Guy playing Command & Conquer: Red Alert 23 years ago: I feel your pain

(Image credit: EA)

This morning I thought I'd treat myself to some Red Alert Remastered before work. I'm playing through the Soviet campaign and loving every moment of it. Well, almost. The fourth Soviet mission is called Behind the Lines, and it's pretty basic. Destroy a radar dome, then wipe out all of the enemy's structures and units.

But after building a dozen tanks and steamrolling the Allied forces, nothing happened. The 'mission complete' message never flashed up on the screen, even though I'd fulfilled all my objectives. I thought maybe I'd missed a few enemies, but after moving my army around the map to uncover all the fog of war, I didn't find anything. It was totally empty, except for my units.

(Image credit: EA)
Where to next?

Grand Theft Auto 5

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Then I started getting desperate, destroying all the sandbags placed around the remains of the enemy base. Surely they wouldn't count as 'enemy structures'? They didn't, of course, and so I turned to Google, wondering if I'd encountered a bug of some kind. Which is when I saw a post from a guy called Stephen Smith, who was having precisely the same problem as me—23 years ago.

"I'm on a Soviet mission where my objective is to cut off communications," he wrote on a gaming newsgroup on December 17, 1996, a month after the game was released on PC. "Well, I did that by finally blowing up the radar dome. Once I did that, I was instructed to destroy every enemy unit. Been there, done that!"

He goes on to describe blowing up every building (including a church), moving the cursor over the entire map hoping to reveal a hidden enemy, and, yes, even blowing up the sandbags. All things I'd been doing myself to try and finish this damn mission. Here's a guy, a quarter of a century ago, having exactly the same experience as me. Man, this really IS a faithful remaster.

(Image credit: EA)

I've encountered a few other bugs, usually to do with scripting. In the next mission, Distant Thunder, there's a chance the enemy's MCV will get stuck attempting to board a transport and move to the central island. This bug, which makes a tough mission a lot easier, was in the original game too, so maybe leaving it in (and others) is actually an act of preservation?

If you sanded over all the rough patches, I think Red Alert would lose some of its identity. What I appreciate about this remaster is that, despite the fancy new graphics and improved UI, it's still the game I know and love. And if that means leaving a few unfortunate bugs in, so be it.

I eventually restarted the mission and finished it. I don't know if Stephen Smith ever did back in '96, but I hope he did. And if not, well, I did it for both of us. There's something weirdly beautiful about two people, separated by decades, driving tanks around the map, blowing up sandbags, hoping it will end the mission. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.