He pointed a long, bony finger towards me, frowned as if he was feeling a sharp, deep pain and I felt the giant and sombre ghosts of history sympathising with me. Even they had to face the Grave Accusation. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, with big, wet eyes, took a long look at me and then covered their faces with their palms, in shame.
I felt an alarm screaming somewhere inside my mind, and with all the tricks of verbal alchemy that this guy was capable of, I felt as if a wooden tongue was growing on top of my real one. I felt it was slightly mandatory to tell my ‚comrade’ right here to calm down. His paranoia had a red tint, and while he was dragging down the Iron Curtain of one-dimensional political labeling, I wanted to yell out „Безсмислен комунистически лозунг” just out of spite.
“You’re a filthy commie” he said. All I had done was play Red Alert 3.
Of course, the truth is that Red Alert 3 has nothing whatsoever in common with politics. Firstly, because it’s a video game, and no matter how you look at it, it’s pretty far-fetched to think that anyone wanted to brainwash people through it, and secondly because all the political references in it are parodies so quirky and far out that even Stalin would grin like a hyena while following the storyline.
To those who don’t know their alternative histories in virtual environments, the Red Alert saga began with the “erasing” of Adolf Hitler by Albert Einstein after some time-travelling action. The result wasn’t all that sweet though, because despite preventing the 2nd World War by keeping the Nazis away from Germany’s Bundestagspräsident throne, the Soviets expanded their border unaffected by the geographical buffer that is Deutschland.
After numerous events described by the first two games in the series, the Russian leaders use their very own time machine to take out Einstein, successfully erasing his inventions and turning the tide in their favor once more. But bitter irony hits them when they discover that much like the historical “window” that allowed them to grow beyond measure, taking out Dr. Albert also meant spawning a new superpower: The Empire of the Rising Sun. Seems history has a sense of irony.
The defining characteristic of the Red Alert series was always a satirical approach to the ‘Cold War turned into an open conflict’. Even if the first game wasn’t all that obvious in its goofy depiction of superpowers, at least the concept of having units such as Tanya (the secret agent that only needs a pair of guns to turn entire battalions into wandering graveyards) or buildings like the Tesla Coil might have hinted that the concept isn’t all that serious.
Just as the second title in the series, RA 3 takes a brave step on the minefield of satire and aside from the notably more “colored” graphics, comes back with the same ingredients: cinematics featuring an all-star Hollywood cast (J.K. Simmons, Tim Curry, George Takei, Jonathan Pryce or Peter Stormare) in ridiculous roles, weird units and a very clean-cut interface.
The lines are cheap, the actors’ game is cheesy, the editing and directing seem awfully flawed – but don’t be fooled. It’s enough to see a serious role that these people played in order to be convinced that in the current situations the “mishaps” are intentional, that Red Alert 3 is the perfect example for “it’s so bad that it’s good”. The characters are reduced to cardboard cutouts with linear principles and pathetic statements and I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t enjoy every last seconds of that. It’s the Red Alert convention and it works wonders for whoever enjoyed past games – and that’s hardly surprising, considering that EA Lost Angeles includes some of the Westwood staff that started the whole franchise.
Other than presidents, prime-ministers, shoguns and other “serious” leaders we’ve got a feminine cast, always excited about “helping out the commander”. The innuendo couldn’t get any less subtle, with bosoms, short skirts and teasing lines all over the place. But again, getting all serious and cramped up about it isn’t the way to go, and saying “Red Alert 3 is cheap” means massively underestimating it, because it’s way more than obvious to anyone who uses their senses and intuition that the bad movie facade is an instrument, not a purpose in itself.