Command & Conquer: Red Alert
DOS - 1996
Description of Command & Conquer: Red Alert
The Background Story
Unless you're relatively new to the PC gaming world, you will have heard of Command & Conquer from Westwood Studios. This truly marvelous game introduced us to fighting strategic battles with many varied troops and vehicles all in real-time. No more weakling 'take-your-turn' rubbish. No hit-points and moves-per-square nonsense. This is real-time, you have to think fast, build your defenses, form your assault parties, and you better do it quick because the enemy could be coming for you any second...
To top the brilliant gameplay, C&C also had a terrific storyline, set in the future, depicting a battle of two strong factions (through the use of good quality FMV), one fighting for world domination, the other determined to stop them. What made it all even more fun, is you have a choice to play the good guys or the bad guys, with each path offering different and reasonably varied missions.
And finally, launching the game into what can only be deemed 'classic beyond debate', it came equipped with a multiplayer option that has had players fighting for supremacy over modems, networks, and even the Internet (although the game's design doesn't cope too well with slow transfers and lost packets). As with the 3D Action genre, multiplayer really did bring C&C into a class of its own.
So there you have it, a stunning computer game all round. How in the world could anyone hope to equal, let alone better it?
Considering the amount of time that the original has been released, you would have expected a whole range of copycat titles on the market, of varying quality. But no, C&C hasn't a huge amount of challenge from other real-time strategies.Blizzard Entertainment released a debatably better game, Warcraft 2, although I prefer to choose equally entertaining and different in its qualities and shortfalls as a more sophisticated comparison. Many of the Internet community will, however, probably say War2 is better due to its undeniably better system of working in multiplay over the Net - as a single player, though, it's certainly not as interesting or compelling.
The Bitmap Brothers also released a game recently that could be up amongst the top ranks, Z, but this has been considered more an arcadey title than a die-hard strategist's. And finally, Westwood's own game, released prior to C&C, Dune 2 which used a very similar interface, but didn't support multiplay, or have anywhere near as many units and weapons.
Now Westwood themselves release what is, in fact, a 'prequel' to C&C, as the story is set some time in the past, before the organizations of GDI and NOD have come into existence, during the very shameful era of the Second World War. A Russian scientist has managed to invent himself a time machine, which he is using to travel into the past and 'erase' the most prominent figures that wrecked Russia's chance of winning the war. The introduction depicts him travelling into the past and killing a young Hitler (hurrah!).
The Game - A Description
For those who have already played C&C (or any real-time strategy), you may wish to skip this section.
Red Alert, as with the original, puts you in the role of a battle commander; this honor requires you to take control of everything that's happening in the field. This includes building your base, setting up defenses, scouting the area, mounting assaults on the enemy and harvesting the local resources to keep the money flowing in for more expanding. How is this achieved?
Each mission will begin with an FMV clip to set up the story. It will usually end with the characters looking at you and saying something intimidating like, "it's all up to you now, commander!" If you decide to play the bad guys (Soviets), you'll also regularly get death threats like, "fail me and die". But bad guys will often be gits like that.
Most missions usually follow similar objectives, although there is more variation in this than there was in the original. You will nearly always have to set up a base first, and then destroy all enemy activity. Your first vehicle will be an MCV (Mobile Construction Vehicle). You can move this around until you find a nice, safe place to deploy it (best away from coasts and enemy bases, and in an open area to allow for more buildings to be built close). Once deployed, it cannot be moved again, but turns into a Construction Yard, which allows you to build more structures. Not all will be available to you at first, for example, you will need a Barracks and Radar Dome before you can build a Tech Center. Each of these buildings has a specific task, which are listed in the documentation, but more fun can be had from finding out in practice.
The interface is smooth and easy. It's mostly controlled with the mouse, but there are a few keystrokes which speed up some processes, and issue commands to troops and units. When you first start a mission, you will usually only be able to see in parts where you have units, the rest of the map will be completely black - this is known as shroud, and will only be uncovered when you send things out to explore.
So there you have it, a simple game to play, but as with all the best, a difficult game to master.
Is it just C&C again?
Sequels, I find, come in three formats. First, an entirely different type of game to the first, can be better or worse; two, practically the same game, bar a few additions, extra levels or certain improvements (ie. should have been an add-on pack), as done with Doom to Doom 2 ; and finally, the same type or genre of game, but with enough enhancements, differences and new story, to let it link with the original, but be a game that holds together by itself. And yes, Red Alert is most similar to the latter.
This basically means that RA has enough differences in its features to make it a game worth buying by those who own the original, and at the same time improves upon it to the extent that those who don't own C&C should likely purchase this instead.
Let's get one thing clear: as with the original, this game is great. It not only completely satisfies the wants of any eager strategy player, it also covers those who like more action in their games, and then appeals to practically everyone in between. If you don't have Command & Conquer, buy this immediately (and then go pick up C&C cheaply, if you can).
