Name: Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Developed by: Westwood Studios
Published by: Westwood Studios
Year: 1996

Description: Westwood stunned the computer gaming world by announcing that they were putting the sequel to their incredible Command & Conquer on hold to do a very different game with the same engine. That game turned out to be Command & Conquer: Red Alert, and most gamers were pretty glad they did.

Red Alert is set in the 1950's. Albert Einstein's experiments with the Chronosphere were successful, allowing him to jump back in time and eradicate Adolf Hitler from existence before he came to power. But instead of stopping World War II, Einstein's actions merely delayed it and changed who would instigate it; instead of Hitler, Josef Stalin would begin a bloody campaign to forcibly bring the people's government of communism to every country on earth.

The operative word for this game is "alternate". Einstein's and Nikola Tesla's technologies have run rampant and the Chronosphere has wreaked havoc with the timeline. Huge Tesla coils kill infantry instantly and do grievous damage to all but the heaviest tanks. MiGs square off against prop-powered Yak fighters. Attack dogs rip out the throats of infantry in an instant, while spies infiltrate to steal money or sabotage buildings. The Iron Curtain makes units invulnerable, while the Chronosphere teleports them around the map. It's havoc on a battlefield, and while Westwood may not have intended it so, Red Alert was one of the first real-time strategy games that had so many units with so many different special abilities that the player could pick one of several different strategies.

Red Alert continued Command & Conquer's tradition of full-motion video briefings. The movie player had improved, as had the production values. Some of the clips are actually quite good, such as Tanya's rescue. Red Alert also had another excellent Frank Klepacki score.

Multiplayer support was included through serial link, modem, IPX network, or over the internet through Westwood Chat, Westwood's matching service. Serial link or direct modem connection supported two players; network or internet play supported up to eight.

My Opinion: A bizarro romp. Westwood turned RTS games on their ear right when, by all logic, they should have been falling into a rut. A very good game, and still quite enjoyable, though you may miss some of the interface niceties of more modern RTS games.

Notes: Like Command & Conquer, Command & Conquer: Red Alert included a separate CD for each side. The game was initially published with versions for both DOS and Windows 95 on the same discs (the DOS version ran in the original 320x200 video mode, while the Windows version ran in 640x400 or 640x480). Later releases of the game dropped the DOS version when it became apparent that DOS support was no longer necessary. A PlayStation version was released in 1997.

Links:
Encyclopaedia of Computer and Video Games

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