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Another RTS title in the long running Command and Conquer series. In Red Alert 2 you can get yet another fix of faced paced base building, troop commanding and resource gathering. This time the action takes place in America, after a full-scale Soviet invasion. As before, you can play through the single player campaign and side with either faction, leading your armies to glory over the capitalist or communist oppressors. When you’re done with that, you can even take your skirmishes online and face much more challenging human opponents.
Red Alert 2 should install without any problems on a modern PC. Simply put the CD-ROM into your computers optical drive, allow the autorun program to start and follow all on-screen prompts. Our copy of the game was one bundled with the “Command and Conquer – The First Decade” box set, but the original stand-alone version should work too. Note that the First Decade box set installer places the game at “C:\Program Files (x86)\EA Games\Command & Conquer The First Decade\Command & Conquer Red Alert(tm) II\RA2” by default. You may want to change this, since Red Alert 2 (and several other games in the collection) need read/write access to their installation folders.
Make sure to install the latest patch before you head for the battlefield. You can download the latest patch here. If your copy of the game was from the First Decade or Ultimate Collection box sets, this patch is already pre-installed and you don’t need to download it.
There aren’t really any visual quality settings to change in Red Alert 2. You can however, change the games resolution. On some PCs you may find that the default screen resolution of 640×480 doesn’t work, and raising the resolution is necessary in order to start the game. Open the games installation folder (C:\Westwood\RA2 by default) and find a file called “RA2.ini”. Edit this file in Notepad or your favourite text editor. If you’re not familiar with editing text files, there’s a tutorial here.
Find the section that begins [Video] and simply change the “ScreenWidth” and “ScreenHeight” values to the desired resolution. For 1080p, for instance, use “ScreenWidth=1920” and “ScreenHeight=1080” (do not copy the quotation marks). A word of warning, the game was never designed with high resolutions in mind and at 1080p or higher resolutions the games graphics become very small. You may prefer to stick to 720p (“ScreenWidth=1280” “ScreenHeight=720”) instead (or whatever resolution your monitor best supports that’s close to 720p), just so you can keep track of your troops without straining your eyes.
Save the ini file when you are done editing it. It’s now time to run the game. The first time you run Red Alert 2, you will need to run the game as administrator. This is simply so that the game can set some registry keys. If you don’t run the game as admin, you will probably encounter a “String manager failed to initialise” error. Simply right click on the games shorcut and choose “Run as administrator”. You only need to do this the very first time you play.
Windows 7 users can now start commanding and conquering, though those of you with more powerful Windows 7 machines may want to check out the dgVoodoo 2 section too. Windows 8 users will need to carry out some further compatibility fixes before they can play the game.
Windows 8 Troubleshooting
When starting the game on a Windows 8 PC, you will encounter an error which says “Unable to set the video mode”. Microsoft made some changes to the way legacy Direct Draw applications run in Windows 8 and this has had a negative effect on several titles. In order to play the game, you need to use one or the other of the fixes detailed below, depending on your PC.
Microsoft compatibility fix – This fix uses Microsoft’s own Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) and allows the game to launch. This fix should work on any Windows 8 PC capable of running Red Alert 2 (which should be pretty much all of them). We’ve created a simple installer and uninstaller for this fix to take the hassle out of either editing the registry or fiddling with the ACT yourself, you can download it here. Performance when using this fix is acceptable though not perfect, the speed at which the map scrolls, for instance, could be better.
dgVoodoo 2 – If your PC has a DirectX 11 graphics card, we recommend using the dgVoodoo 2 DirectX wrapper. Performance when using this wrapper software is better than when using the ACT fix. Install dgVoodoo2 to your Red Alert 2 game folder by following our tutorial here. Use the settings files for DirectX (not 3DFX/Glide) and the default options. Do not try to force vertical sync (vsync).
By using dgVoodoo 2 you effectively convert Command & Conquer – Red Alert 2 into a Direct3D 11 game. This doesn’t change the graphics of course, but it does mean that you can now use tools such as Nvidia Shadowplay or Evolve with your game. Using Evolve, for instance, you can take screenshots, videos, chat to your friends and organise multiplayer games all without needing to alt-tab back to the desktop.
Although the online services for Red Alert 2 shut down some time ago, it’s still possible to play online or even against other computers in your home. Since the game used the now obsolete IPX networking standard, you will need to download this patch which enables TCP/IP networking in the game. Simply download the patch and extract it into your Red Alert 2 game folder.
With the patch installed, you can now play LAN (local area network) matches against other computers on your home network. Furthermore, you can also use tunnelling software like Evolve to play across the internet. Evolve simply creates a virtual private LAN between you and your friends, allowing you to play LAN games with them even if they aren’t actually in your home. You can download Evolve here. As discussed above, if your PC can run the dgVoodoo 2 software, you can also use Evolve’s in-game features to message or voice chat with your friends as you organise games.
Click on any screnshot to enlarge it.