Why Red Alert Sucks

Release v1.1
January 10, 1997

Copyright 1997 Clay Guthery. All Rights Reserved


Introduction:

My friends and I have had some time to play Red Alert over our LAN, and now wonder why we put our innocent network through such trauma. We were SO disappointed that we felt the need to write this FAQ to explain all of the things that suck about Red Alert. Included are descriptions of why many units, structures, and whole entire concepts suck.

I make references to the original Command and Conquer, and Warcraft 2. The reason I do this is obviously because these three games are all very similar in concept and play. These games were all good games in their time, I don't favor any over the other. There are good things about Red Alert, there's definitely some improvement over the original Command and Conquer, but overall the game improvements were very limited. If you play Red Alert, you know the benefits, you know the downfalls, this FAQ concentrates on all the frustrations we have had playing and maybe you can relate to them.

If you find any spelling, grammar, or technical mistakes please feel free to write to me and explain them to me. I want this FAQ to be as correct as possible. Any updates in this FAQ will officially come from my web page and will follow the version format v1.0, v1.1, vl.2, etc.

Version 1.2 will feature at the very least a new updated section 1.10 of "Things not to do in Red Alert". There is only one listing of "Things not to do" in this version of the FAQ. Please email me about things you have tried in Red Alert that you will never do again and if I like them I will add them to the new FAQ.

Copyright Information:

Command and Conquer, and Command and Conquer: Red Alert is a trademark of Westwood Studio's, Inc., and is so acknowledged. Warcraft 2 is a trademark of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., and is so acknowledged as well.

This article is Copyright 1997 by Clay Guthery. All rights reserved.
You are granted the following rights:

To make copies of this work in original form, so long as
(a) the copies are exact and complete;
(b) the copies include the copyright notice and these paragraphs in their
entirety;
(c) the copies give obvious credit to the author, Clay Guthery
(d) the copies are in electronic form.

Credits:

I would just like to say thanks to all the people who have helped me with my miserable grammar and spelling problems. This list also contains people who contributed new ideas, or corrected a few of my ideas! Also, thanks to everyone else who sent me email about my FAQ.

  • Jonathan Bult
  • Tom in the U.K.


Contents:

    1. Conceptual Problems

      1.1 Bar Damage
      1.2 Artificial Intelligence?
      1.3 Saving, or Can You?
      1.4 Allies vs. Soviets, an even match?
      1.5 SAM's vs. Helicopters and Planes.
      1.6 Running over units.
      1.7 Nuclear Missiles.
      1.8 Skirmish Mode.
      1.9 The Shroud.
      1.10 Things Not to do.
      1.11 Why did it take Westwood so long to make RA?
      1.12 Formations, do they work?

    2.Units

      2.1 Personnel Units

        2.1.1 Infantry
        2.1.2 Grenadiers
        2.1.3 Rocket Infantry
        2.1.4 Para-troopers
        2.1.5 Flamer Infantry
        2.1.6 Tanya
        2.1.7 Medics
        2.1.8 Engineer
        2.1.9 Spy
        2.1.10 Thief
        2.1.11 Guard Dogs

      2.2 Vehicular Units

        2.2.1 Tanks
        2.2.2 Artillery
        2.2.3 Mobile Gap Generator
        2.2.4 Spy Planes
        2.2.5 V-2 Rocket Launcher
        2.2.6 Mobile Radar Jammer
        2.2.7 Para-bombs
        2.2.8 MCV's
        2.2.9 Chinook
        2.2.10 APC's
        2.2.11 AT & AP Mine Layers

      2.3 Structures

        2.3.1 Advanced Power Plants
        2.3.2 SAM Sites
        2.3.3 Airfields
        2.3.4 Tesla Coil
        2.3.5 Camouflaged Pillbox
        2.3.6 Chronosphere
        2.3.7 Iron Curtain
        2.3.8 AA Gun

1. CONCEPTUAL PROBLEMS

1.1 Bar Damage

Description: That "damage" bar above each unit and/or building.

