The second chapter of the Red Alert saga (along with the expansion pack) is the last C&C game before Westwood's complete dissolution within EA Games. The story continues: Twenty years after the defeat of the Soviets in the 1950s, the USSR has regrouped under the leadership of premier Alexander Romanov and the diabolical Psychic mastermind Yuri. A sneak attack disables the Allied nuclear retaliatory capability with mind control devices while Soviet forces invade North America. Lots of people getting run over by tanks and tons of stuff blowing up ensues.
There is some debate as to how exactly this chapter fits into the overall Command & Conquer story line. References are made to the events in Red Alert 1, however no references are made to the Tiberium Story line (more specifically Kane, who appears to be behind the rise of the Soviet Union in the first game.) However since the game takes place in the 1970s before the arrival of Tiberium it does fit chronologically, and just because GDI, NOD, or Kane are not mentioned doesn't mean the game isn't part of the overall story arch.
The game uses a similar 2.5D voxel type engine as from C&C TS, however the sprites seem a bit larger, clearer, and far more detailed. I think it's safe to say the graphics hit the pinnacle of what can be done in an RTS without going to 3D. Units rotate around smoothly and realistically undulate over uneven terrain. Similar to the other games the play field is from a overhead isometric perspective, with obstacles such as trees and buildings set at such an angle as to give the player the ability to hide units behind them. There seems to be more emphasis on urban combat in this particular game over the others. The C&C interface remains fundamentally unchanged from the other games, although now the units and buildings are separated into different sub menus. You can now queue up a maximum of 20 units per type, plus you can queue up more than one at a time (although you can still only make one kind of soldier or armor at a time.) Unlike in TS you can set a rally point outside of the Barracks or War Factory as to keep your units from crowding around after being built.
The units and structures carry over mostly from the prior Red Alert game. You get the standard Conyard, war factory, radar, barracks, etc. However each one has a unique look for it's particular side (for instance, the Soviet Barracks has a hammer and stickle and statue of Lenin over it while the Allied barracks is more of the "traditional" military look.) As with the other games the larger number of production facilities you have the faster your units are produced. There are also some changes here as well - The allied airport acts as radar as well as allowing you to create Harrier attack craft for instance.
For base defense the Soviets retain the Tesla Coil, but now they can be charged by Tesla soldiers to increase their range and attack power (and keep them running when base power is shut down.) Soviets also get a weak turret gun instead of the flame turret from the first game. With the addition of a Battle Lab the Soviets gain the ability to create a Nuclear Reactor (which gives nearly infinite power to the base,) and two super weapons, the Iron Curtain and Nuclear Missile. The Iron Curtain can protect more than one unit this time (a group of four tanks in tight formation is covered) and lasts around a minute. No biological units can be protected. The Russian Nuke is quite powerful, and although it will not destroy the Allied Conyard will pretty much dominate everything else in the area. Both super weapons can be disabled in multiplayer.
The weak machine gun bunker returns for the allies in addition to the Prism Tower, which shoots a long range destructive light beam. When multiple Prism towers are placed close to each other their attack power multiplies, although two towers is enough to destroy an attacking tank in one shot. The Allies have the intelligence advantage with Gap Generators as well as a spy satellite that reveals the whole map. Soviets have to make do with a "Spy Plane" that cannot be shot down to slowly reveal the map in a particular area. However any section that is protected by a gap generator will only be revealed for a few seconds (enough time to target a unit or building however.) The Allied Battle Lab structures include an Ore Purifier that allows more cash to be taken from each harvester load as well as the return of the Chronoshpere, which ala the Iron Curtain is able to teleport multiple units. This gives the Chronosphere some offensive capability as well since it can now do things like teleport a group of tanks into water or an enemy ship onto land to destroy it. The Allied Super weapon is the Weather Control Device, which causes a miniature lightning storm that randomly destroys all units and buildings in a given area.
The player units have also been upgraded. As with the last game Soviets get better armor, the standard Rhino tank is tougher than anything the allies have on a one-to-one basis. Soviets also get a weak but fast moving "Flak track," a large and heavily armored blimp called the Kirov Airship (one of which can totally decimate a base on it's own, if it can get close enough,) and a long distance V3 Rocket launcher. V3 rockets can be shot down so they're best used in masse, firing in a syncopated rhythm. Soviet heavy armor includes the Apocalypse tank, which is this game's version of the Mammoth tank. These tanks are very slow but can take out any Allied unit in one or two volleys and also provide air defense.
