Updated: August 24, 2019
A true definition of a classic is something that refuses to die. Ten, a hundred, a thousand years later, they are still relevant. One such example is Command & Conquer and its immediate successor Red Alert. Released in mid-90s, this superb RTS franchise revolutionized the PC gaming, defining a standard for decades to come. Sure, there was Dune, and there was Warcraft, but C&C and RA sort of reigned supreme.
All right, so we have a mission. I want to show you how to enjoy Red Alert in all its glory on a modern system, replete with online gaming, should you so desire. As it turns out, this is somewhat easier than you'd be led to believe, as I shall demonstrate in a jiffy. Follow me.
How to install C&C RA
There are several ways you can setup C&C RA. But. Your one-stop shop: CNCNET. This is a community portal of RTS enthusiasts who undertook the holy mission of making the old classic accessible to players worldwide, and not just singleplayer campaign and skirmishes but also full lobby-discovery-thingie multiplayer. I remember having to fiddle with things like Kali and DOSBOX emulation to get this going. No more.
CNCNET supports several C&C titles, including Command & Conquer, Red Alert, Dune 2000, Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2, Yuri's Revenge, and Renegade. The first four titles are actually free, as these games were made released unto public about a decade back. The others require that you have the original game installers, but that's something we will discuss in a sequel article.
We want Red Alert here. You get installers for a variety of platforms - Windows, Linux, Mac. Anyway grab the relevant Linux package and run it. This will install CNCNET, which runs using WINE. The first time you launch this tool, it will show you an overview window, through which you can setup Red Alert but also Command & Conquer and Tiberian Sun.
After this, it's identical to the Windows installer. Breeze through the settings.
And soon enough, the game will be installed. You can now play the full campaign offline, play against other people online, skirmish (my favorite), and even tweak settings. I was able to use my full screen resolution, both on the 1366x768px Lenovo G50 laptop, but more importantly on the HD Slimbook, and this is very neat.
And then onwards, it's tears, fun and joy.
I am extremely happy. I remember trying to play Red Alert about 10 years ago, and you had to patch files, and there was this and that, but now, it's smooth, seamless. This is true for many other games of this type, and it's easier to get them running on the latest operating systems than it was a few years after their demise. This is because people realized how valuable and dear they were.
Everything works well in this setup, but if you're not happy for some reason, you have cross-platform support, and there's also the fully open-source OpenRA clone. This one, alongside my DOSBox classics, many of which I still have the original save games for, plus OpenTTD, is the mainstay of excellence, from an era when computer gaming was pure and hard and utterly unforgiving. And it shows. I hope you find this little guide valuable. Next on the menu, Yuri's Revenge. See you soon.