|Alt names||命令与征服：红色警戒2, Command & Conquer: Alerte Rouge 2, Command & Conquer: Alarmstufe Rot 2, C&C:RA2|
|Theme||Asia, Europe, North America, Real-Time, Sci-Fi / Futuristic, War|
|Perspective||Isometric, Bird’s-eye view, Free-roaming camera|
|Released in||United States, Canada|
|Publisher||Electronic Arts, Inc.|
Description of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Westwood isn’t exactly a name people associate with innovation. Command & Conquer games, in the past, have followed the same recipe. A few units and a battlefield with scattered resource fields at your disposal, you build a base, harvest these resources, and use funds thus gained to construct an army. Somewhere else on the battlefield your opponent is doing the same. It’s a simple formula, and a much-imitated one. But while other developers have been keen to expand on the theme, adding everything from 3D graphics to first-person perspectives, Westwood has always remained true to its retro roots. So it’s little surprise to find that Red Alert 2 follows the tradition of ignoring recent developments in real-time strategy games and delivering the same pacy gameplay the others in the series offered. No flashy 3D graphics for Red Alert 2 here; no fog of war, no multiple mission paths in single-player – not even a rotateable isometric view like Sim City or Rollercoaster Tycoon. And to be fair, the previous games have always been well-received and excellent sellers. Why change a winning formula? However, it would be wrong to say there’s nothing new in Red Alert 2. As always, the pre-mission briefings are excellent – starring a cast of professional actors, they add spadefuls of character to the game. They can also help to offset the inevitable repetitiveness of the single-player game by encouraging some personal involvement with the protagonists – this only works if the production is first-class, and it is. Tanya – an old favourite from past Red Alert games – makes a welcome return (the character does anyway as the actress has been replaced with an arguably more attractive counterpart), armed with her usual pistols and C4 explosive. Her flesh-and-blood appearance will probably be the cause of many sweaty palms. For the first time you can now battle around real places and buildings – sounds like a small point, but gives the single player campaign a greater sense of personality. For the first time, the American forces must defend the Statue of Liberty from Soviet attack, while in the first Russian mission you’re going after the Pentagon. Later missions involve landmarks like the World Trade Centre, and there’s a great urban multiplayer map based around the Alamo. Interface changes are minimal – a new system separates the build menus for base facilities, defences, infantry and vehicles, eliminating the long, tedious scrolling menus of the previous games. There’s a new set of icons at the bottom of the screen, but these mainly represent commands like ‘guard’ and ‘select all units of this type’, previously available as keyboard shortcuts. The familiar ‘build-then-place’ system for base construction remains so, unlike units, building instructions can’t be queued. All the structures can now be repaired by specialist engineering units, and the various skyscrapers and office blocks dotted around many of the maps can be occupied by infantry. They will fortify them and provide fire from the windows – a few of these dotted around the map makes a good way to soften up incoming enemy forces before they reach your base. An attempt has also been made to vary the races in multiplayer – each of the nine nationalities available in multiplayer has a specific, specialist unit available to it. The British get a sniper unit, with a rifle similar to the weapons carried by commando units in the past. The Cubans get a terrorist, a kamikaze human bomb. Each has its strengths, although the selection of other units remains the same according to whether that nation is allied with the Soviets or the US. Other new units include dolphins and giant squid to spice up the naval battles, time-warping Chrono Legionnaires (which erase enemies from history) and the Soviet’s Kirov Airship: a powerful but slow-moving and vulnerable dirigible, which carries a cargo of devastating bombs (and, unopposed, will wipe out most bases in minutes). Also worth a mention is the Allies’ new one-man APC, which changes its weaponry to match the armament of its passenger – so placing a sniper unit in one makes for a long-range and potent anti-infantry vehicle, not something seen in C&C games in the past. New structures include the familiar nuclear missile silo and the tremendously powerful (perhaps too powerful) Allied weather generator, which creates devastating thunderstorms over a large area. Although units gained in ability with experience in Westwood’s last real-time strategy game Tiberian Sun, the effect has become faster and more pronounced. A little time guarding your base will toughen up your tanks nicely, and with a little repair they’ll make a good spearhead for your next assault. Multiplayer choices remain largely unchanged from earlier incarnations. Matchmaking is still via the Westwood online servers, and with the popularity of the series you can expect to have little trouble finding a game. The options are fairly varied, and once you’re bored of the single-player campaigns this should provide plenty of lasting appeal. Fixed and random map skirmishes against the computer are also easy to organise and, finally, Westwood has fixed the most glaring problem with its artificial intelligence – now, on harder levels, your opponents will make some effort to use ships and other naval units properly. The AI makes for a reasonable opponent, although it won’t be troubling veteran C&C ers for long. Those who spent any time playing earlier versions of C&C online will be familiar with the “tank rush” tactic. This involves setting up a minimal base very quickly, then churning out as many basic tanks as possible. Once a sufficiently large force is gathered, tank rushers then attack en masse, crushing the opposition with sheer weight of numbers. But in Red Alert 2, measures have been taken to help make this strategy a little less successful. The Soviets have a very handy spider unit, the Terror Drone. Fast and hard to detect, they attach themselves to enemy tanks, destroying them and moving on to the next one. Often going unnoticed, a few of these beasties can cripple a burgeoning tank rush by themselves. Stronger base defences also help improve matters, and in a subtle-but-important addition, defences and other structures can be built simultaneously, making it feasible to build strong defences right from the start, while still concentrating on developing a base infrastructure. Inexperienced players, however, will probably find themselves crushed by tank rushes a few times. Westwood’s past decision to split the C&C franchise into two parts seems to be more one of plot and themes rather than belying any difference in gameplay. Red Alert games bear a loosely factual premise and have some relation to reality while the original C&C;/Tiberian Sun series hold a more science-fictional approach. Seems Red Alert was just looking for some name recognition on the box to help its sales. It was widely expected that this episode of the series, like the others before it, would focus on developing established Command & Conquer traditions, rather than breaking new ground. And even in ignoring the other evidence supporting this, the fact that it made its promised release date indicates not much beyond superficial artwork changes, some more full-motion video work, and a lot of playtesting and balancing has gone into producing Red Alert 2. In spite of this, the established Command & Conquer fan will be pleased to find the old magic lives on. Red Alert 2 is still eminently playable, and who knows, maybe even the real-time strategy hardcore player will be tempted away from his more modern 3D extravaganzas. It would be a shame to miss out – despite being shallow, simplistic and old-fashioned, Red Alert 2 is polished, well-balanced and even more fast-paced than the previous games; it’s also perfect for the real-time strategy novice. If you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed, and though Westwood has continued to milk its successful concept for all it’s worth, it has produced a competent, if uninspired, sequel.
Review By GamesDomain
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