This is the number one problem that I have had with Red Alert, and that's why I put it first. Here are a few reasons why I find this concept so unrealistic:

  • Tanks of all types get taken out by an infantry unit with a rifle.
  • Tanks take about 20 direct 120mm shells before they are destroyed.
  • I've never seen a building blow up from a bunch of infantry firing at it with rifles. In fact, it's pretty hard to completely blow a building up AT ALL.

This is just not realistic way to portray damage and destruction on the battlefield. Westwood should have taken a good look at the real-time combat game, Close Combat, by Microsoft to see a more realistic way to handle troop and tank combat. In this game, when a tank takes a hit it is either destroyed or demobilized immediately. This is what some people, including me, call realism. When units are damaged in Red Alert, they just slow down, which in a way is realistic, but units still take a pounding before they
are destroyed.

1.2 Artificial Intelligence?

Description: The one thing Red Alert does NOT have.

I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone when I say that, but the AI in Red Alert bites. I thought there was supposed to be an improvement in the AI when it's compared to C&C. It's amazing trying to get a whole lot of guys across a bridge at the same time. Instead of lining up and going across the bridge, they do everything else like: stop, turn, and go WAY around, usually the way you don't want them to do. The move algorithms in this game are non-existent, you think the computer would know if it waited 1 second it could get through to where it needs to go. But no, it just takes off on a new, longer way to get there. The reason is that the algorithms are not automatically updated, they follow the same path at the time you clicked them. If you want to update their path, YOU have to do it by constantly clicking.

Also, the Ore Truck drivers are all on crack, they don't seem to do anything right. They'll drive into the enemy base, they take the slow way to places, and they never seem to harvest where you want them to. This was a problem in Command and Conquer too. I thought they said they were going to fix it?

The AI on other units is pretty much the same. Units will take the long way to places or won't attack where you want them to. A MAJOR problem is units don't attack other units when they are nearby. My units will get attacked and half of them just sit there and watch. No one engages the enemy unless they are DIRECTLY hit by fire. I've seen tanks sit there as the tank next to it got pounded on. It's hilarious how bad it is.

1.3 Saving, or Can You?

Description: Straightforward, saving games in multiplayer/skirmish/single.

The good news is you can save in single player campaign mode. The bad news you might ask?? You CANNOT save in multiplayer mode, or in skirmish mode.. Can you believe it? Warcraft 2 could handle a task as easy as this. Westwood promised us this one, boy did we get shafted. What do we do when the modem gets disconnected, or the LAN fries itself and we need to save it so we don't have to start all over?? Nothing, thanks a lot.

1.4 Allies vs. Soviets, an even match?

The Allies have medium tanks as their best tanks. The "medium" Soviet tank (actually the heavy tank) is better than the Allied medium tank. This in itself is ground for carnage. And to make matters worse, the best tank killer on the game, the Tesla Coil should be Allied to help them with their tank weakness. But no, it's Soviet also. The Americans get turrets, but put a turret up against a Tesla Coil, which would you rather have? Red Alert is all about power and numbers, and when the Soviets have all this power there is no way you can win. Air power is unbalanced too, all the Allies have is Orca's, hmm.. I mean Apaches, is there a difference? While the Soviets have Migs and Yaks, a bomber, and a Hind. So, we should give SAM's to the American's to help them out right? No, they go to the Soviets as well. The Allies do get the anti-aircraft gun though. It is pretty strong, but it's range is pathetic. Water power is balanced towards the Allies, 1 out of 3 isn't bad right? But how important is water? Submarines kick ass anyway, get a good wolf pack together and you could easily own the seas. To have a good Allied Navy you have to build lots of everything. You need water and air defense which means lots of destroyers and PT boats. But while you build all this crap, 20 mammoths drive through the front door. Oh boy!

