Command and Conquer: Red Alert is one of the most iconic sci-fi RTS titles in gaming history.
But what really made this title stand out was its unique take on an alternate timeline.
As many of us know, the game opens with Albert Einstein traveling back in time to kill Adolph Hitler in the 1920s, long before the infamous dictator gets a chance to establish Nazi Germany. The scientists involved probably thought that this would be a good thing, but as Einstein cautioned, “Time will tell. Sooner or later, time will tell.” Unfortunately, our protagonists couldn’t have imagined the fallout.
Rather than stopping World War II, Einstein’s activities simply passed the torch onto Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin — who historically had more blood on his hands than Hitler. Like Hitler, the Stalin in Command and Conquer: Red Alert embarked on a campaign to expand Russia’s borders “from coast to coast,” coming dangerously close to succeeding. Luckily, C&C canon states that Stalin ultimately lost the war, but this begs the question: could this war have been possible?
On the surface, such a scenario could actually have occurred. After all, the Soviet Union was a superpower, with literally millions of soldiers at its disposal. But like any historical event, there are many factors that cause things to play out a certain way. If we look at the scenario based on actual historical fact at the time, the odds of Stalin taking Hitler’s place — compelling as it may be — simply wouldn’t work out.
The Timeline in Command and Conquer: Red Alert
One huge stumbling block for our new Red Alert historical timeline is that it simply doesn’t fit to begin with.
According to the opening scene for the Allied campaign, the game begins in “present day.” We assume that means 1996, which reflects the title’s release date. The problem here is that two of the game’s biggest characters, Albert Einstein and Joseph Stalin, were long dead by then. Stalin died in 1952 and Einstein followed shortly after, in 1955. Even if Hitler had been destroyed, this wouldn’t have affected the lifespans of Stalin or Einstein. So, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend the game takes place in 1939, the year that World War II officially started.
In both the Allied and Soviet campaigns, we see a mention of the United Nations. The U.N. didn’t exist until after the Second World War, but more importantly, the organization was created as a direct result of that conflict. Simply put, not only did the U.N. not fit the timeline, it’s quite possible the organization would never begin to exist.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert’s Military Situation
Again, from a basic perspective, Stalin had the manpower to begin an offensive. With Hitler out of the picture, the first step would’ve been much easier.
Thanks to the Treaty of Versaille, Germany was stuck paying reparations for their role in World War One. Post-war Germany was in economic ruin. Inflation was massive, jobs were scarce and the overall quality of life was terrible. Without Hitler around to scapegoat the Jewish people and take the various economic and military measures to pull Germany out of its depression, it’s safe to say that Germany would have remained weak in our alternate timeline, crippling the Allied defense strength.
More importantly, however, there’s the question about whether the Soviet Union — powerful as it may have been — was logistically ready for a massive offensive. Stalin’s paranoia and ruthlessness is well-known. One of the biggest consequences of this issue was that Stalin had purged his high command, killing ranking officers and other members of his administration whom he thought were enemies of the State. Because of this, his military infrastructure was reeling. There’s the common phrase, “cut the head off the snake” when dealing with a powerful enemy. In Stalin’s case, the snake was headless from the get-go. This is one of the reasons why the Soviet Union was crushed during Hitler’s initial offensive. Stalin simply wasn’t ready.
In order for Stalin to rally his troops for a campaign against Europe, he’d basically have to overcome his paranoia and focus on rebuilding his staff and morale. Let’s face it, you can’t teach an old dictator new tricks.
Technology in Command and Conquer: Red Alert
Red Alert is chock full of crazy technology, but let’s start small here.
There’s a scene in the Allied campaign where General Von Esling is watching a news broadcast on a color T.V. Again, this wasn’t even close to being available by the time Stalin died. But that’s not the only technology that doesn’t stack up.
Late into the Allied and Soviet campaigns, we’re introduced to the MIG Fighter jet (much to the Allies’ chagrin). But one look at the MIG clearly shows it’s modeled after modern fighter jets. What’s stranger is the fact that the unit was deployed alongside the Yak, a propeller-powered fighter that resembled World War II era air units. This is like having Ford producing and selling its 1955 Ford Thunderbird alongside the 2017 Ford Fusion.
More importantly, however, is that Soviet Russia had nothing to do with the invention of the jet engine. Although the equipment was being tested and researched in Europe, it was actually the German air force that created the first jet fighter prototype in 1939. Could Germany still have invented the fighter in its alternate impoverished state? Maybe. But keep in mind that this fighter was created as a result of Hitler’s massive military investments and his desire to gain an advantage in the war.
Ultimately, the inventor of the jet fighter would be a toss-up between Germany and the U.K. (who simultaneously had engineers working on the technology, completely unaware of each other), but Soviet Russia certainly wouldn’t have had a hand in it.
Both the Allies and the Soviets have their own helicopter units in Red Alert. But again, there’s no reason for these to exist.
First off, the helicopters were insanely advanced for the time period. Their designs are more reflective of modern day attack helicopters than the first crude model developed by — guess who — Nazi Germany.
Again, with Germany in its weakened economic and military state, it’s safe to say that designing new and innovative war machines wasn’t in the cards.
Over the years, we’ve seen so many great sci-fi RTS games come and go, but out of the many gems, there are some true masterpieces that were so good that they never went out of style, some holding their own since the days of dial-up.
Sadly, for the longest time, the only way we could play these games was by downloading special patches and tinkering with the code. But thanks to popular demand, some of these otherwise inaccessible titles are available as either freeware [Click here to read more…]
In the Allied campaign, General Von Esling gives the player some disturbing news. Stalin managed to create an atomic bomb. Of all the stretches, however, this is by far the largest.
Nuclear weaponry was being explored as early as 1939 but by America, Britain, and Canada. In fact, Stalin would’ve been clueless had it not been for his espionage efforts that ultimately uncovered the secret. But only after the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did the Soviet Union get a chance to really research the technology.
If anything, it should’ve been the Allies who discovered nukes first, not the Soviets. Well, at least both sides get them in skirmish mode.
Stalin’s Agenda in Command and Conquer: Red Alert
This brings us to our most important Command and Conquer: Red Alert conundrum. Let’s assume that Stalin did have the manpower, staff and technology to actually carry out such an ambitious war. Based on what we know about him, the question isn’t whether he could do it, but rather if he even wanted to.
Although Stalin did annex some nearby territories during his tenure, he never indicated a desire for the large-scale aggression that the now non-existent Hitler did. He was actually more concerned with keeping things stable at home. Of course, he was so “concerned” with maintaining communism that it cost millions of lives.
Although Command and Conquer: Red Alert creates an amazing, unique and realistic narrative, too many details don’t stack up. The world would be a very different place during our revised timeline, but we can thank our lucky stars that, although Stalin was crazy, he wasn’t “conquer the world” crazy. But hey, at least he provided some fodder for a great game.