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Review: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
(IDG) -- It's not the most innovative game, but with its solid gameplay and alternate-reality Cold War storyline, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 is the best 2D real-time strategy game since Starcraft.
The original Command & Conquer practically invented the RTS genre when it was released and has since spawned a whole series of games, including the hugely popular Red Alert with its story involving Russians, Albert Einstein, time travel, and a Cold War that never ended. Now, Westwood Studios takes us back to that universe with Red Alert 2, which manages to recreate the intense story, easy control, and addictive gameplay of the original.
While most current RTS games have moved into the realm of 3D, Red Alert 2 sticks with the traditional 2D isometric view. The gameplay remains the same (build a base, harvest resources, destroy your enemy), but the campaign missions offer enough unique challenges to keep the game interesting. Some require the stealthy infiltration of enemy bases, while others are simply a matter of search and destroy.
New units spice things up with the inclusion of the Weather Control Device, Cloning Vats, and the mind controlling Yuri troops, among others. Red Alert 2 balances units with a rock/ paper/scissors style, which means that no single unit is more powerful than the others because each has a weakness that can be exploited by a different unit type.
Campaign missions are preceded by live action cut-scenes featuring actual professional actors, including Ray Wise, Barry Corbin, and Kari Wuhrer, making the story more captivating while adding to the production value and lending the game a cinematic quality. The acting gets a bit over-the-top at times, but this creates a B-movie feel, which fits the action perfectly.
The 2D graphics are nothing spectacular by today's standards, but the colorful and detailed environments make up for the lack of technological advancement. The individual troops are cleverly animated, but their small size often makes them hard to distinguish one from another during the heat of combat. A rockin' soundtrack provides the backbone for the action with good voice acting and the sound of explosions and gunfire adding to the fun.
The simple interface means controlling the action is a breeze. An easy-to-navigate menu lets you queue units or call in reinforcements from anywhere on the map, and building your bases and commanding your soldiers is as easy as pointing and clicking the mouse (you'll need to use a few keyboard commands, as well). Picking out individual units from a group can sometimes be difficult, however.
While it's no technological marvel, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 provides plenty of gameplay and offers enough awesome RTS action to satisfy old fans and newcomers alike.
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