Review: Command & Conquer – Red Alert 3
My kingdom for a mouse.
It doesn’t seem like that long since the last CnC game, that’s because it’s only been about 5 months. Kane’s Wrath was the pseudo sequel/expansion to the excellent Tiberium Wars and without the success it enjoyed there’s no chance EA would have bothered to resurrect the Command and Conquer series (Tiberium and Red Alert) on consoles. A fact which makes EA seem that bit less evil and almost makes you forget about the CnC Generals series (most disliked â€“ I loved). So it is with open arms that RTS’ers the world, ummmâ€¦ over open their arms to embrace communism â€“ now with added attack bears, dolphin weapons, Japanese schoolgirls, cleavage and very very short skirts (om nom nom nom).
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is, I’m sure you know, a strategy game. The Red Alert series takes place in a universe where WWII never happened. In RA1 Einstein travelled back in time to erase (not murder) Hitler from history before he had a chance to cause any damage. Succeeding, Einstein returned to the present and a world which saw the Soviets rise to power (not having the Nazis to contend with) and start a conflict with the Allies (UK, USA, Europe etc) – RA2 continued the story also â€“ but with the magnificent Udo Kier. Red Alert 3 starts with the Soviets very close to defeat implementing their own plan â€“ travel back in time and â€œeraseâ€ Einstein (just before the Soviets started their initial attack in RA1) and therefore many of the technological advantages of the West, but as anyone will tell you, messing with the timeline has consequences.
As a result of this tomfoolery, no Einstein, No Atomic Bomb, No Hiroshima, the Empire of the Rising Sun is born. The Japanese invade right at the start of the game causing no end of problems for the Allies and Soviets. Got all that?
Much like in the previous games in the series and most other RTS games out there, the general aim is the same. Use your forces to wipe out the opposition. In any given level you may have only a set few units to complete the level and no means of producing more (these levels are very rare in this game) or the more likely you have a small or full base to build up as you see fit and proceed with the annihilation.
Each faction has their own power generation buildings, training facilities and vehicle factories but RA3 mixes up things in a few different ways, the main one being the ability to train some units with amphibious abilities. Naval yards always did play a part in Red Alert 1 and 2 but were often underused as there was only so much water on a map but the game now encourages you to use units on land and water. Also, units now have some kind of secondary ability that you can activated on the fly. It might be the allied infantry and their ability to put away their gun and hold up their riot shield, or the Japanese Tengu and their ability to fly or walk bi-pedal to attack air and ground units respectively. It’s a nice addition and gives you more ways to play the game.
The armies themselves also have a few unique qualities. The Soviets are pretty much traditional in how you control them. Build buildings to build units then build support structures like the Battle lab to unlock new units to build. The Allies have you building buildings (buy a thesaurus! – Ed) to train units and then buying upgrades for each building to allow you to build more units. As is the case with Tiberium Wars â€“ the new third army (the Japanese) is the most unique of all as they are not limited to having to build their buildings close to each other. Your main construction yard builds modules which you then tell to drive and unpack all over the place, so with these guys its really easy to spread far and wide. An enjoyable way to play.
I kind of like Red Alert 3, but I’d struggle to recommend it.
You see, each level has now been built round a co-op basis and as such Red Alert 3 is basically a two-player game. If you don’t have a friend to play with, you just end up playing with the AI and while a real friend is able to think and react with you the AI tends to struggle and often finds itself in need of your assistance, kind of like a dead weight.
This co-op focus also fundamentally changes the design of the levels which now feel less focused and more contrived to fit the co-op style. The game also has borderline ugly graphics and a pretty bland art style which all adds up to make identifying different units difficult. Things aren’t made any better by a poor and confusing control scheme that has far too many options and which is compounded by the fact each unit has a, sometimes redundant, alternate attack mode.
Not all is lost though as the game moves at a fair pelt and is technically very proficient, never more so than in the cutscenes which are of a universally high hammy standard, with some excellent turns from Tim Curry and Jonathan Pryce. All in all then this is a competent game, not too good but then not too bad either.
Secondary Score: 6/10
Not that a new RA game isn’t enough for some people EA has decided to sweeten the pot further still with the inclusion of not just an online co-op campaign, but rather the fact that every mission is playable as co-op. Sounds great eh? Hhhhmmnmmnm. While it was good to communicate with my main man Steve and figure the best way to complete a mission I cant say its something that needed to be in there and the fact of the matter is that if you are playing solo then you are lumped with an AI co-commander, building up their own units and sharing your resources. Online is smooth and slick with no problems connecting or communication aside from the fact you cannot save your game mid-mission if you play co-op online. If you get twatted then you’re down and out (the game does however save at the end of each mission). Added to this you have the standard skirmish mode to play against AI bots or humans over XBL.
Just like Kane’s Wrath, the control interface has been refined further making it even easier to do what you need to do although you can still hear PC gamers guffawing off in the distance. The acting is stellar and the cast, phenomenal. Granted some are better than others, but put them altogether and you’ll be wishing there was more FMV.
Minor niggles come in the form of the hideous yellow border that you see around units when you highlight them and that bloody AI co-commander. A few gamers I’ve spoken too have agreed with how the art style does seem a bit too cartoony, but the graphics certainly are bold and beautiful.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is a damn fine addition to the series. The story is daft (as it should be), the acting the hammy (as it should be), and the actors are cult and mainstream alike. With solid controls, varied armies and levels I don’t think the fans could be asking for anything better. Dos Vedanya, Comrad.