If you’re expecting a Real Time Revolution in Red Alert 2
, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Westwood, the makers of the first real hit
RTS (Dune 2: The Building of a Dynasty
, which still ranks as one of my top three real-time strategy games), have been perfecting their real-time formula over the years. Red Alert 2
is the pinnacle of that perfection (so far), bringing you rock-solid gameplay, rocking multiplayer, and balanced sides that never make you feel cheated.
In the intriguing alternate timeline of the Red Alert universe, the Soviet Union has done some Very Bad Things. They tried to take over Europe and failed (see the first game), and now they’re attempting a full-scale invasion of America. You can play as either side, either trouncing America and dealing with problems back at home or pushing back the Soviet threat and taking the fight to their side of the Pacific instead. Both scenarios present you with a dozen or so missions, ranging from the trivial to damn-near impossible. Each level generally also introduces you to a few new skills, be it new units to master or buildings to build. By the time you complete the single-player campaigns -- which will take you a while, mind you -- you’ll be ready to tackle the real meat of Red Alert 2: online play.
Using the free Westwood Online service, you can play Red Alert 2 on a multitude of maps and with varying numbers of both computer and human opponents. There’s also a Quick Match option, which supposedly teams you up with people with similar setups as you, but I never really bothered with that since it forced me to reduce my resolution to 640x480. And the game auto-updates itself when you connect if there are patches available, which is nice.
The game itself is just what you’d expect: tweaked FPS mayhem. You’ve got the U.S. with the Prism technology, the Soviets with their Tesla science, and both with psychic powers. Needless to say, the games can get frantic. There are some cool features, too; whenever one of the “Super-Weapons” starts to get built, it immediately appears out of the Fog of War and a countdown appears on the screen for the completion time of building the item. This way, you can concentrate your attacks on it, as such weapons often determine the winner of the level. Good stuff, that.