The first most noticeable new feature in Red Alert will be the super, clean and crisp SVGA graphics. Many who played Warcraft 2 found it hard to return to the blocky, ugly graphics in C&C, and nowadays, all games are released with an SVGA option. Unfortunately, Westwood chose to 'cop out' on the SVGA in terms of drawing new graphics for this specific mode. Instead, the same sprites are used as in the VGA version, and the extra pixels on screen are used to give the player a larger viewing area. This serves as an advantage, sure, but now you have to get used to very weedy and small looking infantry and vehicles. Also, because so much will no doubt be happening on screen, things really start to slow down twenty minutes into both single and multiplayer games - and this was on a P133!
Some enhancements have been made to the interface, also. One of the most annoying things about C&C; was having to manually load 5 troops into the APS and Choppers. This detail has been rectified for loading of all vehicles now. Also, the unit AI seems to have been improved - you give them an order to go somewhere, and they make it... eventually. Yes, you'll still order them to the other side of the bridge, and they'll walk all the way around the perimeter of the coast until they find the bridge is there for a reason. Unfortunately, Ore Trucks (harvesters) are still pretty stupid, and are happy to ride right into heavy enemy territory to gather ore that's actually right under their nose, a few pixels from the Refinery.
On the plus side, there's many more extras to take note of. Engineers now have three purposes - first, they can be sent to one of your own buildings to instantly restore it to full strength, or they can be sent to an enemy building to instantly cause heavy damage. Finally, the one we're all used to, they can overtake a building, but only when it's 'in the red'. Also, number assigned teams are now displayed on screen, and you can add units to a team by holding down shift and selecting who you want. The missions are also more varied, and often contain multiple tasks, for example, level 3 of the Allies required you get a spy into the Soviet War Factory. Once in, a truck parked outside zooms off (presumably with the spy at the helm) and you have to clear its path to an enemy base, where a hostage is being held. Once they're rescued, you have to set up base with the reinforcements sent, and destroy the enemy base.
There's a new command too! We already know about 'G' for guard, and 'S' for stop, but you can now order troops to stay in formation 'F'; this is useful for when you want the faster moving vehicles to stay back with the convoy, so they don't end up attacking before anything else arrives. Unfortunately, my experience with this formation command hasn't been impressive. When units confront rocks or other obstacles, the leaders forget they were meant to stay back, and go zooming off, forgetting how vulnerable they've left their chums.
And last, but far from least, you can now fight by sea! One of War2's leading attributes was the ability to use naval vessels as well as air and ground. RA counters with a wide range of sea units for both sides to cause their own healthy dose of destruction! Many C&C veterans will know how, unlike War2, the two sides of GDI and NOD were vastly different, each requiring radically different tactics to win a game. Westwood have been racking their brains again to create two new sets of teams, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, attempting to balance the two out so that neither is actually more powerful than the other. It's an interesting 'swap-around' with RA, as the good guys this time are the struggling organization with less firepower and armor, armed with the more 'sneaky' weapons, whilst the bad guys are the strong, and well-placed group, with all the financial backing and arsenal they need. Cheerily reminds me of Star Wars! In essence, that's all the 'Allies' are, a group of rebels, fighting against Soviet dictatorship.
There's been hot debate over the Internet, and indeed, the GDR team themselves, as to the actual 'equality' of the two sides, especially when it comes down to multiplayer. People are complaining of the dreaded 'tank rush', which many Soviet players use to overpower the Allies early in the match; the Soviets get the Heavy and Mammoth Tank, whereas the Allies' heaviest armor vehicle is only the Medium Tank. It does seem slightly outweighed to one side.
Extensive play shows, however, that there's a very deep strategy involved in the game, and that every attack has a possible defense; the only problem being you might not have the defense ready when you need it. But isn't that what being a battle commander is all about? A bit of luck, and the ability to anticipate your enemy?
How does Multiplay rate?
I heard quite an amusing comment from a regular Internet multiplayer the other day: "RA in multiplay isn't as strategic as Westwood would hope.... it's got quite a cool plot though. Guess you could buy it to play single. But then... who ever bought C&C to play a single player game???" Perhaps I was a latecomer to playing against anyone but the computer, but I certainly know that when C&C was first released, it wasn't even mentioned as a multiplayer game by some gaming magazines, because it was so rare that anybody would even own a modem.
Anyway, the most important thing is how does RA rate against its closest competition right now - namely, C&C and Warcraft 2. It's a mixed opinion out there. We've had a million of them: is Duke really better than Doom ; is Duke really better than Quake? Now, does Red Alert beat War2? What doI say? Dig deep in your pocket and get both! I'd rather not be without one or the other, they both offer such extensively different gameplay.
