Just about every product Westwood has produced in the last few years has been outstanding - except for its mission discs. Command & Conquer's Covert Operations add-on was the first guilty party, and now Red Alert's Counterstrike has become the second Westwood add-on mission disc to fall seriously short of expectations.
Counterstrike is a great purchase for players looking to squeeze playtime out of Red Alert, at least from a single-player standpoint. Eight new Allied and Soviet scenarios are offered for a total of 16 new missions (in addition to the hidden Giant Ant missions). Like Covert Operations (and unlike Red Alert), the missions are selectable from a menu, saving Westwood the effort of creating new FMV to give Counterstrike a vivid story - instead, you get stale mission briefing text. These new missions are much more challenging than those in the original game, largely because of the addition of new units that increase the stakes, units such as Nuclear Subs, Wonder Dogs, Tesla Tanks, and Super Soldiers. Unfortunately, Westwood opted to use old Red Alert unit graphics, instead of original art, to depict these new combatants. For example, the new Tesla Tanks look like Mobile Gap Generators that discharge bolts of lightning and Nuclear Subs appear as ordinary subs whose missiles pack a nuclear detonation upon impact.
Counterstrike fails to deliver anything substantial to online players, except for 100 new multiplayer maps, which isn't as great a value as it sounds, since the original game came with a map editor and maps are readily available on the Net. The hordes of Red Alert fans who have been drooling over the thought of having new units to play with in multiplayer combat have been dealt a cruel blow - the new units are only available in the one-player missions. This lack of multiplayer improvements appears to be a ridiculous oversight on Westwood's behalf - especially considering Red Alert's large and devoted online following.
Although this game doesn't include everything it should, there are some tasty extras. Counterstrike includes all sorts of pleasant Easter eggs, such as several Windows 95 Red Alert themes, the ability to play the hidden Giant Ant missions, and several great techno tunes that can be played from any CD player. But however amusing these tidbits are, most fans would gladly trade all of them for the multiplayer support this game should have had.
If you simply want some new, harder missions to play through, then Counterstrike is a great bargain. If, however, you were hoping for a companion disc that would make Red Alert a more robust multiplayer game, you will be sorely disappointed.