Red Alert was praised for its user interface, which claimed to be more developed than the competing games of its time. Players could queue commands, create unit groups that could be selected by a number key, and control numerous units at a time. The game was known to be easy to control, simple to learn and responsive to users' commands. It also featured two factions that had differing styles of play. Red Alert is also hailed as one of the first games to feature competitive online play. The single player campaign also received high praise for its detailed story line and missions, which often required the player to defeat the enemy with various sets of circumstances before continuing. Like Tiberian Dawn, the game has split routes for most missions. The objective stays the same but only the map layout differs. The single player campaign was also complemented by live action cinematic sequences that are a feature of all Command & Conquer RTS games since the original, except for Command & Conquer: Generals.
The game balance between the forces of the Allied and Soviet armies differed from other games at its time. Unlike the 'rock-paper-scissors' balancing of modern games, Red Alert required each player to use their side's strengths in order to compensate for their weaknesses. This stood in contrast to games such as Total Annihilation or Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, in which both sides had units with similar abilities and relied instead on outnumbering or possessing a better balanced force than their opponent.
Players acquire credits to purchase structures and equipment by mining for ores and minerals (as the valuable, yet hazardous Tiberium in the regular C&C series has not yet been discovered in this timeline). Rare gems generate more credits and are faster to mine, but unlike ores, do not regenerate within the map. Players can gain more credits and increase their buying power by building more ore factories and ore trucks.
In-game beta screenshot of a Soviet base on the PC version.
The Soviets' vehicles tend to be more durable and powerful than Allied vehicles, but are often slower moving and more expensive. The Soviets also have superior defensive capabilities against ground attacks, with the Flame Towers and Tesla coil, the latter able to destroy most Allied armor in 1-2 hits although it has high power consumption. The Soviets' weakness is at the sea, their only offensive naval unit is the submarine which exists to counter Allied warships and gain intelligence, it is normally invisible except when surfacing to attack where it is vulnerable to destroyers and gunboats. The Soviets' secret weapon is the Iron Curtain, a device that renders a selected unit invulnerable to attacks for a short period of time. They also have a wide selection of air units for assault (MiG-27, Yak-7 and Mi-24 Hind) and map revelation through spy planes, and could deploy infantry by air through paratroops or by the Chinook transport helicopter (the latter only present in multiplayer). The Soviet "tank rush" was a popular strategy online, involving building many heavy tanks and overwhelming the opponent with sheer numbers, often preceded by a MiG airstrike to knock out power plants and the construction yard.
The Allies' forces are generally cheaper, faster to build and more agile. Their infantry can survive longer with good use of their Medic unit. The Allies' strongest tank (the Medium Tank) is weaker in a one-on-one engagement against the Soviets' starting tank (the Heavy Tank), however the Allies also have anti-tank minelayers to counter the superior Soviet armor. The Allies have only one air unit, the AH-64D Apache Longbow specialized for anti-tank, compared to three Soviet air units, however the Allies also have anti-aircraft guns (more powerful but shorter range than Soviet Surface to Air Missiles). The Allied defences against a ground assault, pillboxes and turret emplacements, are less powerful than the Soviets' Tesla Coil, but stronger and less dependent on power. On maps with water, Allies possess an advantage in naval power thanks to the Cruiser, which has the longest-ranged and most powerful surface-to-surface attack in the game as its naval artillery can destroy buildings quickly, and the Destroyer, which is versatile and capable of adeptly taking on any type of unit type in the game—land, sea or air. The Allies' secret weapon is the Chronosphere, which temporarily relocates a selected unit to another part of the map. They also possess several other tools of subterfuge and military intelligence, such as spies to gain information on or disabling enemy facilities, thieves for stealing enemy resources, hiding their own units and structures from detection, and revealing the whole game map with a GPS satellite.
In online play and computer skirmish, both Allied and Soviet forces have access to the nuclear Missile Silo, not available to either side in single-player mode although present in the Allied campaign. In online play and computer skirmish, the Soviets have access to two of the Allied side's infantry: the Rocket Soldier (for anti-air and anti-tank) and Tanya, a commando capable of easily killing infantry and destroying structures.
No posted cheats for this game yet.