1.5 SAM's vs. Helicopters and Planes.

How many planes can survive a missile hit, how about two or three missile hits? They can in Red Alert. But this isn't the worst of it, helicopters can too. It takes 3 SAM's to take out a helicopter, what kind of armor do these things have? Maybe the U.S. should invest in these bad boys. How about the AA gun? No helicopter can take shells like that, at least not like they do in RA. One shot from a SAM should do a helicopter, and I'm tended to say kill planes too, especially the yak. We would also have to prevent people from laying down a whole lot of SAM's, so with increased power going to the SAM's, there should be a price for it as well.

1.6 Running over Units.

The troops in Red Alert are idiots, what kind of fools get run over by tanks? I wonder how often this happens in real combat? Sure they dodge the tanks a little bit, but if you try hard enough you can run over just about anyone. I wonder if tank commanders are taught this tactic in training school, if you can't shoot them with all the guns you have on the tank, run 'em over!

1.7 Nuclear Missiles.

Nukes take out entire continents, they cause mass destruction on a global scale. Are Red Alerts nukes mini-nukes or something?? Come on, they could at least name them something else besides nukes. I prefer "big bomb", because that's all it is. I don't see any nuclear fall-out or radiation after it is dropped either. These are everything but nukes.

1.8 Skirmish Mode.

Skirmish mode is when you can play up to 7 computer players at the same time for your Red Alert Practice. If you would like to get a good understanding of what the AI is like in Red Alert, I suggest you play Skirmish mode. It's pathetic, the computer AI players are worse than they are in Warcraft 2. For the first ten minutes of the game it just throws everything at you, if you can survive the initial on-slaught, then the rest of the skirmish is a breeze. The computer builds TERRIBLE bases, it builds in a giant circle and crams all of its units and buildings together. It doesn't take long for all of its units to get stuck, and eventually its harvesters are either stuck inside the base, or they can't get into the ore refineries.

Also, the computer has never built fighters or water units whenever I have played it. I played a map with one other computer player, it was two islands separated by a large mass of water. The computer never even attempted a water assault, and it's air assault was limited to helicopters. I am very unimpressed with this game's AI. I was really hoping that skirmish mode would be a good way to play Red Alert, but it turned out to be a waste of our time.

1.9 The Shroud.

The Shroud in Red Alert is Westwood's poor attempt at a spin-off of the fog of war. I've never understood when you drive a unit all the way down the map, and then he dies, you can still see all the terrain and units of where it drove through and where it ended up. The Shroud doesn't go back over, it just stays there, and you can "magically" see everywhere that you have driven, even if you don't have a unit in the area. This isn't right in my book, I know lots of people don't like fog of war, but I just figure those people are too simple minded for it. It's realistic, it's very realistic, you shouldn't be able to see what's going on unless you have something there to see it with. Warcraft 2 did this very well, it allowed you to do a lot of things without the other player seeing it. Sure, they have Gap Generators, but this is a low rent, half-ass way to get the job done.

1.10 Things Not to Do.

  • Never try to use the iron curtain on a helicopter on the landing pad, you'll end up making the helipad and not the helicopter invincible.
  • This portion of the FAQ will be updated with suggestions from YOU in version 1.2. I want to hear from all of you about things you tried in Red Alert that you will never do again! Feel free to email them to me. cguthery@ou.edu.

1.11 Why did it take Westwood so long to make RA?

I'm not an insider at Westwood, I don't know the real answer, but I can give you my guess. Westwood makes incredible cut scenes, they are probably the best in the industry. There is a much higher of use of movies and actors in Red Alert compared to C&C. The sequences and in-between the missions are much longer than they were in C&C. What price did we pay for all these cut-scenes, etc? It seems that Westwood spent all of itís time developing movies and good action sequences that they forgot to fix the problems with C&C. The artificial intelligence is obviously not any better, units still do what they did in Tiberium Dawn. Maybe Westwood should have concentrated on the AI, and the problems they had in the original C&C instead of making good movies. I would much rather have a more playable game than Stalin laying in bed with one of his commanderettes. (They could have at least shown a little ass.)

1.12 Formations, do they work?

The easy answer to this question is NO. Not only can tanks not keep formations over rough and changing terrain, they can barely do it on flat open ground. It seems that there is no use for formations at all because tanks can not ever stay in them. Sure they stay in formation for a few spaces, but once you get them moving theyíll never get back to the original formation.


