Einstein: Hitler is... out of the way.
Assistant: Congratulations, professor! With Hitler removed-
Einstein: Time will tell. Sooner or later... time will tell...
Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: The Game
A prequel to the original Command & Conquer, using the same engine and gameplay to tell a story of an Alternate History WWII fought between the Allies and Tesla-powered communists bent on world domination. Red Alert provides a contrast with its successors thanks to a serious and camp-free tone. Released by Westwood Studios in 1996 for DOS and Windows (VGA) platforms. It later spawned its own sequels, taking place in an alternate alternate timeline; for a while, the official explanation was that the Allied ending of Red Alert led to Red Alert 2, and the Soviet ending of Red Alert led to Tiberian Dawn.
The premise is simple: in 1946, operating out of a laboratory in Trinity, New Mexico, Albert Einstein uses a time machine to travel to Landsberg, Germany in 1924 and removes Adolf Hitler from history. While this prevents the Nazis from rising to power and keeps Germany docile, unfortunately it leaves Josef Stalin with no obstacle to the Soviet Unions expansion. This sparks an even worse version of World War II during the 1950's as the Allies try to withstand the endless hordes of the Red Army, backed by deadly Tesla-based technology.
The game is now freeware and can be downloaded here. The game can also be played for free through the OpenRA Open Source reimplementation along with Tiberian Dawn and Dune 2000 that is much better suited for running the game with modern PCs and adds gameplay improvements from later installments in the series.
Late 2018, Electronic Arts, current owner of the C&C franchise, announced they are working with Petrogylph Games, a studio formed by Westwood Studios veterans, to remaster Red Alert, alongside a remaster of Tiberian Dawn.
Please note that this page is for tropes specific to this game, the first Red Alert and its expansions. Please add tropes relating to multiple games to the Red Alert series page.
This game provides examples of:
- Action Bomb: M.A.D. Tanks in Aftermath.
- Action Girl: Tanya.
- Allohistorical Allusion:
- The Allies are suffering heavy losses and are being pushed farther West by the advancing Soviet forces. Then a new tactic is introduced by a German general that helps slow the Soviet advance and, eventually, pushes them back. The news report calls this new tactic "Lightning War" (Blitzkrieg in German). For those not familiar, the first game starts with Einstein violating Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act and things kind of snowball from there.
- After the Allies start pushing back the Soviets, Stalin realizes that he can't win a conventional conflict anymore and puts all his effort into completing the Soviet nuclear program in time to start bombing enemy cities with them. This mirrors Nazi Germany's putting its faith into vaunted Wunderwaffen (wonder weapons) towards the end of the war that would turn the tide in Germany's favor. The difference is that Stalin can actually back up his threat, with an entire mission revolving around infiltrating a missile silo to destroy it.
- All Theories Are True: The Red Alert series uses Tesla coils in ways that were once thought possible.
- Alternate History: Red Alert being the result of Hitler's removal from the timeline. Furthermore, the game is a prequel to the Tiberium series.
- The game also neatly sidesteps a contentious point: the state of the Red Army and its ability to invade in 1941. On the one hand, from the late 1930s to 1941, Stalin's purges greatly weakened the Red Army's senior officer corps, particularly the highest ranking officers. Over 30,000 Red Army servicemen were outright executed, including including 3 of 5 marshals, 13 of 15 army generals, 8 of 9 admirals, 50 of 57 army corps generals, 154 out of 186 division generals, all 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars. Many more were sacked from the Army or imprisoned, although Stalin's regime later reversed the policy. On the other hand, the reinstatement coincided with a massive increase in the number of divisions and mobilized manpower in 1940 and 1941. Combined with the best tank in the world at the time (the T-34, which spurred the Germans to develop the Tiger and Panther as a response) and superior amounts of tanks and airplanes, the Red Army, on paper, was the most powerful military force in the world. In practice, the ongoing reorganization, unresolved logistics issues, and many other problems that were unresolved in June 1941 allowed the Third Reich to defeat the Red Army in Operation Barbarossa. By removing the Reich from the equation, the Soviet Union completes its military reforms and goes on to build a war machine capable of conquering the Eurasian continent.
