Interest in the Real-Time Strategy genre has certainly waned in
the past few years. Tiberian Sun, the sequel to Command &
Conquer, was met with decidedly unimpressed reviews. Is Red
Alert 2 going to be win over the hearts of the very same reviewers
that slammed Westwood's last attempt? I think so. This game is
definitely not revolutionary by any means, but it's a solid and
polished game that is one of the only jewels to be placed in the
RTS crown recently.
Good, not great. This game takes place in real cities, which
means you'll see quite a few unique landmarks as well as a variety
of civilian buildings. There are multiple levels of terrain that adds
a bit of variety to the levels, although the implementation of the
"levels" on grass or dirt result in weird and ugly angled ground
instead of a smooth gradient.
Units are pleasant to look at and well animated, but very small.
This might be a product of me playing at 1024x768, but it's often
hard to tell units apart. It's also very common (especially with
Naval units) to get units really crowded together. This is especially
a problem when you're trying to select a single unit (for example a
dolphin in a group of ships) - it's next to impossible.
Red Alert 2 uses a modified Tiberian Sun engine, which means the
lighting effects are quite nice. Unfortunately there is no concept of
time in RA2 so there is no day/night missions that were a neat
concept in Tiberian Sun. Prism towers fill the screen with flashes
of blue laser light, smoke comes off the tanks being shot at,
potholes form where tank shells hit.
The mini-map is alright in RA2, it has some nice effects such as
highlighting areas which are under attack or are otherwise worth
noting. But, the map itself is pretty tiny so forget trying to move
units by clicking on the map. It's very un-precise. I also found it
pretty hard to see your units on the map.
Sound is typical RTS fare. You get tired of hearing the same
acknowledgement as you move units a step at a time, but the
weapon effects are good. You can usually hear and identify a unit
attacking before you can locate it on your screen. Radiation,
especially, sounds very cool. Music is nothing special; I hardly
noticed it, which is good, but when I did listen to it, it wasn't
particularly noteworthy. It does the job.
I like RA2 even though I'm pretty bad at strategy games. I like
fighting in real locales, and one of the best additions to the game
is the ability to garrison civilian buildings. Pop a bunch of foot
soldiers in a building and you instantly have a powerful defensive
(or offensive) weapon. While inside the building, the units don't
take damage and have an increased firing range. Of course, with
enough attacks the building will crumble and your units will be
exposed again. Keeping an engineer nearby to fix the building
when it's about to be destroyed is a very good idea.
There are a LOT of units in RA2 and that's a mixed bag. I like the
variety and every person can find a unit that works for them. For
me, it's the Prism Tank. Nothing can touch it for range and if you
back it up with a Seal, a couple tanks, and a repair LEV, it's a
5-unit group capable of destroying an entire base sometimes.
There are immense amounts of strategy with having so many units
at your disposal and that's bound to please you hardcore strategy
fans out there. However, having so many units is like trying to play
rock/paper/scissors except with 50 choices. Everything is strong
against some units and weak against others. This is strategic as
you always need to know what to attack or defend with,
depending on what the enemy has. Though, it can get frustrating
when you just don't have the right unit.
It's not a big deal and you learn quickly what's good against what,
but there will be a lot of times where you'll find yourself unable to
defend an attack simply because you don't have the perfect unit
for it. It's a great feeling when you attack with the perfect unit and
the enemy just can't defend against it, so I suppose it's hypocritical
to bitch about it.
The AI is not very good, both for the enemies and your own units.
Often times if the enemy is on the move you can walk right by and
they won't attack. Your own units are often frustratingly dumb, as
they won't properly defend your base unless you control them
manually. They are also very bad at backing each other up. I
wish there was a way to specify the type of units to attack first. I
hate watching my Prism towers killing little soldiers when there's a
mammoth tank that's not being touched. I also hate watching
squid destroying my aircraft carrier and my dolphin is just sitting
there motionless instead of saving the carrier. I didn't expect the
AI to be perfect and there's no reason to expect it to just "know"
what you want, but what I'm saying is be prepared to do a lot of
There are some other annoying points; I never figured out why I
couldn't place certain buildings in certain places. I thought it was
perhaps a distance from the nearest building, but it doesn't seem
to be. It just seems pretty arbitrary and maybe I'm missing
something obvious but if not then it's an annoyance. Often I'd
build a Prism Tower with plans to put in a specific spot only to find
out that, for some reason, I can't place it there. Perhaps if you
would place buildings before they start getting built (as in almost
all other RTS games) then you could make an educated decision
about the usefulness of building it.
Control is also a tad annoying, I wish there was a way to arbitrarily
draw a box around units you want to select. If you have units on
the diagonal it would be nice to be able to draw a thin circle
around them, instead of a huge box that might accidentally
include other stupid units. There is also the problem of sending
units far away on the map. Either you click on the mini-map and
hope they're going somewhere close to where you want them to,
or you slowly scroll over to the area and click, or you group them,
click on the mini-map with nobody selected, select the group and
place them. None of the three is very desirable, I wish you could
click on the mini-map to scroll to that area, then click in the main
window WHILE units are selected.
All this bitching aside, I still really enjoy the game. The missions
were pretty entertaining and varied and I do like having so many
vastly different units to choose from. The two sides are equally fun
to play; I'm more an Allied guy personally but I enjoyed both. The
cutscenes are pretty well done and the voice acting, while not
great, is pretty good.
The game is fun but can be frustrating at times as you watch a unit
that you can't properly defend against totally destroy your units
and/or your bases. I think the extreme weaknesses/strengths of
the units should be toned down a bit.
The missions are enjoyable, there's a good balance between
"build up a monster base and kick some ass" and "you have 3 units
to kick some ass, keep them alive" missions. I'm more partial to
the latter because I'm bad at managing more than a few units at a
time, but it's great having a monster base and sending in wave
after wave of death against the enemy.
Multiplay is great fun, the specific countries add a bit of strategy as
each country has a unique enhanced unit that change the
gameplay style just a bit.
All the single player comments apply to multiplay, except that
unlike the computer player, human players will most likely do
something about a small attack force "sneaking" into the back of
Good game, nothing revolutionary. Micromanagement is still a big
deal, and the unit balance could deal with a bit more tweaking in
my opinion. Still, a lot of fun and probably the best RTS to pick up
if you're in the market for one today. The game is well polished
and there are a lot of small things that Westwood has done to
make the oft-frustrating control easier.
[ 40/50 ] Gameplay
[ 08/10 ] Graphics
[ 07/10 ] Sound
[ 09/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 08/10 ] Controls
[ 08/10 ] Fun Factor
See the Game Over Online Rating System