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Red Alert Free

Do you see what I did there? Because ‘free’ rhymes with ‘three’ and… I’m so sorry. It was either that or an ‘In Soviet Russia, retro RTS downloads you’ gag.

Yes, the original Command & Conquer: Red Alert is now available for no-pennies, to promote the upcoming RA3 and to celebrate today marking 13 years of C&C all-told. Which seems an odd birthday to make a fuss over, but hey, keep it up. Let’s have C&C3 for free next year, eh?

I happened to replay RA recently, and though the missions suffer for their age and interface, I was surprised by how good the cutscenes are. While they’re reliably cheap as all hell, they’re less camp and trashy than anything in the Tiberium series (and indeed RA 2/3). The game shoots for serious and grim, rather than the sci-fi pratfalls that came later, and often pulls it off – Stalin especially is realised as a genuinely unsettling character, not the bellowing nutter that would have been the easy depiction. I’m pretty sure sillier was the sensible way to go in order to keep the series so long-running – and God knows we get enough other straight-laced alterna-history RTSes these days – but it’s fascinating to see how tonally different the starting point was.

Oh, extra – if you preorder RA3, you get RA2 for free too.

Thanks, Diogo.

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Alec Meer

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