- Anachronism Stew: Although the game is set in the 1950s and features characters like Stalin and Einstein, it also features modern and even futuristic military technology.
- America Won World War II: A very notable aversion (especially given the game was made by Americans), with most of the Allied cast being European. The Allied ending features a soldier who definitely has an American accent and carries American weapons, and General Ben Carville, better known for his appearance in Red Alert 2, debuted in the Retaliation Playstation port—so while American involvement is never outright stated, they do have some sort of presence. Also, One-Woman Army Tanya Adams is an American mercenary commando working for the Allies. Later material indicates that they mostly just continued lend-lease support to the European Allies (as indicated by reuse of vehicles from Tiberian Dawn) and only directly joined in the fighting after the war was nearly over anyway, mostly just handling occupational duties afterwards.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Stalin (to whom the phrase is commonly credited, apocryphally) throws this line out there in the first Red Alert. It can also be heard in the remixed "Radio 2" song which is included in the CD of Counterstrike and Aftermath.
- Artistic License Geography: The mission where you massacre Toruń and the FMV that follows it show a small settlement in the mountains. Trouble is, Toruń lies on the shores of the Vistula river, in the northern plains of Poland. Looks like Westwood couldn't get its Poland right for two games in a row.
- Artistic License History:
- Despite being an alternate World War II in the '50s, Red Alert features plenty of military hardware developed decades later in our timeline. Some of this can be explained as Westwood reusing art and graphic assets from Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, but it's quite unsettling to see tanks and aircraft which were cutting edge in 1997 suddenly appearing forty-plus years earlier.
- All of the countries in Europe are shown with post-World War II borders, but with the war having been averted due to Einstein's time travel, Europe should have the post-1918 borders (the timelines diverged in 1924). Oddly, a more accurate map was shown in the opening cinematic and one of the early trailers. Probably just a case of Westwood not paying enough attention to detail.
- The existence of the United Nations is mentioned in one of the mission briefings, but in real life the U.N. was formed directly as a result of World War II, which didn't happen in this timeline. The impotent, abortive League of Nations was the primary body of international diplomacy after World War I, and did not dissolve in our history until 1946 (at which time the United Nations had already replaced it). That said, it's likely a relic of a time when the game was intended to be the prequel to Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn.
- Albert Einstein being involved in a secret US military project like the Philadelphia Experiment would be extremely unlikely in the Original timeline as the US government didn't allow Einstein to work on top secret military programs like the Manhattan Projectnote because his pacifist views were seen as a security risk.
- Artistic License Physics: In the 8th Soviet Mission "Core of the Matter", if the Allied infiltrators succeed in triggering a meltdown, the nuclear reactor explodes in a mushroom cloud. This goes without saying but a Meltdown does NOT cause a Nuclear Reactor to explode like a warhead because high-grade, weaponized Plutonium isn't being used as its fuel source.
- Automatic New Game: After the intro and title sequence plays the first time the game starts, the player is immediately given the first cutscene of whichever campaign disc is loaded on Medium difficulty (In the case of The First Decade, it auto-starts the Soviet campaign).
- Awesome, but Impractical: Unfortunately a lot of the cooler units aren't very useful in gameplay. For example, the Mammoth Tank is expensive, too slow to dodge enemy fire or move around quickly enough to establish map control. Shock troopers are another cool unit that is very expensive and can easily be overwhelmed by cheap basic infantry. The list goes on.
- Bald of Evil:
- The Soviet Interrogator who tortures Tanya.
- Berserk Button: The invasion and destruction of his home country of Greece makes Stavros get a bit tense.
- Biblical Bad Guy: The first Red Alert game is where it's first implied that Kane is actually the Biblical Cain.Nadia: "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord... and took up residence... in the Land of Nod!".
- Big Damn Heroes: The Allied Spy who rescues Tanya form a Soviet Interrogator. He's mortally wounded in the process, though, and uses his last few ounces of life to toss his gun to Tanya; allowing her to kill the Interrogator and escape.