As a multiplayer, RA shines through like the rest of them, but has a few problems. As mentioned, some people find tanks overwhelming, and it is true, the only ground assault vehicle both sides sport are the tanks really - but people are forgetting, all C&C had were the tanks and bikes. Not a whole lot lost. Look at what's been gained: where people who like all out aggression can choose the Soviet side, those who want a little more thought go for the Allies. Their main advantage is the ability to protect their base from the eyes of the enemy with the 'Gap Generator', and at the same time, they can 'see all' with the GPS Satellite - building of this is begun automatically after the Tech Center (equivalent of the Advanced Communications Center) is constructed, and once launched the entire map is revealed.
More faults? A few. I'm not too impressed with some of the new units, for example, the spies. They are a cool unit, with a great Sean Connery accent, and in single player, they do exactly what they're meant to - move by the enemy unseen, and can only be detected by attack dogs. However, in multiplay, they're visible, and are visible to your opponent as one of their own minigunners. Sounds reasonable, except they're so easily spotted, it's a joke. Once the opponent clicks on them and finds he can't get them to follow his orders, he just open fires - they should be only vulnerable to dog attacks. Also, thieves are too expensive for what they can do; why pay $500 for them, when they can only steal $1000 at the absolute maximum (very rarely), and the risk of them getting killed is too great.
But these are only petty things. The quality additions outweigh the little creases (which can most likely be ironed out in patches from Westwood).
Can't finish up without mentioning the extra goodies on the CD. Westwood have really been becoming more involved with the Internet community, as their last release, Monopoly CD was fully compatible to play over the Internet using their free software. RA follows this trend, and will register you for their "WCHAT" software all at the click of the mouse (well, and some screwing around - I had to manually issue the software to install after registering, for some reason).
WCHAT is a chat system that runs over the Net for Westwood game players to meet up on, and start their own multiplayer games. It's very easy to use, and worked perfectly the first time I attempted to hook up with someone. And unbelievably, the game ran smoothly, practically like a modem or local network game! It only slowed up later when so many units had been created, but then even the single-players do that in SVGA.
The unfortunate drawbacks to WCHAT (which isn't Westwood's fault, of course) is it does seem to attract the lowliest scum of the Net, not to mention the huge armies of 13 year old boys who have got it into their head that if there was a fun, intelligent and attractive girl of their own age on there, that she's going to come running to them when they open conversations with, "hi, I'm 13/M, what are you?" It's also a shame that WCHAT is only set to allow 2 player RA games, when it should be capable of more - get yourself registered to an online gaming system, and you're fine for anything up to 8-player action (although anything over 4 willbe unplayable)!
How can I be summing up when there's still more... haven't even touched on the Map Editor yet (it's very good, by the way)! And the fact you only need to buy the game once to play 2 people (although War2 allowed 3 players per copy bought). And what about the 'Skirmish' feature which allows you to practice on all the multiplayer levels, and your own custom maps; this also means you can play any amount of 'random' battles against the computer, over and over.
You should have realized by now, RA is a classic game, worthy of our gold award, and, in fact, of being in just about anyone's game collection. In England, you can pick it up for just £30, which is a dream bargain, and in the States, shop around the mail order companies, you might find a copy for under $50.
Review By GamesDomain
Want to play online? Go to https://cncnet.org/red-alert.
Comments and reviews
BrianMD 2019-12-04 1 point
RIP version works fine in D-Fend Reloaded (front end to DOSbox). Couldn't get the ISO version to run even with the instructions just below. To the person that couldn't get past the first level: the game is prompting for your high score name, press your initials and press enter key.
Noddy 2019-05-19 2 points
Since the game has been freeware since 2007/8 i think you should stop having the cashbag button for it
castor 2018-07-21 1 point
Here is an instruction how to setup and install Red Alert on Dosbox 0.74:
- download ISO version of the game
- extract two cd iso files to folder named "racd" in c:\games
- rename iso files to according cd1.iso, and cd2.iso
- after Dosbox launch type following:
imgmount d "c:\games\racd\cd1.iso" -t iso -fs iso
imgmount e "c:\games\racd\cd2.iso" -t iso -fs iso
- now you have two additional drives with CDs (drive D: and drive E:)
- open file setup.exe on drive D:
- install game
- PLAY with ra.exe
Thats all! Remember to set up paths correctly.
KC 2018-04-14 0 point
Boxer says this download does not contain any DOS programs, I can not load it.
Isaachar 2017-11-22 -3 points
How do i run the rip version of Command & Conquer Red Alert on Dosbox. Please help!!!!
critch 2017-08-11 1 point
is this just a trial version because after I play the first level and I says victory nothing happens
BlackDogs 2017-06-15 0 point
Thank you for all the good games of the past. Reliving these are golden
Alex 2016-06-24 -6 points
How do I use the patches with dosbox? Do I just copy the patch files into the game file folder?
twinPRICKS 2016-03-07 0 point
this game did improve on the original in MANY ways and
I am sure most people would say it is better than the original.
as for myself I loved this game but think the original was better.
hey it's just my opinion but both are great games.
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