As for troopers the Soviets are at a disadvantage here.The standard Soviet Conscript is pretty weak, but the trade off is it's cheap to produce. Flack Troops are practically useless for everything except air defense and only then in large numbers. Soviet Tesla troops are slower but stronger and as in the last game cannot be run over by enemy tanks. Soviets also get the "Crazy Ivan," who's specialty is his ability to place bombs onto anything (even your own units for suicide runs.) Unique to the Soviets is the Terror Drone, which is a fast moving droid that latches and bores into a vehicles until it's destroyed. An MCV with a terror drone attached cannot deploy until it's removed at a service depot. The Soviet hero Unit is Yuri, who is able to mind control most other unit types (the exception being Tanyas, Harvesters, attack dogs, or terror drones.) It is possible to get Yuri Primes in this game by spying a Soviet Battle Lab. Yuri Prime is a faster version of Yuri that flies around on a little hovering platform, can float over water and also capture enemy buildings via mind control. To make up for their relatively weaker ground units the Soviets gain a Cloning vat that will create a second infantry unit free of charge (even another hero unit.)
As in the last game Allies have weaker armor. The Allied Grizzly Tank is lighter armed and armored than it's Soviet equivalent, however it's faster and cheaper to make. Unique to the allies is the Infantry Fighting Vehicle, or IFV. The thing about the IFV is that it takes on whatever weapon of a particular infantry type you put into it. Thus a standard G. I. gives it a machine gun while an engineer turns it into a mobile repair vehicle, making the IFV the most versatile vehicle in the game. Later on the Allies get the ability to create "Mirage Tanks," which are effective against infantry and cloak themselves to hide from enemy radar (and will look like a regular tree when not moving or attacking.) The Allied artillery unit is the Prism tank which attacks with the same light beam as the Prism Tower, however a Prism Tank cannot argument a Prism Tower the same way a Tesla troop can for a Tesla Tower. Although they are lightly armored their superior range makes up for it, and when these units are ranked they become the most powerful unit in the game next to a ranked Apocalypse tank.
Allies have the advantage as per infantry. The standard G. I. carries a light weapon, but when "deployed" (I.e. double clicked on) the G. I. switches to a sand bagged heavy machine gun nest that can quickly take down infantry and lightly armored vehicles. Groups of G.Is also go a good job at devastating buildings and even heavy tanks when deployed. Allies also get to make Navy Seals which are akin to the Commando in the original C&C. Navy Seals can mow down whole groups of infantry very quickly, can instantly destroy buildings with c4, and can also swim to plant c4 on naval units. They are nearly defenseless against even the most lightly armored vehicles. With a Battle Lab the ability to create Chrono Troopers is granted, who are able to teleport around the map and who's weapon slowly erases the enemy from existence. The hero trooper is once again Tanya, who has all of the abilities of a NaVy Seal with the exception that her standard shot can also damage vehicles. She also can place C4 on tanks and cannot be mind controlled. The allies have access to Rocketeer troops, similar to the Rocketeers in TS, however here they always remain airborne. Rocketeers are excellent at picking off groups of undefended Rhino tanks and when used in large quantities can decimate an enemy base. The allies also are the only side to get spies. Unlike in the first game where spies were practically useless here they have become quite powerful:
- A spy into a power plant sabotages base power for 30 seconds, shutting down production and defenses.
- A spy into a refinery steals half of the enemies's cash
- A spy into a war factory automatically ranks all new vehicles
- A spy into a barracks ranks all new infantry
- A spy into a Tech Center grants the ability to create specialized units.
- A spy into a super weapon resets the super weapon timer
- A spy into the radar resets the enemy shroud
There are several different "Super units" that can only be created once a spy infiltrates an enemy Battle Lab:
Chrono Commando: Like the regular Legionnaire except with the ability to teleport and instantly destroy buildings on arrival.
Chrono Ivan: Like the Chorno Commando this Ivan unit can teleport and instantly bomb buildings upon arrival.
Psi Commando: Can mind control stuff with the additional abilities to destroy buildings and bridges with C4 like a Navy Seal. Psi Commandos can also detect spies and are immune to being crushed by vehicles.
In multiplayer you're given the option of choosing a specific country to represent, and each country gets it's own specialized unit or structure:
United States: The Americans get free paratroopers that can be dropped on any land area of the map. Once paratroopers land they act as normal G.I.s. Nine troopers drop as opposed to the six from a civilian airport.
United Kingdom: The UK gets a long range sniper that can decimate infantry in one shot from a long distance away, perfect for picking off troops right as they come out of a base. The downside is a long reload time and the inability to harm vehicles.
France: The French get the Grand Cannon, a long range gun with a large impact shot. Two or more Grand cannons can decimate infantry and soften up an advancing tank column (probably destroying several in the process.)
Korea: Korea comes with the Black Eagle harrier, which is a larger, more heavily armored version of the standard allied harrier. One Black Eagle is enough to destroy a Rhino tank, while three can destroy a light building such as a power plant, radar, or Tesla Coil.
Germany: The German Tank Destroyer can rip through Soviet armor like swiss cheese, but the vehicles is extremely weak against troops and buildings.
