Released back in 1996, Command and Conquer: Red Alert is set in a universe predicated on the idea that Albert Einstein went back in time and eliminated Hitler before he could do damage, altering history in such a way that Russia rose to power in Germany’s absence. It was an exaggerated world in Red Alert and its sequel, released in 2000, which offered players both an escape from the real world combined with a satisfying feeling of control over their destiny in the game.
Roughly half of the voters who are disappointed by the turn of history in last night’s election are probably looking for an escape right now, and longing for that feeling of control. Video games are often ways for us to escape reality for small chunks of time and strategy games tap into that in different ways. On a base level, these types of games are ways for us to flex our tactical prowess. On a deeper level, they fulfill power fantasies (as many games do) in different and fun ways while some even let us shape our own historical fictions. Red Alert 2 is one of the most popular strategy titles, a real-time strategy game that had an incredible historical fiction of its own for us to navigate, and it’s being recreated in a VR environment.
Ádám Horváth and Sly_Fox (there may be others involved in the process as well) are using the Unreal 4 engine to update Red Alert 2 and they’re bringing VR immersion to it as well. The original game only had 2D assets, so Sly_Fox is using those as the basis to create 3D units and buildings. The video shows the game being played in room-scale mode with HTC Vive. The player’s left controller serves as a pad showing building and unit types to build. You select and place those choices on the map with the right, which is also the controller you’ll use to direct units and set rally points. Having such a fluid perspective on the battlefield while being able to quickly place buildings and direct units is something the strategy genre can build on with VR devices, and this sample is hopefully just a sign of things to come.
Much like Red Alert and its sequels redefined the RTS genre, virtual reality has the potential to change strategy games in a big way — with games like AirMech, Tactera and Quar leading the way — while offering a complete escape from the real world for just a little while.