- Bug War: There is a hidden campaign that pits you against Giant Ants.
- Can't Kill You, Still Need You: In the end of the Soviet campaign, Stalin and Nadia are both dead due to Kane's manipulations. He keeps the player character alive to serve as the new leader of the Soviet Union—and presumably his puppet.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Stalin's advisor. By the end of the Soviet campaign, it's revealed that he is Kane, Nadia is a member of the Brotherhood of Nod, and they've been manipulating the Soviet Union for their own ends.
- Continuity Nod: Kane features as Stalin's advisor. Though if you watch the body language and finish the game, it's quite obvious he's the real power behind him.
- Covers Always Lie: The game's box art shows a Soviet Hind helicopter using a missile to destroy a tank. In the game, Hinds only have machine guns and are nearly useless against tanks.
- Creator Cameo:
- The game's music composer Frank Klepacki appeared as a guard in one of the cutscenes before he was choked and carried away by the spy. Also, in the briefing of the final Allied mission, many of the game devs appear.
- Joseph Kucan (who played Kane in the Tiberium Series) shows up as Stalin's advisor. This is not a coincidence, as the character in question is Kane himself. Kucan also plays the aforementioned spy who chokes Klepacki's guard character.
- Crippling Overspecialization: The Allied cruiser deals heavy damage and can hit targets at extremely long ranges. But on the other hand, it's expensive, moves very slowly, and is completely defenseless against air units and submarines. A cruiser that is not protected by gunboats and destroyers is unlikely to survive very long.
- Critical Existence Failure: Infantry at one HP? Medic to the rescue. Vehicle almost about to explode? Mechanics and Repair Bays for the save. Averted in that vehicles with low health move slower and damaged buildings produce energy or units less efficiently.
- Cutscene Power to the Max: All superweapons are implied to be much more potent than their in-game usefulness (or uselessness) might suggest.
- Day of the Jackboot: London and specifically Buckingham Palace is occupied in the Soviet Ending.
- Deadly Gas: In the first Soviet mission briefing, Stalin's inner circle are discussing the use of a poison gas on a town full of unwilling test subjects.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Riflemen spam.
- Defector from Commie Land: In the Allied campaign, one of the missions involves rescuing a Soviet general who is opposed to Stalin's methods and wishes to defect to the West. He later provides valuable intelligence on Stalin's plan to nuke the major cities of Europe.
- Dies Wide Open:
- Dummied Out:
- An interesting variation. Some units were originally intended for the other side and later switched. The manual identifies the Radar Jammer as a Soviet unit, while in the final game it's an Allied one. The launch animation of the GPS Satellite shows a graphic of a Soviet Soyuz rocket, suggesting it was meant to be a Soviet ability and later switched to an Allied one.
- A particularly weird one is that the Tesla Tank in The Aftermath expansion pack is based on the sprite for the Radar Jammer, and still works as a radar jammer, the original code having apparently been left in.
- Despite being unarmed in the actual game, the spy still has a few animation frames which show him shooting a gun. The funny thing is, those frames are actually tied into the game, which gives you an opportunity to modify the "rules.ini" file so your spies can shoot and experience no graphical goofs with that.
- One of the weapons that isn't implemented in the game is marked as "Sniper". Modding it back into the game with the "rules.ini" file reveals it to be similar to the Commando's weapon from Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn.
- Early-Bird Cameo: General Carville is pretty much one of the few things that ties Red Alert with its' sequel, although that's if you've seen the Retaliation expansion pack. For the first PlayStation.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Red Alert actually tried to play the series premise entirely straight, with subtler performances and writing in line with the Tiberium Series. Afterwards, Executive Meddling caused the rest of the series to devolve into high Camp pretty much immediately.
- Earthquake Machine: This is how the Soviet M.A.D. Tank in Aftermath unleashes its Suicide Attack.
- Empathy Doll Shot: Right at the start of the Soviet campaign, as the Soviet air force strafes fleeing villagers a child drops their teddy bear on the ground. You gave the orders.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": In the Allied Campaign, the player's character is only known as "Field Commander A9".
