Now *this* is more like what an RTS add-on should be
As enjoyable as Covert Ops, for Command & Conquer, and Counterstrike, the first add-on for Red Alert, were, this offers more, both in amount and in how solid what is added is... I don't think it is hyperbole to say that this raised the standard for RTS add-ons. 18 new single-player missions, almost as much as an entirely new game. 100 more multi-player maps, the same amount that Counterstrike also added(I have not been able to determine how many, or if any, were added to Command & Conquer by Cover Ops). Best of all, there are 7 new units. They all both increase fairness and the strategy level of the game. They also make things even more interesting and entertaining. Among them are the Missile Sub for the Soviets, which make them much more of a threat as far as naval attacks go, by combining the destructive force of the Allied Cruiser(!) with the stealth of a regular Sub. They also get a Shock Trooper, which not only fires bolts of electricity a la the Tesla Coil, but cannot be run over, and make for by far the best anti-vehicle infantry that the franchise had to offer by this point. A Tesla Tank is also added, and much more properly done than the few half-hearted attempts there were at such in Counterstrike. The Allied don't get cheated; they get a Mechanic, who is to vehicles what the Medic is to infantry; a healing unit that can save your attack force. They also get a Chrono Tank, which can Chrono Shift when it has full power(which it starts with), and won't go back to it's original starting point after a while, like Chrono-Shifted units usually are. Firing missiles and being able to teleport right up to enemy units, this makes for an effective surprise attack unit, and can take down enemy Harvesters before the enemy'll know what hit them, and effectively take out Flame Towers from a safe distance. These units greatly improve the multi-player experience, which says quite a bit. They re-new the game-play for multi-player, and provide plenty of new tactics. Other things are changed around... both sides now have the ability to purchase Rocket Soldiers, since it's the only infantry unit that can be used as anti-aircraft defense, to give a quick example. Like the add-ons preceding this, this doesn't seem to feature any new cut-scenes, but rather re-use ones from the original Red Alert. A few of these are stretched a little, to fit in the context of the mission, but fewer, comparatively, going by how many missions there are in either, than was the case in Counterstrike. The story is fairly loose(and there really isn't any between the missions), I could not, for the life of me, determine when this was supposed to take place(and as with the other add-ons, this doesn't tell you how the war is going, and unlike Counterstrike, which had just a few, this doesn't tell you where you're fighting, both things that also take some of the excitement and sense of importance out of the battles). Several characters that seemed to have died at this point appear again. Also, while much of this utilizes what Red Alert has well, as well as make great use of the new units added, some of the limitations of the engine are glaringly obvious in their inability to meet some of the expectations and ambitions of the developers, such as when two characters have a conversation in one particular level. The level design is rather good, though once or twice it does feel like a mission was just designed to be a challenge, without providing much explanation for it(which, again, takes you out of the experience some), and while they are exciting, the difficulty(which seems to pick up where Counterstrike left off, making for some very challenging and exciting missions) remains a little uneven, and I'm not sure there really are any that are as outstanding as some of the Counterstrike ones were(although, with how many there are, and how high the quality remains throughout(Counterstrike had several entries that were fairly weak), this is a somewhat minor complaint). I would say that, however, that each level manages very well to be unique... no part of the add-on really felt like it was just revisiting something we had already seen or done. I'm not sure I'd claim that either side has a particularly satisfying finish, either(though both are fairly challenging), as the original game most certainly had... and Counterstrike at least had a reasonably good one for the Allied side. Still, this is by all means worth getting. Every mission is enjoyable, and more multi-player maps for a game that features great multi-player is never a bad thing. Tanya makes more appearances, and there is one new level that takes place inside a facility, and it's reasonably good. Volkov of Counterstrike, and his cybernetic dog Chitzkoi, re-appear a few times. One mission also gives you control of a thoroughly interesting unit that unfortunately doesn't appear at any other point(well, once, but it isn't really used). Some levels are timed to heighten the tension. Several of the missions have thoroughly interesting stories and are based on concepts that are equally interesting. You may find yourself fighting forces you had not expected to. Through skillful level creation and capable enemy AI programming, each mission is entertaining to play and requires tactical thinking and strategic action to complete. This is the more well-rounded add-on, and I would say it surpasses Counterstrike, though that was also a fine effort, in its overall quality and entertainment value. It should be noted that this, along with Counterstrike, does not seem to be within the overall story of the Red Alert series... these are more battles to fight within that universe based on the engine of the first game, but there is really no more story told. I recommend this to fans of Red Alert who want more expertly done missions for it. 8/10
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