Articles & Editorials: Camp Corner 1 – Red Alert

Greetings comrades! My name is DVD Player, and it is my pleasure to be the newest addition to CNCNZ.com’s articles team! Over the course of my time here, I hope to take a closer look into the stories and settings of the Command and Conquer series; talk about what was, what is, and what could have been. To start things off, I will be kicking off a series of articles called “Camp Corner”: a closer look into the quality and presentation of the cut-scenes and overall tone of each Command and Conquer game. First up is an all time classic: Red Alert.

Released in 1996, one year after the first Command and Conquer, Red Alert stands as one of the most memorable game series of all time. Following in the footsteps of the previous game, Red Alert used the same Full Motion Video cut scenes to present its story just as Tiberian Dawn had. However, this time around the team had an access to a bigger budget and, as a result, a bigger set that could have more than one person on screen at a time. So how did these cut scenes turn out?

Directed by the beloved Joseph Kucan (who played as Kane) and with its screenplay written by John Scott Lewinsky, Adam Isgreen, and Ron Smith; the Red Alert FMV Cut Scenes are truly a sight to behold. Almost every scene is shot in front of a green screen, with only the props that the actors directly interact with as physical, real objects. In the case of the Soviet scenes, each looks to use Westwood’s own boardroom furniture to create the briefing room. For most scenes, this makes several things look a little… off. With the backdrop made with computer graphics, and considering what computer graphics the 90’s had access to (spoiler: they weren’t very good for the time) we get something that looks like this:

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“We only make our time machines from the finest of polygons!”

Of course, there is an inherent charm to all of this. Despite the CGI backdrops and frequent insertion of real-world footage from soviet rallies or parades, everything has a fairly solid presentation. It’s also worth noting that because of the limited power of computers at the time, these videos had to be heavily compressed. Because of this, the visual quality is atrocious, yet this terrible visual quality hides how much of the background is really CGI.

There is another quality to Command and Conquer cut scenes that make them stand out a little. With most scenes in video games, the camera is simply the camera that the viewer watches the action from, like any other movie. However in Command and Conquer games, each scene is played from the first person, where the protagonist (you) is a very decorated and mute commander. This changes how each actor interacts with each other and the camera, as they talk to the camera just as much as they talk to each other. Of course, this can make things awkward since the camera never talks back.

The cut scenes are, of course, done separately for each faction; the Soviet’s cut scenes being quite the sight to behold. With most of them taking place in the aforementioned Westwood Boardroom, the actors act like they are some sort of troupe of spy-movie super villains. Between everyone trying to treat atrocious acts against humanity as casual and commonplace and the blatant murder happening in your own board room; you truly feel like you’re watching a B-grade spy movie from the 90’s.

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“Just another Tuesday I suppose…”

On top of all this; Stalin’s actor, Gene Dynarski (known as Eugene Dynarski in the credits), is absolute GOLD. His performances are incredibly animated and well done, and his demeanour charming despite playing the part of a well-hated dictator. Overall he looks the part (their actors for specific historical figures didn’t look the part one-hundred-percent, but this is something I’m willing to overlook), and his accent may not have been particularly good; but his delivery and performance will always stand out to me. Without him, we would be without these wonderful moments in C&C history:

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Pictured: Premier Party Animal

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The Allied cut scenes take quite a different turn, however. while the location in the Soviet scenes does not change often, it’s the Allies that aren’t quite able to decide which room they would like to conduct their briefings.

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Whether it’s in their living room…

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…the Westwood break room…

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…or a high-tech command center.

Besides the briefing segments, the Allied cut scenes vary greatly between each mission. Even with the different briefing rooms, there are several other scenes that don’t have anything to do with briefing but instead add to the overall cinematic presentation of the story. It gives the whole game the feel that you’re playing a movie you would see in theater.

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Such as this creepy interrogation scene

For the most part, the Allied commanders deliver their lines very straight forward. Their performances are quite good and serious and the actors really feel like they could be military officers (not that I would know exactly how a military officer acts in the real world, though). Thankfully, we have Einstein, played by John Milford, to offset this seriousness and bring some lighthearted goofiness to the mix. Unfortunately, however, even Einstein does not quite match up to the high bar that Stalin had set. But, they will always have their memorable scenes.

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“Sir, it’s STALIN!” he said with great enthusiasm. His friends weren’t on board with his excitement, however.

Red Alert hits the mark of 90’s B-movie levels of quality. Between the CGI backdrops and hammy actors, the cut scenes of Red Alert are truly a sight to behold. Yet despite what makes these scenes so… technically bad, there’s still an intense level of charm to be found. Everything about Red Alert takes itself so incredibly seriously. Even with the budget, props, and overall quality of what is being filmed; the actors and director all still want this to be as good as they can possibly make it. Because of this, Red Alert is an incredibly campy game, but it owns the camp so much that even I just can’t get enough of it. The aesthetic and presentation is all spot-on and I love it. Joe Kucan, you did a fantastic job.

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And one more shot of Stalin dancing, because I could not get enough of this scene

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