- Expansion Pack:
- Two. The first, Counterstrike, just adds additional missions, but the second, Aftermath, adds both missions and units which can be used in skirmish mode. Both also add extra skirmish maps.
- And then both those expansions got combined into one, released exclusively for PlayStation, which is called Retaliation. If you forget about the new FMVs, remixed songs and less linear mission selection system, it's not quite different from the DOS versions of both Counterstrike and Aftermath, as well as the actual Red Alert for the PS1.
- Red Alert itself started as an expansion pack to Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, hence the many similarities and Expys, but Westwood soon realized its potential as a standalone game.
- Faction Calculus: The Soviets are Powerhouse, the Allies are Subversive. A neat reversal of Tiberian Dawn as far as good and evil sides (by most definitions) are concerned, and about the only C&C game where the good guys are Subversive.
- Fake Town: The Allies can erect fake buildings to set up decoy bases and deceive enemy forces.
- Fission Mailed: You have to capture the Chronosphere for Stalin, but it is blown up by the Allies before you can capture it. Then you are ordered to be shot. Then the blame is (accurately) pinned on someone else and you're reinstated. Due to a level-design bug it is even possible to actually capture it by making it invulnerable with the Iron Curtain (that also works on enemy buildings) before the explosive detonates. Then you can capture it with your engineers, but get a real "Mission Failed" for going Off the Rails.
- Fog of War: Removed permanently from a zone after it is explored. The Allies can launch a GPS to reveal the whole map and their spies can reset the enemy's maps. If you want to complicate things a little bit, there's even an option in multiplayer to allow the fog of war to regrow.
- Game-Breaking Bug: due to a glitch, the stat bonuses for the Allied subfactions in Skirmish and Multiplayer modes became minuses.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation:
- In the Soviet Campaign, the Allies rescue Einstein by Chronoshifting him out of a firing squad execution. However, using the Chronosphere on infantry will make them permanently disappear (a.k.a. die). Even if you put the infantry in an APC, they will still be lost when using Chronoshift on the APC.
- One might ask why vehicle and ship crews are unaffected by the Chronoshift, and there is an answer. One of the Allied mission briefings shows the technology being tested on a cruiser, and they mention that they lost some crewmen during the test. The actual mortality rate isn't 100%, but Einstein was lucky and APC passengers aren't.
- Heroic BSoD: Stavros suffers this as his home, Greece, falls into the vile clutches of the Soviet Union, and doesn't quite recover until the Allies are returning the favor to the Soviets.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: With Hitler out of the way, Joseph Stalin causes this timeline's version of World War II. The developers were likely aiming for an exaggeration of this trope, but his actions in the story are largely consistent with what is known about him in reality.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Nice Job Breaking It, Einstein.
- I Am the Trope: At the end of the Red Alert 1 Soviet campaign, we get this exchangenote :Nadia: Fight our battles where you must, and you will remain our loyal, and obedient servant. For the foreseeable future.
(gunshot, Nadia falls over forward)
The Adviser/Kane: The foreseeable future...? Comrade chairman, I am the future.
(fade to black)
- In Spite of a Nail: Despite helping the Soviet Union conquer Europe, Nadia estimates that the Brotherhood of Nod will "tire" of the USSR in the 1990's. In our timeline, the USSR officially dissolved in 1991.
- Karmic Death: Delivered nicely in the Allied ending onto Joseph Stalin by none other than Stavros, whose country Stalin destroyed in the war. Stalin gets to die alone and in darkness thanks to Stavros ordering away the troopers who found Stalin, putting a cloth in his mouth to keep him from screaming for help, and putting rubble over his face to hide him from discovery.
- Kick the Dog: The briefing of the first Soviet mission opens with Stalin and two other Soviet leaders discussing the testing of a new nerve gas on a few hundred innocent civilians before turning to you. Then you are assigned your first mission: killing the inhabitants of Toruń, Poland by strafing them with fighter planes.
- Kill 'Em All: The Soviet campaign ends like this, with everyone you meet dying in a convoluted series of back stabs and paranoia. Well, everyone except the adviser, that is.
