It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to celebrate part of gaming’s wonderful back catalogue. Today we’re turning the clock back to the turn of the century and the start of a new millennium with Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2.
Westwood and EA shipped their high-profile real-time strategy game during the middle of the chaotic AAA season in 2000, a time that held the genre in much more reverence than is the case today. There was a tonne of buzz for the sequel, with the Cold War setting, FMV-driven narrative and the penchant for rushing six tanks striking a chord amongst gamers; the original C&C and Red Alert earned an estimated US$3.4 million for Westwood in the first six months of 1998.
It was also the first RTS game Dustin Browder, who would later become the lead director on StarCraft 2 and Heroes of the Storm, ever worked on. “It was absolutely fearless in its creativity and did not take itself too seriously,” Browder said in an interview with me last year.
Of course, part of that fearlessness resulted from the massive reshuffling of staff within Westwood. EA acquired the studio in the middle of 1998 for US$122.5 million, a buyout that resulted in a lot of the old Westwood guard handing in their resignations.
But for all intents and purposes, it worked. From a multiplayer perspective, Red Alert 2 has always been upheld as the most playable of the series, although for me it’s difficult to go past the DOS-based magic of the original Red Alert.
Also, Tanya was a hell of a lot cooler. I still remember that FMV scene where you rescue her from the prison and she ends up shooting her captor while tied up in a chair as the camera fades away. That said, Yuri did a pretty decent job of being creepy. And you have to enjoy the ridiculousness of those red phones.
The amount of ways you could mess with people was fantastic, from stacking Crazy Ivans into a flak track or using the Chronoshift ability to put enemy units into inconvenient locations. RA2’s rock soundtrack was great as well — although nothing has quite matched the heights of that original Hell March song — and was composed by RFrank Klepacki, who has since worked with Petroglyph Games on the soundtrack for Grey Goo.
What are your memories of Red Alert 2 like? Have you loaded it up recently by any chance — and were you more a fan of the multiplayer or the single-player campaigns?