Russia: The USSR has the Tesla Tank, which has been redesigned since the last game to be a lot more lethal looking. Tesla tanks are speedy and rip through infantry and armor alike but cannot take much punishment.
Cuba: The Cubans provide terrorist suicide bombers, which are pretty useless. One good strategy however is to fill up a flack track with terrorists and park it next to an enemy structure, when the flack is destroyed the ensuing explosion with usually take the structure with it.
Iraq: The Iraqi desolator has an extremely powerful "Rad cannon," and can also spread radiation through the ground in a large circle to damage all nearby units.
Lybia: The Lybians provide suicide nuclear bomb trucks (which was an allied unit in the first game.) The resulting nuke is smaller than the Soviet super weapon but is enough to take out a single building or group of surrounding units. Bomb trucks are vulnerable to air attack.
Naval warfare also returns to the game. The Soviets suffer here with less offensive power per unit. The Soviet attack sub returns, it is generally well armored but has a low rate of fire and must turn it's whole body to fire in a particular direction. The Soviets also get "Scorpion" attack boats armed with an anti air cannon (similar to Flack tracks) and a mind controlled Giant Squid that latches onto an enemy boat and will eventually sink it if not interrupted. The Soviet Killship is the Dreadnought Cruiser, which has no short range capability but is armed with large missiles (similar to V3 missiles) that can destroy any building in two or three volleys. The disadvantage is that the missiles are slow and can easily be shot down by Patriots, IFVs, or Rocketeers.
Allies clean up in the naval department. The standard Allied destroyer has a short range cannon that can also hit objects on land (if they happen to be in range.) The destroyer also comes standard with the ASW Helicopter bomber which is specifically designed to take out underwater units (such as Submarines.) Complimenting the destroyer is the Aegis cruiser, which has no surface attack but provides unstoppable air cover. One Aegis can take down a Kirov or a group of 10 Rocketeers with no problem. To foil the Soviet Giant Squid the Allies use trained Dolphins. A dolphin that fires (with a sonic type wave thing) on a ship held by a Squid will release the ship. Also the sonic wave will damage any unit it passes through to it's intended target, thus the strategy is usually to target a ship toward the back of the group to also destroy those in front at the same time. The Allied Killship is a large Aircraft carrier which is loaded with three Hornet bomber planes. These bombers can easily destroy any building in a few passes but are very easy to shoot down. If an aircraft carrier destroys a valuable building (say a Construction Yard) the Hornet that actually destroyed the building will get ranked instead of the Aircraft carrier itself.
New to the series in this game is the introduction of civilian "Tech" structures which can be captured to add to the war effort, among them an oil refinery to provide a steady stream of income, a civilian airport that provides free paratroopers, a Tech repair depot, and a Civilian hospital that automatically heals all infantry units on the map. In addition to these it is possible to garrison any civilian buildings for added defense, and although a garrisoned building can only target one unit at a time the more troops that are in the building the faster they inflict damage. This game also carries the unit ranking ability from TS to a new level. When a unit hits it's maximum rank several things occur:
- The unit's speed is increased
- The unit's weapon is increased significantly
- The unit will auto heal
- Tanyas will auto target and scatter automatically
All of these different units types lead to many different combinations and nearly endless strategies. The game seems to move very quickly, and unlike in earlier C&C games no particular unit is so tough that it can totally dominate a battle (ala Mammoth MK II or Cyborg Commando.) Thus a group of smaller, faster units can deal a significant amount of damage to an undefended base and can be just as effective as a large group of tanks in certain situations.
The single player missions follow Soviet and Allied Campaigns, each with a large assortment of missions that do a good job of mixing up objectives. Interior missions from Red Alert 1 are gone, but there are still a good assortment of rescue, escort, and capture missions in addition to the usual "Kill everything that moves" approach. Each mission is prefaced by the notoriously cheesy Westood FMV intros. I personally could do without them but fans seem to think they're like a "hallmark" of the series or something. To be fair this time around they're generally well acted, use a high resolution, and the bluescreen effect isn't that apparent as it is with earlier games. They seem to be slightly campy this time around. The president is portrayed as a Clintonesque doublespeaking womanizer (this was pre-911 after all.) The American troops have the usual Rambo, take-no-shit-problem-with authority-get-the-job-done attitudes. The Russian Premier is bumbling and goofy, smiling and laughing at stupid crap and drinking a lot of Vodka, while his troops are bloodthirsty, evil, caring not for human life. Yuri seems to have his own motives..
Where the game really shines is multiplayer. So many different units, combinations, and scenarios means that no two multiplayer games are alike. Games can be over in five minutes or last hours at a time. Even though the game came out nearly seven years ago people still play it online.
Overall an excellent addition to the C&C series, only to be outdone by the Yuri's Revenge expansion pack. By itself it's getting hard to find however the game was recently re-released in the C&C: The first decade bundlewear pack.