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20 Years of Red Alert

By Plokite_Wolf - 31st October 2016 - 11:32 AM

Comrades! In the month of November, 2016, Command & Conquer: Red Alert marks its 20th anniversary!



By the end of November, 1996, Command & Conquer: Red Alert was released for MS-DOS and Windows, both versions being on the same discs. The PlayStation version followed shortly thereafter. Once again developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive, Red Alert was originally to be set in World War II when its development officially started on 12 December 1995. This idea was considerably twisted as time went on.

The game's story was set in an alternate timeline, in the 1950s, after Albert Einstein travelled back in time to kill Hitler and undo the damage he had done in World War II. However, this caused the undisturbed progression of the USSR towards the rest of Europe. Western Europe united into a unified Allied army to stop them. The end of the (non-canon) Soviet campaign hinted at the events of the original Command & Conquer, as Red Alert was later intended by Westwood developers to be its prequel. However, with EA's acquisition of Westwood and another former Virgin-owned studio later renamed Westwood Pacific, and with the directive to create Red Alert 2 in 2000, this idea was scrapped, but also revisited in cancelled projects like Renegade 2 and C&C 3: Tiberian Incursion. Instead, the Red Alert universe is considered separate from the Tiberium universe.

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Technologies in Red Alert varied from conventional tanks, ships and aircraft, to the iconic oversized Tesla coils with mounted Van de Graaff generators and the vehicle-teleporting Chronosphere. Seen as a light-hearted sibling to the Tiberium universe, Red Alert featured cheesy voiceovers and cutscene acting, creative unit designs and more multiplayer-oriented features. Unlike the original Command & Conquer, Red Alert had proper skirmishes against the AI, as well as many entertaining campaign missions. It was also the first time a Windows C&C game could access Westwood Online.

Two expansion packs were released for the game in 1997 - Counterstrike and The Aftermath. Counterstrike did little more than add new separately selectable missions for both sides, some more multiplayer maps (most of which were made by Intelligent Games) and new music tracks, but the then-secret Giant Ant missions became one of the series' most memorable moments. On the other hand, The Aftermath had what Counterstrike did and more - it added new units to skirmish and multiplayer (even some disabled ones, fully coded!). Both of these expansions were released for the PlayStation in a unified release called Retaliation in 1998, which was updated when compared to vanilla Red Alert for the PlayStation, and featured exclusive cutscenes for select missions, where Barry Corbin debuted as General Carville, who would reprise that role in Red Alert 2 and Yuri's Revenge.

Red Alert confirmed the status of Command & Conquer as a successful and popular RTS series, after praise from the critics and fans alike. To this day, Red Alert is still played and Hell March is still blaring in our speakers and headphones. Speaking of which, did you know that the game's soundtrack was voted as the best one in 1996 by PC Gamer and Gameslice magazines, the former beating the Quake soundtrack by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails?



Electronic Arts released Red Alert as freeware in 2008 and it has since been freely distributed and updated by fans. You can download an updated release of the game, with both expansion packs, here. You can also play the game in multiplayer via CnCNet. There's also an open-source variation with altered gameplay called OpenRA, for which we have an entire section on GameReplays. Another, more faithful open-source version, RedAlert++, is in early stages of development. There's enough Tesla coils for everyone!


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