2. UNITS

2.1 Personnel Units:

2.1.1 Infantry: These little boogers can take out any unit on the map with their little machine guns. They can blow up nuclear missile silo's, entire buildings, light thru mammoth tanks, other troops, etc. all with a single machine gun with unlimited amount of ammo.

2.1.2 Grenadier: Grenadiers carry an entire truck full of grenades in their pockets and can blow everything up too, I guess they're a little more realistic because grenades do a little more damage.

2.1.3 Rocket Infantry: These guys are studs, they carry all kind of rockets and launchers. They can take out ground units as well as air units with the same missile launcher. How stupid can you get?

2.1.4 Para-Troopers: This is damn un-usefull. Actually, it's just not as useful as it should be. You get 5 little guys every ten minutes, they get dropped in, although half the time the bomber that drops them in gets shot down. There should be a lot more troopers, and the bomber shouldn't fly such terrible flight paths.

2.1.5 Flamer: Flamers are pretty cool, they can kill enemies and your own guys, and sometimes explode. They seem to work out pretty well in the game, I wish they could set things on fire though. You should be able to set buildings or units on fire and let them burn for a while.

2.1.6 Tanya: Hmmm.. this chick is a good shot. An infantry unit with am M1 Carbine can't kill units like a woman with a .45?!?!?

2.1.7 Medics: These guys come from other role-playing games, you see, they possess this magic that allows them to magically heal troops on the field. They can restore troops who are mortally wounded to full working order. They'll even restore your enemy's troops. Medical technology today is amazing! The funny thing is, they can't heal themselves!

2.1.8 Engineers: I'm glad that one little guy can't take over a fully functional building anymore, but damn, I don't see how a power facility in the middle of an enemy base can power your base after you take it over?

2.1.9 Spy: Cool concept, kinda. What's the use though, spy's really don't play much of a role in this game it seems. The most exciting thing you get is the sonar ping, but it lasts just a few seconds and you only get it every once in a while.

2.1.10 Thief: This guy can go into a full silo and steal half the credits from it, too bad there's ore in the silo and not cold hard cash. I don't see much realism in a guy carrying half a silo of ore on his back.. This is gay.

2.1.11 Guard Dog: Woof, woof. These guys were bored when they put this in. The dog guard kicks ass pretty quick, they can swallow any human unit in a matter of seconds. Sit boy, good dog!

2.2 Vehicular Units:

2.2.1 Tanks: A tank should be able to slaughter a single infantry man with one shot, not only do most tanks have a large cannon they usually have 2 machine guns. But no, it takes years to take out troops with a tank. Plus, troops can take out tanks, especially when there are a lot of them. What a joke! Tanks take shots all day long. I should count how many shots it takes to take out a mammoth tank, I know it is WAY too many.

2.2.2 Artillery: This is bad, very very very bad. Artillery can fire for miles; a 155mm shell can go a long way. But that's real life, we are talking about Red Alert here. Artillery should be lobbed across the screen just like the Cruiser lobs shells off of its deck. Artillery is a joke. What a waste Westwood!

2.2.3 Mobile Gap Generators: This unit is like the big Gap Generator except it's slapped onto the back of a truck. It's a little bit weaker than the real deal, okay, so it's a lot weaker. It makes a tiny black space that can hide about two units. Could we please make the gap larger??

2.2.4 Spy Planes: These guys can see a certain area of land, then you have to launch them again, and again, and again to see the whole map. What a pain in the butt. Can't they see everything they fly over? Nope, they sure can't!

2.2.5 V-2 Rockets: If anyone knows anything about V-2 rockets they know that the Germans shot them at the British all the way across the English channel. The V-2's in this game can barely make it across a little bitty river. Plus they are supposed to be as accurate as Scud's, oh well, who needs realism anyway, this is an alternate time line!

2.2.6 Mobile Radar Jammer: This is a pretty cool piece of high tech equipment, it jams the enemies radar when you get it in range. Unfortunately, to be in range you have to be inside their base. This would be a good unit to have if it had better jamming range, but it just goes on the list of things NOT to build.

