I bloody love this game… I really do and I love most things Command & Conquer, sure there are ups and downs. Even my beloved Resident Evil has a few ups and downs but during the glorious Westwood years, Red Alert 2 was the arguably the best in the series. I even played it so much I occasionally broke into the top 100 rankings for online matched play. I was a bit of a spod you see. Though, if I am honest most of this was luck of who I played as when I played the truly skilled player it was like they were playing chess and I was sticking marbles up my bum. I did have my fun and gitted gud but you probably don’t ever want to play with my marble collection…
Red Alert 2 is a base building Real Time Strategy. You start a game, gather resources, build a base, and build an army with the intent of smooshing your enemy with your superior tactical ability (spamming hardest tank). You build Ore Trucks to gather resources, and you manage your income through defensive or offensive base building. Adding to this dynamic is the introduction of 3rd party civilian buildings. These all vary in usefulness, as one is a repair yard that is 100% useless, one is an airport (gives you paratroopers) and the other is the more useful Oil Refinery which gives you access to another source of income. These buildings can form small (or large) secondary bases as you are able to build off them to form staging posts to further aid your war effort. They can also be crucial in Multiplayer as any slight advantage you get will punish the perfectly balanced maps.
None of these civilian buildings are a win button in PVE play, and merely act as a helpful boost to keep you churning out units.
Apparently set in 1972, the general gist of the story is that after a long period of peace between the East and the West, the Soviets in an unprovoked move, decide to declare war on the Americans. As Soviets the campaign sees you swinging your massive Soviet Dong obliterating the the Pentagon, further dick swinging occurs and sees you build a Psychic Beacon at the World Trade Centre, as well as pissing all over the Pearl Harbour Monument. Suffice to say the Allies, and in particular the USA are having a bad time. And the Soviets revel in the aforementioned dick swinging.
In a completely predictable twist it turns out the patsy the US had placed in charge (Aleksander Romanov) is being mind controlled by Yuri. He is like Cher in that he doesn’t have a surname.
Added on top of this is a focus on other factions within the alliance. The Allies are no longer just the USA, now you have the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Korea. Each country has a specialist unit only they possess and these slight differences will make a difference to online and Skirmish play. The Soviets, get Russia, Libya, Iraq, and Cuba. So again, they are obviously the baddies in this game if the story hadn’t given it away.
Through the campaign you’ll visit each country and come up against their weapon, while discovering the Libyan Demolition Truck is a joy to behold.
All of this culminates in what can only be described as wacky technology. The Allies get Sonar Dolphins, these are dolphins with sonar guns strapped to their heads. Soviets get giant mechanical Squids, ally specific units. And the super weapons! Oh god I love the superweapons in Red Alert 2!!! You still get the Chronosphere (as Allies) and the Iron Curtain (as Soviets) these teleport troops and make units invulnerable respectively. But now…Now you get a god damn weather controller that unleashes an epic electrical storm that will destroy most of your opponents base. The Soviets “only” get a nuke. It is a nuke, and therefor super powerful, but the Allies win this one with the brassballs of controlling the weather!!!
Introduced in Tiberium Sun, Red Alert 2 runs with the more cinematic mission structure. Objectives are introduced to you on the fly through cutscenes that appear in the User Interface. Like Tiberium Sun this allows for a little more immersion and allows the story to develop a little more organically. It means the end of mission briefings are a little more concise, and in hindsight comparing it to Red Alert and Command & Conquer these cutscenes now feels significantly less like an information dump at the end of the mission due to shorter cutscenes.
Also building on Tiberium Sun is the expanded build queue. It was a much needed introduction in TS, but you were limited to 5 in a queue. In Red Alert 2 you can build a whopping 30. It means you can micro-manage if you want, but you can set your War Factory to build 30 Apocalypse Tanks (not advisable in online play). There is some further nuance to the build queue as you are able to set it to build say 5 Apocalypse tanks, 3 V3 Rockets, a Harvester, 10 more Apocalypse Tanks and a Kirov Airship. Allowing this mix and match allows for planning ahead and you can focus a little more on what is happening on screen.
One change that I am not convinced about is that tanks are promoted and do achieve god-tier level. Imagine an Apocalypse Tank that is effectively firing 2 mini nuclear warheads, Prism Tanks can level a Construction Yard and 4 buildings around it in 2 zaps, and regular conscripts seems to gain a freaking minigun. Topping all of this off is they start to gain health regeneration. If you get one unit levelled up early you can effectively become invincible if they get enough support. These are win buttons, but the balance is surprisingly fair. As they are still killable. meaning it adds a new dimension to prioritising your targets as a regular Apocalypse Tank is *NOT* as dangerous as a top-tier regular tank. And dear god kill that top-tier Kirov before it even looks at your base!!!
