The cruiser is armed with a total of four 8-inch guns housed in two twin turrets which fire long-range explosive shells that can devastate bases from long range. The heavy guns and armor came at the price of mobility and active defenses against aircraft and submarines. The cruiser relied on destroyers and gunboats for protection to ward off these threats.
The firing range of the Cruiser is the longest in the game, being able to reach targets several screens away which gives it considerable coverage on maps (also it is possible to chronoshift a cruiser into firing range of an enemy base). The accuracy of fire decreases the further away the target is, and the Cruiser will often miss distant targets altogether. This problem can be negated somewhat by ordering the Cruiser to force fire (holding down ctrl) on an area next to or around the target, which often causes stray inaccurate shots to hit the actual target. Although it will not target submarines directly, a cruiser can be directed to force-fire on sea-tiles next to the submarine, and the submarine will take damage from near misses.
The Cruiser's naval guns are devastating against structures and infantry, each broadside having roughly three times the power of artillery. A couple broadsides will level most of the weaker buildings. They are less effective against tanks and armoured vehicles, though, and cannot hit moving targets unless they force-fire in front of where the target is about to move. For this reason the Cruiser is best employed against stationary or slow moving targets.
The Cruiser cannot engage submarines directly, although it can force-fire next to the submarine, and the submarine will take damage from near misses while there is also the small chance of the cruiser scoring a direct hit. The Cruiser is well protected with heavy armor and can withstand seven torpedo hits from submarines. Nonetheless, Cruisers are usally escorted by Destroyers.
The Cruiser has no defense against air units at all, so the typical Soviet counter is a MiG strike, thus ships like Destroyers are needed to escort Cruisers.
The Soviet counterpart to the cruiser is the stealthy Missile Submarine, developed as a means to carry this long range heavy firepower.
Behind the scenes
The Cruiser is portrayed in the cutscenes as a Iowa class battleship with its 1980s upgrades. However, the Iowa class was a battleship with nine 16-inch guns in three three-gunturrets, while the in-game unit has only two turrets each with two 8-inch guns.
The closest counterpart to the in-game unit would be the Thonburi-class coastal defense ship of the Thai Navy in the Second World War, which not only had the same twin 8 inch gun turrets configuration, its appearance is also similar to the Cruiser (albeit their bow sections of the weather deck resembles each other’s stern section). Another possible inspiration for the in-game unit of the Allied Cruiser is the Courageous-class large light cruiser, completed during World War I to support the landing of troops on the German Baltic Coast. The Courageous cruisers were fast but very lightly armoured, with a shallow draught to allow them to operate in the shallow waters of the Baltic. Like the Courageous-class, the Allied Cruiser unit in Red Alert is meant for shore bombardment instead of ship-to-ship combat. The Courageous cruisers mounted two twin turrets of 15-inch guns for their main battery, not too dissimilar from the in-game Cruiser's two twin turret configuration.
- Immensely strong attack.
- Heavy Armour
- Devastating against structures and infantry
- Powerful in numbers.
- Attack does splash damage
- Possesses the longest range in the game. Outranges all base defenses including Tesla coil.
- Can shoot at the water around submarines in hopes of hitting them with stray shells
- Very long range and heavy firepower makes it versatile as a naval artillery or supporting player's defenses from safe distances.
- Lacks anti-submarine weaponry.
- No defense against aircraft.
- Expensive ($2000)
- Less effective against tanks and armoured vehicles
- Inaccurate against moderately fast moving enemy units.
- Defenseless at close range.
- Long range cruiser fire will overshoot their intended targets
- Very slow movement
- Requires a tech center.
When a cruiser is destroyed the screen shakes. The cruiser being able to fire indirectly on submarines is perhaps inspired by the film Under Siege (1992) starring Steven Segal.