- Klingon Promotion: Nadia poisons Stalin at the end of the Soviet campaign. Her promotion doesn't last long.
- Leave No Survivors:Gradenko: Let's see how you handle this. Go at once to Toruń, destroy everything and everyone. No prisoners, no survivors. That is all.
- Let No Crisis Go to Waste: In the Soviet victory scenario in the first game, the entire Russian war effort was an Evil Plan by Kane to expand the USSR, then topple it, and use the ensuing chaos to strengthen the Brotherhood of Nod.
- Long-Range Fighter: The Allied cruiser has the longest range of any unit in the game, and it deals a lot of damage. It can hit targets nearly an entire screen away. A single cruiser can decimate an enemy base in minutes if not stopped.
- Meaningful Echo: Stalin comments on how excellent the tea is and Nadia comments that she made it herself. She said the exact same thing when she killed Marshal Gradenko. Both cups were poisoned.
- Monumental Damage: The Soviets are shown blowing up the Acropolis of Athens during their invasion of Greece. This highly upsets General Stavros, who vows revenge on Stalin.
- Multiplayer-Only Item: Several units, buildings, and special abilities (Tanya, Soviet rocket soldiers and allied nuclear missiles, among others) are normally not available in the Singleplayer campaign, although they sometimes appear as unique units (sometimes even required to survive) in a couple of missions.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Einstein travels back in time and erases Hitler from the timestream in an attempt to prevent World War II. But World War II happens anyway when Stalin decides to expand his empire by launching a massive invasion of Western Europe. Oops. Einstein himself even lampshades this in the game's intro video. When his assistant expresses joy at Einstein erasing Hitler from history, Einstein utters "Time will tell", implying that he's unsure whether or not he did the right thing.
- Not Completely Useless: The Soviet mission "Deus Ex Machina" in the Aftermath expansion pack is an attempt to rescue Volkov, who has been captured by the Allies. Unfortunately, once you do find him, he has gone berserk and is on a rampage to destroy everything in sight. He is Made of Indestructium: unless you've got something along the lines of dozens of Mammoth Tanks & V2 Rocket Launchers, you won't be able to stop him, unless you build a Kennel and throw a bunch of Attack Dogs at him. When's the last time you bothered to use an Attack Dog on anything?
- Nuke 'em: Employed by the Soviets in the Allied campaign. As the Allies turn the tide of the war and are steadily advancing across Europe into the Soviet Union, Stalin decides to destroy the primary capitals and cities of the European Allies with the nuclear weapons his scientists have recently developed, while using his own forces as a sacrificial lamb to draw attention away from the missile sites. The player has to capture and then infiltrate the facility to safely disarm the weapons.
- Piggybacking on Hitler: Kane is doing this with Stalin.
- Puppet State: Nadia mentions her intention to turn the USSR into this for the Brotherhood of Nod. She foresees that the brotherhood will tire of the USSR by the 90s.
- Rank Up: In the Soviet campaign, the player Non-Entity General actually starts out as a Lieutenant and ends up as Chairman of the Soviet Union at the end of the game. Kukov starts out as a Captain, but is a General towards the latter stages of the game.
- Red Herring Twist: The Allied ending is canon, so Kane doesn't exist in the second game.
- Reinventing the Wheel: Every time the Allies launch a GPS Satellite, it somehow becomes lost after the mission and a new one has to be launched for the next mission. Either the satellite was specifically built to only work for the current mission area that you're in or the people in the Allied Space Program somehow forget the Satellite after you complete the mission.
- Schizo Tech: The technology is all over the place, with assault rifles from '49, helicopters from '69 and '72, jet fighters from '77, tanks from '80, and GPS mounted on Sputnik-like satellites. On a general scale, the tech level is that of 'Nam.
- Shot at Dawn: One of the Soviet missions involves tracking down a traitor across the map. After he's captured, a cutscene shows him being executed by a firing squad.
"SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!"
- Power plants look suspiciously like Battersea Power Station.
- Kane is very fond of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: "He who controls the past, commands the future.". The quote was also paraphrased in Dune II, the spiritual predecessor of C&C.
