it did in Red Alert. There is a twist to it this time though. The mining vehicles have thankfully been given better armor and the Soviet mining vehicle has a gun turret to discourage pesky infantry and light vehicles, while the Allied miner can chrono-shift from the ore patch directly to home base. With these minute yet effective improvements to resource gathering, a lot less micro managing is needed by the miners which means youll have more time to concentrate on important tasks. While most missions in the game involve building an overwhelming force to win through a war of attrition, there are a few diversions involving a select handful of specialized troops. Red Alert veterans will be pleased to see the inclusion of the unstoppable Tanya on the Allied side. But this time the Soviets have their own covert operative named Crazy Ivan, who is capable of destroying an entire enemy base single handedly. Additionally, specialized units can swim, and in at least one particular Allied mission youre given control of a Navy Seal team.