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FCN Staff Gaming: Red Alert 2

2019, October 09

FCN Staff Gaming: Red Alert 2

FCN Staff Gaming: Red Alert 2

Recently, we at FCN discussed what our favorite games were. We all spontaneously individually declared that we loved Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, an excellent real-time strategy game released in late 2000 for the PC.

About The Game -- Spoilers Ahead!

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (hereafter referred to as "RA2") is a sequel to Command & Conquer: Red Alert (hereafter referred to as "RA). The premise of the plots of both games is that, to avert the horrors of World War 2, Einstein invented a time travel device in order to go back to a time before Hitler seized power in Germany and, through some even wackier fictional physics, erase him from existence with a single handshake. It wouldn't be much of of a RTS game if this had resulted in a utopia, though; The power vacuum left room for a much more militant, conquest-obsessed Soviet Union to take over all of Europe, and there begins the plot of the first game in the series. Einstein's time-meddling had resulted in a much more horrific future than he could have imagined, with World War 2 still happening (though no longer focused on a genocide against Jewish people), fought with bizarre, anachronistic futuristic technology about ten years later than it was fought in the original timeline.

Though both games can be played to end in either Allied or Soviet victory, the sequel, RA2, the focus of this article, follows on from a canonical Allied ending, with the Allies installing a puppet leader to keep the Soviet Union in line and minimally armed according to treaty. Unknown to anyone, however, Soviet experiments in mind control technologies had given rise to a new troublemaker: Yuri, leader of the PsiCorps (yes, a Babylon 5 reference), was elevated to the position of advisor to the Soviet Premiere, Romanov... and was secretly the one pulling the strings all along. (Gasp!) Using mind control via telephone, Yuri disabled the United States' first-line offensive and defensive systems, paving the way for a Soviet occupation of North America and positions all over the world.

Can I Play It In 2019?

Because SafeDisc, a copy protection method from the bad old days, was employed in the retail release of RA2, it requires some fiddling to get it to work on modern operating systems such as Windows 10. For some, this may not be worth the trouble, and buying the Command & Conquer Ultimate Collection on EA's Origin store may be preferable.

For others, such as myself, getting an original retail version to work may be challenging, but worth it. I already paid, and I'm not about to pay again!

Installation Considerations

  • Installation of the game through a virtual install of an older operating system, such as Windows 98 or Windows XP, should allow you to get around the SafeDisc issue preventing installation in Windows 10. Try Oracle VM VirtualBox -- it's free. Once you've done that, you'll want to install the latest patches available for the game (both RA2 itself and the Yuri's Revenge expansion) before proceeding. This will provide you with patched game content and executables. Back these executables up somewhere! You'll need them later on.
  • The .MIX files on the CDs contain the game's resource files. You can copy them off to a directory on your hard drive, and then install the multiplayer installers over the contents of that directory in order to get working multiplayer versions that will run well even on Windows 10. These installers overwrite the single-player content for at least RA2, so be sure to, after installing XWIS, copy the .MIX files back over this directory to get them back. It's annoying, but you have to do it twice because these installers require the .MIX files to be present in order to allow installation. After doing this, the RA2 executable should be sufficiently patched to allow playing on Windows 10 -- it worked for me, but your mileage may vary.
  • If your chief concern is playing competitively online, CNCNET provides multiplayer-only client software for many of the classic C&C games that are freeware, as well as the ones that aren't, such as RA2 andYuri's Revenge. For the latter two, you must have the game content -- the aforementioned .MIX files, and possibly the proper registry keys to indicate that the games are installed and their installation directories. Fortunately, the XWIS installers seem to create these keys.
  • There are some rendering problems with these games on Windows 10. XWIS for RA2, whether in single or multiplayer, and CNCNET for Yuri's Revenge multiplayer, modify the rendering to get around this, but if you want to play YR single-player campaigns, you'll need Ares, a DLL extension/injector/etc, as well as the patched 1.001 YR executable that I said you should make sure to make a backup of from your VirtualBox install earlier. Its usage is fairly straightforward and documented in the Ares readme.

All in all, with some effort, you can play all of the parts of these games, even today, using Windows 10.