This post is written by Jake Parr.
The award winning Command and Conquer: Red Alert was a brilliant game, offering a variety of units and buildings to aid the Allies and the Soviet Empire to battle one another during WWII in an alternate timeline, where Hitler was removed from history by Einstein. It offered flame turrets, electricity blasting coils, time travelling machinery, radar jammers, and much more, and they were all a joy to use for the purpose of global liberation…or domination. In 1997, the first expansion pack, entitled Counterstrike, was released for this PC classic.
There is no overall grand story to Counterstrike. Instead, there are eight new missions each for the Allies and Soviets, all of which will offer a detailed and helpful explanation to what needs to be done. Under the ‘New Missions’ box, players can pick whichever level they want to jump into, regardless of progress in the main campaign. It offers plenty of replayability this way, meaning it’s certainly recommended for those who want to jump into an easy or tough mission without having to carelessly blast their way through the campaign just to reach a certain level they want to conquer.
For those who love to drop the hammer and siccle upon anything democratic, the Soviets’ missions offer a selection of great challenges that vary in difficulty. Some can be completed with minimal fuss, whilst others will require more than a few tries. Missions include: using the supercommando Volkov and his cybercanine Chitzkoi to demolish a heavily defended laboratory; repelling Allied forces whilst a saboteur blows up vital buildings with timed bombs, and assassinating an Allied general in a mazelike bunker.
Fans of the Allies will be disappointed, however. The missions are labelled with chapter names, with three missions dedicated to stopping Sarin nerve gas transport and development, two focusing on the liberation of Greece, and three for taking the fight to Siberia above and below ground level. About three missions revolve around chasing and destroying trucks, whilst the commando level in Greece is brutally difficult. In fact, there’s not nearly as much variety in difficulty, they’re all challenging and vary in quality, with the aforementioned levels being quite samey and none too enjoyable.
The only new enemies available are restricted to these campaigns only, most of which look the same as previous units. For instance, the Advanced Submarines are just nuke launching subs, whilst the prototype Tesla Tanks are merely Radar Jammers with a powerful electrical attack.
Some of them are deliberately overpowered anyway. It’s a shame, since the Soviets could have done with a commando unit for skirmish mode.
As for music, the marvellous composer for C&C Red Alert, Frank Klepacki, has cooked up ten great new tracks. Two of them are somewhat decent remixes of previous songs, which feel more like minor tweaks with in game audio added into them. Regardless, for those who could do with a funky tune to ready the weapons with, or anyone feeling an itch for ambient songs to explore with, Klepacki’s got it sorted.
An interesting inclusion are some secret ant missions. As weird as it sounds, just hold shift and click the speaker on the main menu to jump into four very challenging missions set in the UK, where the British forces must fend off a series of gigantic mutant ants with attacks that can chew through metal like they were sugar paper. As irritating as they can be to fight, these four missions are strongly recommended for the toughest commanders out there. Also included are a handful of maps for skirmish, but there’s nothing special worth mentioning about any of them.
On the whole, the Counterstrike expansion pack for Red Alert is a bit of a mixed bag at at times with its lack of consistency in quality, but it makes for a good addition to any commander’s database. Whilst a lack of new units are available outside specific missions and some downright challenging or samey missions are available for the good guys, the great new tunes and nice twists added to certain missions will appease anyone ready to conquer the world again.