Command And Conquer Red Alert Retaliation: The Best In The Series



The year is 2003. Summertime. Here in Texas, Summer is no laughing matter. It gets hot. This Summer in particular was scorching. Too damn hot to be outside that’s for sure. I've exhausted every game I owned up until that point. 

An unholy force placed my new addiction in the corner of my eye. At the time I didn't know much about the series Red Alert or anything about real time strategy games for that matter. Not sure how I even obtained the game looking back. But, something otherworldly had it out for me in the form of a PS1 disc.

My PS2 was getting some heavy use and needed a break. I rummaged through all my stuff looking for the silver ancient PS1. Took some time but there it was. Dusty, old, and longing for someone to turn it on. 

After an eternity passed for the game to load, I witnessed the opening video. That's right, witnessed.

The opening video is fucking amazing. Especially to twelve-year-old me. Some badass industrial music kicks in, then tanks come out, there's FMV mixed in with CGI destruction, more tanks shooting electricity. Shit has gone bonkers. 

Everything needed to look like badass shooter/action game. Fucking electric tanks. There were actual actors involved. I had not seen anything like that since Resident Evil 1. I was pumped.
Cheers comrade

Started a campaign as fast I could. The FMV came on with a woman being zipped up in a body bag while the voiceover carried on about saron gas. Some heavy shit was going down.

Before I continue, let me talk a little about real time strategy (RTS) and some background information on Red Alert Retaliation

What is RTS?

Basically, what a turn based game would be without taking turns. Instead, you control your character's actions in real time simultaneous as your opponent. That's where the strategy comes in. Most RTS involve resource management, base building and defending, while attacking your opponent at the same time. 

Starcraft, Age of Empires, and Warcraft are examples of popular RTS games. The beginning of the game is for building, while the end game is where most of the action takes place. RTS games have a learning curve when it comes to resource management along with the strategy of reinforcements placement. The decision on when to build/defend versus going on the attack is situational. I am more of the turtle player that builds a large defense before attacking. That's the strategy that I have always used.

Command and Conquer Red Alert Retaliation

Released in 1998 for the PS1, Retaliation is the compilation of both expansion packs for the original Red Alert. FMV's were added to the PS1 port that were not originally in the PC version. Suck it PC master race. 

The game is identical to the original Red Alert released on PS1. On top of the FMV's, new vehicles and one hundred and five skirmish maps were added.

Let's go deeper

Controls

RTS feel more intuitive with a mouse. For me at least. I have played both PC and PS1 version and a mouse gives me better control over my army. The PS1 come close to maneuvering around the map, but when it comes to speed, it lacks in that department. RTS is all about speed and efficiency. With enough time with a controller in your hand, the issue seems to go away. Once you go to a mouse and keyboard, you can see where I'm coming from.

Graphics

The FMV's are top notch. The acting is cheesy as expected but makes for a decent break from the dated CGI. You know you're playing a PS1 game when the CGI comes on. That's ok. In-game graphics are what you expect from an early PC game. There is much left to the imagination when it comes to the landscape. The world is flat. Even with scaled back graphics, everything on-screen is discernible. The player can identify units and structures and their purpose. To fit everything on-screen, the scale is small. Larger maps don't increase scale unfortunately. For the most part, units and structures are proportional to one another.

Audio

Other than that badass intro music, I suggest playing this one with music of your own on. For warfare, there's not much to hear. The sound of electricity striking something is the sound worth hearing. Rockets taking off don't strike fear into anyone in this world.

Gameplay

Set-up your base, have a refinery going with ore trucks mining, build your base up. Next, defend your base. Then attack. Most of my gaming was on skirmishes. The game offers two sides to play as, the Allies and the Soviet Union.

Each side has their advantage and disadvantage along with weapons unique to each faction. Personally, I find the Soviets to be the stronger force. For what they lack in naval warfare, they make up everywhere else, especially defense. 

Madness
Infantry, tanks, light armor vehicles, aircrafts, and naval vessels are all available to be built. Bases are defended by turrets, flamethrowers, and tesla coils. There is even a tesla tank. A fucking death ray tank. You can train attack dogs. Those bastards love tearing through infantry. The variety is there through land, sea, air.

The missions are where the difficulty of the game come in. Each mission has a certain requirement for beating it. You can destroy all enemies or get to one side of a base alive are some examples. I never could beat the missions, so I can't say much for them.

If the game did not have skirmishes I probably would have never played much of this game. Each skirmish can be fine-tuned as in how many credits to start with and how many opponents. If you have an afternoon to kill, try three opponents on a huge map. 

Final thoughts

During that Summer I had skirmishes last from fifteen minutes to eight hours. Time flew by. No modern fortress defense game can compare to this franchise let alone this single title. I may be bias, but this one is the best out the series. I played them all. Retaliation has enough content to not overwhelm the player unlike more recent releases.

The pacing can vary wildly at any given moment. An unsuccessful attack can give you the second wind needed to make a comeback. Trust me, when you're under attack you feel it. That rush can become addicting. I leave a defensive squad behind when I go for an attack. There are times when you must call back your attack because your opponent snuck around the other side of the map for their own. 

Moments like that make the game what it is. Any RTS can give that, or at least the ones I have played. Retaliation does it better. What makes this game special, is because I played it at the right time. That coming of age time. I was starting middle school the following year, you know the most important time, or at least it feels that way. 

It was the last Summer before everything mattered, your clothes, friends, taste in music. It was the last Summer where spending a ton of time on a game was fine. You could just do that at that age. Looking back, I miss that carefree attitude. 

I'd be lying if I said that was the only game that Summer. But you'll just have to wait till next time for the next game I got lost into.

Enjoy your drinks and game on.


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