MOD SPOT­LIGHT

Let this RedAlert2 mod ex­pand your mind.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Phil Sav­age

From hum­ble be­gin­nings—first re­leas­ing in 2005 as a bal­ance mod— Men­tal Omega has grown and ex­panded over the years to be­come what its cre­ators call an “un­of­fi­cial ex­pan­sion pack” for Red Alert 2: Yuri’s Re­venge. It’s hard to ar­gue with their as­sess­ment. This is a mas­sive mod that not only ex­pands the con­flict with new fac­tions and units, but, as of writ­ing, fea­tures a cam­paign with over 70 mis­sions— with more on the way. Quan­tity isn’t a great in­di­ca­tor of a mod’s suc­cess, but the mis­sions I’ve sam­pled so far have all been well made. More than just a se­quence of skir­mishes, most of­fer spe­cific, cus­tom ob­jec­tives—some more in­ven­tive than those found in West­wood’s orig­i­nal. Take the first Al­lied mis­sion of the mod’s first act, which is a retelling of Red Alert 2’ s cen­tral con­flict. In the orig­i­nal game, you clear Lib­erty Is­land of Soviet troops, and then fend off an at­tack from para­troop­ers. It’s a gen­tle, small-scale in­tro­duc­tion, el­e­vated by the use of a fa­mous land­mark, and by Premier Ro­manov ac­tor Ni­cholas Worth’s at­tempt at a Rus­sian ac­cent.

“Gen­tle” isn’t in Men­tal Omega’s vo­cab­u­lary. Its first mis­sion is a full-scale Soviet in­va­sion of Wash­ing­ton DC. Rather than let you build up a base, you’re handed con­trol of a pla­toon of sol­diers. Your job in the open­ing min­utes is to de­cide where to place them in prepa­ra­tion for the on­slaught. Gar­rison­ing units in civil­ian build­ings—a neat but of­ten un­der­served fea­ture of Red Alert 2— is cru­cial, help­ing you ex­tend the range and de­fence of your pre­cious sol­diers.

It’s not flashy—there are no ac­tors chew­ing their way through an FMV cutscene—but there’s enough drama to be found in the sce­nario it­self.

Even this first mis­sion doesn’t pull its punches, and that’s just play­ing on nor­mal dif­fi­culty. The Soviet force is un­re­lent­ing, and the at­tack comes on mul­ti­ple fronts. Over­all, the mis­sions are more mi­cro­man­age­ment heavy than a vanilla C&C cam­paign, by which I mean I failed them a lot. If I’ve one com­plaint it’s that a few too many mis­sions start with just a hand­ful of units, se­verely pun­ish­ing small mis­takes. Still, you can se­lect ev­ery mis­sion from the start, let­ting you skip past any dif­fi­culty spikes you en­counter. Or you can watch each mis­sion’s linked walk­through video, and in­stead en­joy suc­cess vi­car­i­ously.

psi­lent but deadly

The main draw of Men­tal Omega is the chance to run through a cam­paign as Yuri’s Ep­silon Army. De­spite be­ing the an­tag­o­nist of Yuri’s Re­venge, the psy­chic mas­ter­mind’s force was only playable in skir­mish mode. Here you work in se­cret, us­ing the mind con­trol pow­ers of your PsiCorps to un­der­mine both the Al­lies and So­vi­ets. More than in the other cam­paigns, the of­ten small squad size you start with makes sense. It’s al­ways fun to in­fil­trate an en­emy base, us­ing just a hand­ful of Adepts to wreak havoc as they mind con­trol who­ever comes near. Just be­ware of dogs, the vac­u­ous neme­sis of the psy­chic war­rior.

A fourth fac­tion, The Foehn Re­volt, doesn’t fea­ture heav­ily in the cam­paign—cur­rently of­fer­ing just three mis­sions, with more planned in fu­ture up­dates. But they’re fully playable in skir­mishes, and prove a dom­i­nat­ing force thanks to nan­otech­nol­ogy. They’re a fun ad­di­tion: Ex­pen­sive but pow­er­ful, and with fun spe­cial abil­i­ties, such as the nanofiber sync that trans­forms and up­grades units within its ra­dius.

Skir­mish mode re­mains a great way to learn each fac­tion’s quirks. Not only does each side have more units than in the base game, but the sub­fac­tions have been fleshed out, too. More than just a unique unit, each sub­fac­tion of­fers a spe­cific style of play. The Ep­silon Army’s Scor­pion Cell, for in­stance, lets you quickly ex­pand your army with cheap, ba­sic units—a use­ful coun­ter­point to The Foehn Re­volt’s costly tech. If there’s a down­side, it’s that there’s no ex­pla­na­tion of each unit in the mod it­self. “Yes,” you’ll think. “I will build a Zorb­trot­ter,” silently pray­ing that they’re in any way use­ful.

Un­like Twisted In­sur­rec­tion, Men­tal Omega isn’t a stand­alone mod. To play it, you’ll need to in­stall a copy of Red Alert 2: Yuri’s Re­venge, make sure it’s patched to the lat­est ver­sion, and then fol­low the in­struc­tions on the mod’s web­site— copy­ing a se­lec­tion of files to a new folder, and ex­tract­ing the mod into that. For­tu­nately, it runs bet­ter than the creaky Red Alert 2, but I still found the de­fault ren­derer strug­gled at high res­o­lu­tions. On my ma­chine, switch­ing to TS-DDRAW in the dis­play op­tions led to the best re­sults.

It’s worth tak­ing the time to get it up and run­ning. Men­tal Omega is a dra­matic ex­pan­sion that’s still be­ing worked on. And even if you do some­how fin­ish its many cam­paigns, it also fea­tures chal­lenge modes, co-op mis­sions and a small but ac­tive on­line com­mu­nity. Its 13 years of it­er­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment haven’t gone to waste. If you’re a fan of Red Alert 2, this is the mod you need.

the mis­sions are more mi­cro­man­age­ment heavy than a vanilla C&C cam­paign

Some mis­sions give you just one unit.

Just a hand­ful of psy­chic Adepts can clear a base.

I’m be­gin­ning to think Yuri might be a nar­cis­sist.

In-game cutscenes play out be­fore some mis­sions.

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