End Evil

Command and Conquer: Red Alert

This is an excellent strategy game from Westwood Studios which gives you the chance to work for the mighty Soviets under Stalin or the Allies under Gen. von Esling. The history however takes a back seat to the combat and action side of the game. You must choose sides and then progress by completing a series of missions with the ultimate aim of defeating the enemy.

Helicopter fires a missile at a tank

The game comes on two disks (one for the allies and the other for the Soviets). After the introduction you will have a number of choices. There are three difficulty levels which can only be set at the start of a game. They really only change factors like the speed at which you or your opponents build or move and how quickly your units fire (the difficulty unfortunately does not affect the skill level of the computer opponents). You will then choose either start new game - to play through the missions, or multiplayer - which allows you to play skirmishes (free for all on map against selected opponents). There are also multiplayer options allowing you to play online, which can be a lot of fun. Human opponents are generally more challenging.

Once you have set up the game you will either be given a mission briefing (single player) or will go directly to the map (multiplayer). You simply move the mouse to the edge to scroll around and can select units by left clicking on them, to select a number of units left click and hold while dragging the mouse over the group you want. You can either move your troops around or tell them to attack something, the cursor informs you of whether you have chosen a valid place to move to or attack and whether certain targets are in range of your unit.

The controls are easy to master with a bit of practice, although there are inevitably moments when your troops seem intent on some suicidal route through the enemies base. It pays to keep a close eye on them. The sidebar tells you all the information you need to know and allows you to access the building menus. During missions you will only be able to build a limited variety of buildings and troops, the later stages have more choice. In multiplayer you are able to build nearly all the units and buildings.

To build you click on the building of your choice and production kicks off. A female sci-fi voice will inform you when the building is ready and you can place it. Find a suitable spot that looks defendable (use natural barriers as well as wall) and begin to construct your base. Tell your MCV to build on your chosen spot and the construction yard will appear (this allows you to build other buildings and should be guarded at all costs). The basic essentials are - Ore Refinery (provides you with money) which is supplied by automatic ore harvesters. The harvesters are annoying and will wonder into enemy territory if not monitored. You will also require a barracks (to build units, rocket launcher, riflemen etc), a war factory (to build tanks and armored units), a radar dome (to provide a map), power plants (for power, obviously), silos (to store ore) and a range of defences to halt enemy invaders.

The gameplay is excellent but takes some practice, the first few battles may seem chaotic but it is worth while persisting. The units all look good and have individual comments in response to your orders. There is also a staggering variety of units and buildings, I particularly liked the Tesla Coils which fry anything that comes near them.

The music is also worthy of mention, it is unique to the game and adds to the mood. It features, as the box boasts an "Award winning soundtrack with 20 original scores".

This game is an improvement on the earlier version for a number of reasons. Firstly the choice of Allies and Soviets as the two opposing forces makes the game more grounded in reality than its predecessor. The game includes larger maps, over 40 missions and dozens of multiplayer maps. You can also use the terrain editor to make your own maps but I found it monotonous to use (trying to perfect river banks is annoyingly tricky). There are also more units, and better graphics, and sound to consider.

The multiplayer option increases the replay value of this game and once completing the missions with one side you can switch over and start a completely new set of missions. Overall this is a great game which should keep you amused for hours and it is available quite cheaply now (no more than a tenner). If you like strategy games with a focus on the warfare then give this a try, there are few games in this genre that can compete with it.

Review by Simon Hill

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