2.2.7 Para-bombs: These are dropped from badger bombers, I think you get five of them. These are all right, you can drop them on top of enemy bases. BUT, the bad news is, you don't get them in multiplayer, or in skirmish mode. Sorry! (You can get them in crates though.) I have discovered another problem with para-bombs. They are very inaccurate, where you click to drop the para-bombs is where the LAST bomb falls. To make matters even worse, you donít know which way the bomber is going to come in from so you canít "lead" your bombs into the target.

2.2.8 MCV's: Mobile Construction Vehicle, it allows you to build bases abroad. I originally thought that you couldn't load MCV's into transports, I was wrong, they can be, just make sure the transport is up against a landable shoreline.

2.2.9 Chinook's: Good transport chopper. It holds five guys, but only the Russians get them this time around. This sucks in multiplayer.

2.2.10 APC's: Basically the ground version of the Chinook, it holds five units and only the Allies can have them. Would you rather have an APC, or a Chinook? I know, let's give each side both!

2.2.11 AT & AP Mine Layer: These units put down mines on the field that your enemies can't see. We seem to run into the problem that our own tanks end up blowing the mines up when they shoot at the enemy coming across the mine field. Mines shouldn't be so easily destroyed, or destroyed at all by friendly fire.

2.3 Structures

2.3.1 Advanced Power Plants: Power plants in Red Alert don't produce enough power, I spend half of my time building power plants to power all the buildings I have. C&C had this same problem, power plants had the limitation of only producing 255 units of power. It would be nice if this little limitation would have been lifted in Red Alert.

2.3.2 SAM Sites: It takes 3 SAM's to take down air units. You need a whole load of SAM sites to protect your base, which really shouldn't be the case.

2.3.3 Airfield: Ever notice what an airplane looked like on a airfield? The airplane takes up 1/3 of the field. But, besides this minor cosmetic problem, why is it that only one little plane can land on an airfield? I thought that airfields held squadrons of airplanes, not one minor plane per airfield.

2.3.4 Tesla Coil: This is the tank killer, this is the killer of all killers. Only the "tank powerful" Soviets get this building, it's the equivalent of Obelisk of light. This is an over-powerful building that causes mass devastation, it can easily destroy any unit in the game besides air units. There is no equivalent building on the Allies side, nothing comes even close on a defensive value.

2.3.5 Camouflaged Pillboxes: These things are infantry slayers, they are ALMOST impossible to see, especially when they are in cluttered areas. There is one very big problem with these though; they show up on enemy radar. You can have a hidden pillbox, and then have it given away by it showing up as a big bright spot on radar. What kind of radar can see a dug-in pillbox anyway?

2.3.6 Chronosphere: The Chronosphere has the ability to beam one of your units anywhere on the map. It has to be a vehicle though, and it can't beam things with passengers. (It can, but it kills them). The major problem with the Chronosphere is; you can only beam one thing at a time, and then you have to wait another 15 minutes. There is no unit that you can beam into an enemy base that can cause any kind of worth while damage. You can't beam in an APC full of Tanya's, or engineers, so what's the point? Knowing that you canít Chronosphere an APC with units in it, what if you Chronosphere a Cruiser or helicopter, whoís there to operate it?

2.3.7 Iron Curtain: This turns one of your units invincible, this is the Soviets counter to the Chronosphere. Both of these buildings are pretty weak, but the Iron Curtain renders one of your units invincible for just under a minute. It's good for recon, but doesn't last long enough to be effective in battle.

2.3.8 AA Gun: AA guns are strong, they can knock down flying vehicles much easier than SAM's... If they are in range. The range on AA guns is pathetic. AA guns shoot 1,000's of feet into the air in real life. In Red Alert, they shoot about two cells, which is 5 cells shorter than SAM's.


Created 1/07/97 / Last Modified 1/10/97
Clay Guthery / Oklahoma City, OK / cguthery@ou.edu
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