676th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Virgin Interactive Entertainment

While I originally focused on playing Command & Conquer, the Red Alert series never held quite as much of an appeal to me. Partially it’s because World War II settings don’t really interest me a lot of the time, while the sci fi side works so much more, but I think I build myself up more for the original, while this felt like a more boring sequel. I only got to the series later – mainly remembering playing the second game in the series with friends.

So while I know I enjoy the series, I just never quite made the jump and have been holding off a bit. Not helping is that the original C&C didn’t hold up as much as I hoped. Let’s see whether it works here.

Our Thoughts

I must say, Red Alert looks older than I remember – another reason to show I played a later game in the series – but it still plays really well. The maps still feel expertly crafted and it’s all a lot of fun to play.

Although there are some base building maps, it felt like there were more puzzle levels, where you get a set number of troops and have to reach a place or a few of them. This isn’t exactly unheard of in these games, but where in others you still use some force to overwhelm them, here you are fragile enough that they feel like puzzles – sneaking around an area and blowing stuff up from a safe place. It’s stealth in an RTS engine and is an incredibly interesting way of approaching these levels. I’m not sure I always quite got the point of the puzzles, but it’s a nice counterpart to the big base building that usually dominates these levels. Because it’s so much trickier, it’s more fun to play.

I got most of the base building by jumping into a few multiplayer levels, where you obviously get to have access to everything, rather than the steadily rising level of technology seen in the single player campaign. And man, there are loads of options here, especially with the different ways of summoning units, some side effects (more than in Command & Conquer) and a whole setup of naval units that are still hit and miss in a lot of games. It’s quite overwhelming and not getting the build up, I don’t think I used them to optimal effect – but there are clearly a lot of tactical options here.

Final Thoughts

Red Alert was a definite surprise – while building on a now proven great series, the levels are some of the most creative I feel I’ve seen in the genre. The mechanics themselves feel like a reskin of Command & Conquer, with some cut and additional content added, but the way it makes use of these in the campaign is quite different and very interesting to play with. A step up that I hope we can actually experience more of.