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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 23:50:48     -    Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)

    I just finished up playing an 8-way RA2 battle… and I won! It’s good to know that after all these years, I still seem to have the touch.

    The level I played was an extra-large frozen wasteland called “Arctic Circle,” one of the many excellent maps included with the game. (The game also includes the ability to play custom maps, but they often aren’t as high of quality as those designed by Westwood Games.) The map is a ring of smaller arctic islands surrounding a central landmass; the 8 players all start on their own individual island region.

    I played against 7 computer opponents, each with their nationality (different countries have different special abilities / units) randomized, and each on the highest difficulty setting: “Brutal.” I chose to play as the United States, arguably the most balanced and fair nationality, and found myself matched up against some Iraqis, Russians, French, Germans, et al. Strange match-up, but the game was on.

    I immediately set up walls around my base, which I found was located in the northeast corner of the map after a minute of exploring. By now, I’ve learned that the RA2 AI is not above sneakster tactics like engineer rushes; engineers are low-level units that can be built en masse almost immediately after the start of the game, and although they lack attack or defense, they have the unique ability to “capture” buildings from opponents forever simply by walking into them. By surrounding my base with even-cheaper cement walls, I could close that program loop and focus on the AI’s other algorithms.

    After building up to an Air Force Command Center within the first few minutes of game play, I deployed my first squad of paratroopers, they being the Americans’ special units. They secured the south corner of my base, and I began to build more ore miners as I slowly built up my Tech Center. Once I could build Prism Tanks, the game should’ve been just about over, but…

    Kirov Airships! Two separate Soviet bases to the east simultaneously sent fleets of Kirov Airships, and I had nowhere near the necessary air defense, as they were all off protecting a land site for my Mobile Construction Vehicle (MCV) on the center island. Luckily they shredded my Prism Tanks and not my Construction Yard, so when my backup arrived and finished cleaning up, I snuck a peak at the Soviet bases to the east and planned my invasion.

    I waited until Paradrop reinforcements were ready, rebuilt up critical amounts of power units, and took base after base until the game was over. It was about an hour and a half long, and it was very, very fun.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 21:24:55     -    Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)

    Yesterday I pulled out my old CD-ROM sleeve and decided this GameLog would be all about another one of my favorite games: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2.

    Released in 1998, RA2 is my favorite real-time strategy (RTS) game. Prior to this game, I had very limited experience with the genre, so I learned a lot about strategy and multitasking when I first played it almost a decade ago. The wacky plot is creative but not extremely relevant, since the addictive gameplay overshadows it. In RA2’s alternate reality, Einstein invents time travel, and the Soviet Union travels back in time to turn the tide of World War II.

    Accordingly, the games units are interesting takes on real-life weaponry, albeit some more plausible than others. The Allies’ Grizzly Tanks are essentially Abrams M1 Battle Tanks, and Prism Tanks lug around powerful long-range focused light beams, useful in sieges against enemy bases. However, the Allies also employ to great effect Rocketeers – literally flying infantrymen with Southern accents.

    On the Soviet side, Conscripts march with AK-47s in hand alongside “Tesla Troopers,” strange B-movie monsters wielding deadly Tesla Coils. All the units share some degree of quasi-Cold War charm, and the standard RTS “structure tree” (the order in which structures can be built) consists of futuristic, sleek buildings for the Allies and grungy, smoggy European factories for the Soviets.

    Graphically, the game does not disappoint. The menu system emulates old analog radar consoles, from flashing red lights to security panels. Game entities are colorful and detailed, regardless of whether they’re driving, idling, shooting, taking cover, or defending. Many game entities feature multiple “joints,” places where separate parts of the model can hinge and rotate around each other.

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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 21:41:43     -    Goldeneye 007 (N64)

    The conclusion of the previously-mentioned Goldeneye mini-tournament: Alex 5, me 3. He kept getting me with the damn Golden Gun, which is an instant-kill weapon. We liked playing with the GG because we felt it was the closest to real life and thus we were getting some sort of tactical exercise out of the game as opposed to just throwing textured polygons at eachother and seeing what the outcome was.

    I didn't feel a connection to my character in the game. This was unlike Gears of War, my current favorite "shmup," in which the characters are all different looking, have different mannerisms and quips, and generally embody different player types, whereas the silent protagonists in 007 simply meander around the levels with their clunky control.

    Speaking of control. I can't remember how 007 used to be top-of-the-line shmup material... it's so awkward to move around the equally-awkward and aimless levels that I could only get kills in when I lured Alex into a room then carefully aimed and timed my shots.

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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 18:48:36     -    Goldeneye 007 (N64)

    My roommate / classmate Alex and I got our grubby hands on a copy of Goldeneye 007 for the N64. Memories of playing this game in 5th grade came flooding back to me.

    Being used to the fantastic Gears of War's graphics, gameplay, and overall feel, I was a bit shocked at how difficult and choppy 007 was. The graphics were very blatantly polygons with textures mapped onto them, and the levels were... just giant groups of poorly-textured polygons. Unlike Gears, where the levels vividly depict ruined cityscapes and abandoned urban wastelands, 007's levels were all large, generic blocks with minimal detail. I feel as if the designers of 007 didn't push the N64 hardware as hard as they could, which is disappointing given the huge range of weapons available to the player.

    However, not being a picky fellow when it comes to multiplayer entertainment (if Pong can still be as fun as it was when demo'd in class, why can't 007?), Alex and I had fun regardless.

    We played multiplayer and tried out numerous different weapons setups per level. Gears lacks the wide range of interesting weapons in 007; if Gears had proximity mines -- mines that the player hides against walls which automatically explode on enemies -- the online XBox Live Gears dynamic would be totally different. Sneaky little tools, they are.

    We're about to play a best-of-5 games mini-tournament, so my next log will go into some more details of gameplay dynamics.

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    Chris Hopkins has been with GameLog for 12 years, 4 months, and 13 days
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    Entries written to date: 6
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    1Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)Playing
    2Gears of War (360)Playing
    3Goldeneye 007 (N64)Playing
    4Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)Playing

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