Red Alert 2 is probably the hardest of the first four proper games, the enemy AI will adapt to your forces on the fly. If you don’t build air defence they’ll attack through air. They’ll stop your sea expansionism if you need to cross bodies of water, and they’ll target key buildings such as Nuclear Silos. There does seem to be a lack of the solo/limited resource missions seen in previous games, instead now you tend to get a mission with Tanya where if she dies it is gameover, but she has support and you build up your base as normal.
On the whole with the civilian buildings, the speed ore regenerates you are never broke. You can always eek something out to make a next attack. But failure at these points will turn a 30 minute mission into a 4 hour slog.
One limited resource mission I did stuff up on was a mission where you need to mind control the President of the United States. You have 2 Yuri Clones and a little bit of money. I stuffed up early, but rather than restart I sat at the back bringing in Paratroopers from the airport I decided was crucial to capture to the point where I had 200ish GIs to getting themselves mullered by the special Navy Seals that are like rapid fire Tanyas that would clear 20 troops in seconds. In hindsight this was perfect Soviet strategy as I eventually got the President by clogging their rivers with my dead.
Other modes such as the Skirmish mode have been expanded upon, you can now play against up to 7 other players in large battles with choice of factions as well as allowing you to tailor what difficulty the enemy is. Setting 7 enemies to “Brutal” will lead to 7 Nuclear Bombs landing in your backyard before you have managed to build a Battle Lab.
I won’t go into too much detail, but each faction has their own unique unit.
- Great Britain get a Sniper. He is shit.
- The USA get “Airborne”, they are paratroopers with a different name.
- France gets an awesome defensive structure called the Grand Cannon. It is Imperial Dick Waving at it’s finest, but a little overpriced to make useful.
- Korea (Republic of?) get an awesome fighter jet called the Black Eagle. It is wicked cool.
- Russia get the Tesla Tank. It’s mobile Tesla so therefore cool. It’s pretty useless
- Cuba get a “terrorist” which is a suicide bomber. Sending wave after wave of suicide vests isn’t a cost effective way of doing things. Funny though.
- Libya get the Demolition Truck. This is a better version of the terrorist as it is a slightly armoured truck with a larger blast.
- Iraq gets the Desolator. These are cool as balls dudes with a radiation gun. They have a secondary attack where they irratiate the ground and kill things with area effect evilness. I love them.
The best thing about these unique units, is like the civilian buildings, are not overpowered. They give you a slight variation and ability to do a specific tactic. You will still top tech spam your opponent but these unique units will give you a little variation for prodding, probing and harassing. It gives reasons to experiment and good online players will do interesting things. Or if doing things properly focus on low level units you can churn out quickly for a rush.
Red Alert 2 got a proper add-on, which rather than a series of daft missions like in Red Alert’s Counterstrike and Aftermath as here you get a continuation of the story following the Allied storyline. Yuri thought to be defeated comes back with a vengeance forming his own army and acting as the 3rd playable faction. This splits some of the Soviet tech off as they lose Yuri’s Psychic abilities but you gain some replacements. These missions involve more time travel, and has you being transported back to the initial Soviet invasion at the start of the main game Red Alert 2 introduction in an attempt to re-win the war. Or going back to pre-historic times as Soviets because you are terrible at life and screw things up.
These missions are fun, and well worth a bash to continue the already pants on head stupidity of the Red Alert 2 storyline. My preference is to still play as Allies or Soviets, as the Yuri stuff while pants-on-head-crazy is a little lacking. If you can play Yuri in Skirmish to have a look.
I think you can tell I like Red Alert 2. The technology tree is fantastical, the story is the right side of utterly ridiculous, and despite EA being the biggest fucking tools on the planet the fan community have kept the game running. There are a few bugs, because while the bastards at EA will sell you the game they have not patched it for you.
Thankfully, the Red Alert 2 community have stepped in and fixed all this for you. They have patches to play online, and patches to get the game to actually work. Be warned that playing online is possible through these patches but you will be playing BrianMilfHunter69 who hasn’t left his house in 19 years and is somewhat gudder than you.
The video here is great and what got my game working, and other patches can be found at CNCNET.org. Buy Red Alert 2 and Yuri’s Revenge for cheap off of EA, then download the fan fixes. Fuck EA the bastards.
Pros: daft technology, balanced game play, replayable. HELL MARCH 2
Cons: EA Don’t support a game they sell
Back in the Day:
PC Gamer US named Red Alert 2 the best Strategy game of 2000, it would go on to score high 80s reviews.