- The PlayStation version includes a cheat that turns all the gems and ore into civilians, with a corresponding quote (which might also be a poke on the Tiberium Saga):
- Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: Compared to its two sequels in the series, this game retains the more serious tone of the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series it spawned from.
- The Smurfette Principle: Both factions have only one female character each, with Allies having Tanya Adams, and Nadya Zelenkova representing the Soviets. Sure thing, this trope wouldn't even be mentioned due to the game's military nature, but when the female cast became bigger and bigger in the sequels...
- Spiteful A.I.: The computer will sell off all of its structures and send everything at you when it becomes too badly damaged to continue rebuilding and unit production.
- Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: Some Game Over cinematics following defeat during an Allied mission will show the red of the Soviet Union submerging the entire European continent as parading soldiers can be heard in the background.
- State Sec: The NKVD. In the manual, their troops alone number 7 million at the beginning of the war. Compare that to the Allies, whose regular and irregular forces number about 5 million total.
- Take Over the World: Downplayed, as the Soviets' goal is somewhat more modest than taking over the entire world. It is Stalin's objective to submerge all of Europe into the Soviet Union. In the Soviet campaign, you succeed.Stalin: Where the Romans have failed I will succeed. Russia's borders will stretch from coast to coast; for a united Russia is our destiny.
- Taps: If Tanya is killed in one of her missions, a cutscene will play of her white cross in a cemetery as Taps is heard in the background.
- Tampering with Food and Drink:
- At the end of the Soviet campaign, Nadia successfully kills Joseph Stalin by tricking him into drinking a poisoned cup of tea.
- At an earlier point in the campaign, Marshal Gradenko is killed by the same person in the same way. It even features the same dialogue.
- Tesla Tech Timeline: While relatively minor compared to later Red Alert games, tesla coils still feature prominently as the Soviet Union's iconic advanced base defense.
- Tricked to Death:
- At the end of the Soviet campaign, Nadia successfully kills Joseph Stalin by tricking him into drinking a poisoned cup of tea.
- At an earlier point in the campaign, Marshal Gradenko is killed by the same person in the same way. It even features the same dialogue.
- Unwitting Pawn: The Soviet Union is being manipulated behind the scenes by the Brotherhood of Nod.
- Visionary Villain: Joseph Stalin believes that it is his sacred mission to make the Soviet Union stretch the entire European continent, launching a war that lasts years and leaves tens of millions dead. He was inspired after he witnessed himself as Europe's sole ruler in a dream.
- Walking Spoiler: The Brotherhood of Nod secretly controls the Soviet Union.
- Wham Line:Nadia: "This temporary chaos in Europe, will only serve to fuel The Brotherhood [of Nod]'s cause."
The Adviser/Kane: "Comrade chairman, I am the future."
- You Are in Command Now: In the Soviet ending, the player character becomes the leader of the Soviet Union after a series of betrayals and assassinations leave all other high-ranking Soviet government officials dead. Specifically, Nadia poisons Gradenko, Stalin kills Kukov for incompetence, Nadia assassinates Stalin, and Kane kills Nadia, leaving you as the boss and him as The Man Behind the Man. Even then, you're just a pawn of the Brotherhood of Nod.
- You Didn't See That:
Stavros: I don't believe you heard me, private. I don't see anyone here... do you?
- Stavros invokes this trope in the Allied ending, though it takes a repetition or two before the soldier to whom he's speaking gets his drift.
- Kukov informs the player that he definitely wasn't privy to anything resembling a tryst between Stalin and Nadia in the Soviet campaign.
- You Have Failed Me: Stalin warns the player: "If you fail, do not return.", and later snaps an underling's neck for faulty intelligence ("You disappoint me, Kukov."). This was just after he ordered your execution, before being convinced that it was the underling's fault, not yours.
- Zerg Rush: A popular multiplayer strategy for Soviet players is to simply spam a huge force of heavy tanks and swarm an Allied base. This is a very difficult tactic for Allied players to defend against.
- Black-out the base and nothing will stop you.