Articles & Editorials: Camp Corner 2 – Red Alert, Too!

Hello again, and welcome back to Camp Corner where I look back at the FMV cut-scenes and presentations of the Command and Conquer series and assess them for their value and see how well they stand up to our standards today! Now last time, I took a look at Red Alert 1 and found it to be perfectly presented despite its short-comings in budget and technology. Years later and with a few more games under their belt, Westwood releases Red Alert 2 and the gap between the two is quite large; filled with many advancements in technology and Westwood’s own budget for its video games. Red Alert 2 takes full advantage of these improvements, but instead of creating something of Triple-A Block-Buster quality, they create something truly amazing and truly entertaining and stands as possibly the best example of campyness in Command and Conquer.

Now if you have not yet seen the intro cinematic for Red Alert 2, I strongly urge you to look it up and take a quick gander and witness one of the greatest intro cinematics of all time. Right off the bat, we’re introduced with a beautiful mash-up of hammy acting and awkwardly-delivered lines. Yet, that’s not what makes this cinematic truly beautiful. Now I’ve seen this cinematic quite a few times; I’ve had to uninstall and re-install Red Alert 2 quite a few times on a number of computers over the years, and the game does not let you skip this cut scene when you first install it. Every time I’ve watched those opening four minutes I notice something different that I took at face-value to begin with, but only realized how ridiculous it actually is after watching it again a few times. Get used to these moments, as the game is filled with little things that may seem to make sense at first glance, but when you think about what you’ve seen a little more, you begin to realize just how subtly goofy this game can be.

"Hello you've called the US Missile Silo Hotline, Jerry speaking."

“Hello you’ve called the US Missile Silo Hotline, Jerry speaking.”

When my best friend pointed that gun at my head, only one thought was running through my mind... Those silo doors...

When my best friend pointed that gun at my head, only one thought was running through my mind… Those silo doors…

Compared to Red Alert, Red Alert 2 makes use of a lot of different editing techniques. In Red Alert, each cutscene was shot in the same set; any and all characters involved were present in the same room. In Red Alert 2, however, each cinematic features different sets for each characters; splitting the screen each time someone wants to cut in like some sort of perfectly efficient skype-call. This makes the videos feel a lot faster pace, and a lot more action-packed despite the fact that it’s usually just the characters talking to either you or enjoying some playful banter at each other.

Carville you sonuva--!

Carville you sonuva–!

Another improvement over Red Alert is that most videos are shot in live sets instead of in front of green-screens with pre-rendered backdrops pasted in. These, of course, are still present (as you may have seen with that missile-silo scene), but overall they’re fewer between and better done to the point where it’s a lot easier for me to ignore the fact that some things in the scene are not real. Overall, compared to Red Alert, the budget for costumes and props has improved dramatically and it shows.

With all of these improvements, it looks like Westwood has cut themselves out the perfect opportunity to present a convicting and serious plot for its audience.

...Oh wait...

…Oh wait…

However, the true goofiness of Red Alert 2 begins to shine through its actors and writing. The actors are possibly the best part of Red Alert 2’s cinematics; their performances range from hilarious B-quality as we saw in that missile silo, to terrifically presented (such as seen with President Michael Dugan played brilliantly by Ray Wise), to hilariously animated and colorful (as seen with Berry Corbin as General Carville and Nicholas Worth as Romanov).

If seeing a Soviet Premier holding a pet turtle wasn't already crossed off on your bucket-list...

If seeing a Soviet Premier holding a pet turtle wasn’t already crossed off on your bucket-list…

Hard at work in the US Military as usual.

Hard at work at the US Military as usual.

The actors all interact and gel perfectly with each other; their performances presented as seriously as they possibly can muster considering what has been written for them and their chemistry is very apparent. Yuris’ actor, Udo Kier, does an incredible job playing the evil genius under the clearly-more-incompetent Romanov, and interacts perfectly with his character.

You can just feel the intense annoyance filling your mind...

You can just feel the intense annoyance filling your mind…

“But what do you mean ‘considering what has been written from’?” you ask hypothetically using words I have clearly placed in your mouth. Allow me to explain. Red Alert 1 has a rather… exotic premise, we’ll say, using time-travel and theoretical technology; but it presents all of this in a very straight-faced and serious manner. Red Alert 2, on the other hand, takes a very similar premise but pushes the boundaries on the serious-side of things until the entire presentation is ready to break. Of course, there are the amateur actors and the poorly done accents to consider as factors for this goofiness.

In over 50 zucczzezful campaigns

In over 50 zucczzezful campaigns

There are even numerous parts of the full-motion video cinematics that left me hitting the pause button and going “Wait, what?!” For instance, these next two screen captures are almost literally a couple seconds after each other:

No comment.

No comment.

I am seriously not kidding you.

I am seriously not kidding you.

This “Fake Romanov” actor change has no explanation, and simply just happens. I don’t know why it happens. Perhaps this is completely intentional and done completely as a joke, or maybe they weren’t able to get a hold of the first actor again and had to shoot additional shots I don’t know. The point being that besides the goofiness that the game holds in the parts of its film-making that aren’t, technically, objectively good, there are a lot of situations presented that are just written as goofy, such as: Romanov’s pet turtle, the scenes of the President in Canada, and pretty much of all of General Carville.

Yet despite the inherent goofiness and technical flaws; Red Alert 2 is still presented as seriously as they can muster. In all aspects of the writing and characters, it’s clear that Joe Kucan and the rest of Westwood wanted to own this goofiness and package it as serious as they could. Red Alert 2 straddles the line drawn between completely serious media and media that couldn’t give a wooden nickel for serious presentation; a line commonly referred to as “Campy Media”. Red Alert 2 still very much takes itself seriously; seriously enough that I found myself very much engaged in the plot of the Soviet Campaign and genuinely excited to see what was going to happen next. Whether it’s making you laugh with its southern stereotypes or quirky communist leaders, or engaging you with a genuinely interesting plot; Red Alert 2 creates one of the best Full-Motion-Video experiences out of the Command and Conquer Series.

Tune in next time where we see what happens when you push the boundaries of a goofy delivery a little too far.

And remember that when it comes to the Pentagon, security doesn't do anything!

And remember that when it comes to the Pentagon, security doesn’t do anything!

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