Command and Conquer: Red Alert (original)
reviewed by RC666
The plot of the game is that in 1946, Albert Einstein sends himself back in time to kill Hitler in 1920. World War II never happens. This alone shows a poor analysis of the conditions at the time since the growth of fascism in Germany (and in the world) did not rest upon a single man, Adolph Hitler.
As a result, Stalin decides to overrun Europe and the entire world at an unspecified point in the future. [Probably late 1940s-early 1950s]. The game's opening cutscene shows a dagger stabbing into Europe and spreading red all over the map, in a manner reminiscent of the Roman SPQR fasces. The makers of the game themselves state that Einstein's removal of Hitler has paved the way for something far worse -- Stalin's communism. In this way the game mirrors the claims put forward in The Black Book of Communism.
The game's portrayal of Josef Stalin is a laughable caricature. He's a paranoid, anger-prone, spoiled dictator who has underlings killed at a whim and sleeps with his female intelligence officer.
"It came to Stalin in a series of dreams," claims the manual. "The birthright of the Soviet Empire is nothing less than conquering and dominating the entire globe. And the birthright of Josef Stalin is nothing less than conquering the spirit and dominating the actions of every Soviet citizen."
Soviet politics are portrayed completely as backroom backstabbing. Soviet missions entail killing civilians. In fact, the player is introduced to Stalin while he is discussing the success of gas warfare tests on civilians (including children) with a subordinate. Stalin's discussion mirrors Mengele's tests, with talk about the children only taking 15 seconds to die. The plot only goes predictably downhill from there, and does not merit repetition. The cutscenes, however, are made even worse by the unbearable B-movie acting.
Women in the game are treated as sex objects. Stalin's intelligence officer is mainly there for her sex appeal. The Allied commando, Tanya, mixes sex and violence for the game's teenage intended-audience.
The combat/battle system around which the game is based is limited and basic by today's standards. On one hand, it is nice to see a game entail the production side of warfare. Games such as as the "Dune" series popularized the idea of mining resources and fighting a battle of production simutaenously as you commit tactical maneuvers. But the gameplay in Red Alert has been "balanced" in such a way as to present caricatures of Soviet and Allied battle tactics. The Allies have standing naval power in the form of cruisers, destroyers, gunboats, and cruisers while the Soviets only have subs to sneak around with. The Soviets have big inaccurate SCUD missiles while the Allies have more accurate mobile artillery. The Soviets have grenadiers that explode upon being hit while even Allied rocket soldiers lack that vulnerablity. The Soviets have attack/patrol dogs while the Allies don't. The Soviets have giant flame turrets and big tesla coils that resemble an agressive bug-zapper whereas the Allies have more conventional machine gun and artillery turrets. The Soviets have anti-personnel mines while the Allies have anti-tank mines. And so on. Soviets can't even train medics to heal their troops. It's really a "rock, paper, and scissors" combat system. You can build a huge air force but tanks might overrun your airfields. You can build specialized commandoes only to be cut down by defenses. You can try to launch ground and air strikes from an isolated base only to be surprised by long-range cruiser fire. Combined-arms tactics are possible, but limited. The real time movements and outdated interface ironically make command and control awkward and sluggish, assuming that player is attempting a real-life strategy besides attrition or "rushing." "Red Alert" is no "Hearts of Iron," "Steel Panthers," or "Combat Mission."
Red Alert is 100% pure grade ruling class propraganda and serves as an excellent example as such. The ruling class perspective is the only education this game will provide. Sadly, for many Western teens, games such as Red Alert will be among their only education about the USSR and communism. "Command and Conquer: Red Alert" revels in violence. In effect, it is fascist-sympathizing, as it assumes that the removal of Hitler (and fascism) would be a negative thing. This attitude is similar to the sick people on the internet who populate a variety of forums and ask "Why didn't the Western Allies and Nazis team up to defeat communism?" as if it would have been the most desirable result.
There is a sequel to this game as it is really just a part [though the Red Alert series is the most popular segment) of the entire Command and Conquer series. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 is at least as stupid, however, with Soviet airship bombers and other insane weaponry not to mention the political situation, which is as unrealistic as in the first installment. Both games are without merit unless the player enjoys disturbingly pro-fascist (the Allied "good guy" side is even called a "modified military junta") anti-communist video games involving a strategy of swamping the enemy with faceless conscripts or winning by exploiting game technicalities.