Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hell March - Frank Klepacki (Command and Conquer: Red Alert)

Red Alert, the second real time strategy game from Westwood Studios in the series, remains a turning point in the history of games. This was the first time that I had played a top-down, fully developed RTS title that gathered a nice mixture of gameplay mechanics, science fiction, hammy voice acting and unforgetable moments of glee and pain. The game itself works well as it employs a nice scissors-paper-stone approach to stats and uses, being that more powerful units are never quite as overpowered as they should be or cost too little or too much to deploy vs their intended uses. The idea of taking down a base's power grid to disable defences is a great idea and the game also boasts some iconic units, such as the specialist Tanya, the almighty Cruiser and of course the Tesla Coil.

Upon entering the game, you are greeted with a three minute introduction, in which we learn that Einstein and the Allies in World War Two have created a machine that takes a person back in time: the Chronosphere. With it, Einstein travels back to the time when a young Adolf Hitler is released from the Landesburg prison after the first World War (during which time his book Mein Kampf was written) and his interaction with Hitler changes the course of history. Sadly this does not end the struggles of the WW2 and a new dictator rises in the East: Joseph Stalin. It is arguable that, had Hitler not appeared as a war-mongering dictator in Europe, that Stalin would actually have done something similar rather than get tied up in the war against Germany. It's little things like this that make me smile when a game developer thinks about these things.

Speaking of game developers, this was one of Westwood Studios' finest hours with this game and the main theme Hell March that follows a montage of pre-rendered scenes from war, featuring some of the units from the game, remains a classic for me in terms of anticipation for the game to come and also a nice combination of electronic bass synths and chuggy metal guitars. It's catchy and loud, hence the perfect track for Red Alert, as you will see in both videos.

Such was the success of Red Alert that it spawned a number of add-on packs and sequels (of which we are now at Command and Conquer 4 and Red Alert 3, last I checked). The introduction of isometric and now totally 3D worlds to play in do retain the basic elements of the Red Alert game, however for me the original is still better than the sequels. Sadly, Westwood became absorbed into the conglomerate hellspawn known as Electronic Arts and is now doomed to punt out endless add ons for the next batch of sequels, but they have made their mark with this game and I thank them for it