The Command & Conquer series will bring back memories for almost every strategy gamer.
From the early days when the series blossomed on the PC, and gamers around the world toiled away the nights (and days) battling their friends, many a LAN party was spent yelling abuse at your neighbour as they took out your base defences and rolled their tanks in. Command & Conquer: Red Alert was always a favourite for many, due to the humour-filled wacky story-lines and the absurdity that the game brought with it.
Finally, after years of waiting since Red Alert 2 graced the PC, we have a sequel in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, and boy, what a sequel.
The story in the Xbox 360 version of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is identical to that on PC. The Soviets face defeat at the hands of the Allies, causing them in desperation to use a time machine that one of their top scientists is still in the process of perfecting. The Soviets travel back in time to the 1927 International Physics Conference to assassinate Albert Einstein. This prevents Einstein from using his knowledge to aid the Allies, ensuring that they cannot defeat the Soviets. However on returning to the present day, the Soviets find that there is a new force to be reckoned with, the Empire of the Rising Sun (Japan). Japan has been able to increase its military production unchecked, due to the embittered conflict that the Soviets and the Allies had found themselves in, and is now engaging a weakened Soviet Union.
To present this unique storyline, Electronic Arts have gone with the trademark live-action footage that fans generally loved from the Red Alert series. They have enlisted a number of stars such as Tim Curry, Jenny McCarthy and Peter Stormare (Prison Break) among many others, and there are a few that will no doubt get a chuckle out of some people. These cut-scenes are really impressive. They are cheesy and amusing, but that’s what we have come to expect from Red Alert, and EA have remained true to the essence of the original title. Some people won’t like the live-action cut-scenes, but for anyone who was a fan of the old Red Alert games they will open the flood gates of many fond memories.
A great aspect of Red Alert 3 is also that you are able to play through three campaigns, seeing (and winning) the conflict for anyone of the three sides involved. The Allies, the Soviets, and the Empire.
Each of the three sides you can command in the game have a unique style of play, with different units and buildings and construction techniques. For example, the Allies will construct their buildings inside the construction yard, and place them when they are complete. The Soviets structures will build up where you place them, and be relatively vulnerable in their pre-built state. The Empire uses their advanced technology to materialise their buildings on-location, making for very prompt expansion indeed. Base defences are also very different depending on the faction, the Allies rely on multi-function pillboxes and the like, whereas the Soviets prefer AA cannons and Tesla coils. All of the factions however have to farm resources with vulnerable resource collectors, and this ultimately is the key to victory, as without resources you cannot build units.
The Allies have a range of units from Spies, Attack Dogs, Javelin Soldiers (anti-aircraft), to trained Attack Dolphins, Cryocopters and Aircraft Carriers. The Soviets have War Bears, Flak Troopers, Kirov Airships, Apocalypse Tanks, and Bullfrog Amphibious Transports. The Empire has access to Burst Drones (robotic dragonflies), Shinobi, King Oni (transformers anyone?), and Shogun Battleships. At this point though, we are merely scratching the surface, and there are too many units to mention.
A nice addition is that many of the units now will convert depending on where you are using them. Some boats will convert to flying vehicles, and some land vehicles will be able to travel over the water. Each unit is true to the faction’s style, and the Allies and Soviets are much as we remember them from previous Red Alert titles. But at the end of the day the different units serve similar functions in their own unique way, meaning that each faction has an excellent unit at the ready for any attack.
On top of this, many of the units now have access to special weapons which can be used by hitting the RB button on your controller. This is a mixed blessing as some of the attacks and functions are very cool, but it gives you more to distract you from the game. Being an RTS, you really do need to stay focused and keep your fingers at the ready. This is where the game gets tricky too. EA have enhanced their aptly named “CommandStick” control system from Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. It is now capable of issuing many more commands simply by pulling the right trigger and selecting what it is you want to do; from building units, to repairing buildings, to accessing units across the battlefield. You have access to all the commands that you would in the PC version directly from the controller, and considering the breadth of commands available this is an immense feat.
Unfortunately it comes back to a controller simply not being suited for an RTS title. Selecting a target for your units can be clunky, and even selecting your own units can be a challenge when units are close together. Similarly, issuing commands and selecting groups is nearly always a combination of the RB and LB buttons, and some one of the face buttons. When you are in the midst of a battle it's a real pain that in order to cycle through and select a group you need to hold LB and hit X until you reach the group that you are after. More often than not we ended up selecting all our units rather than those we had wanted to select. The control system worked great for Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, and it still works, but because EA have packed considerably more functions into the game it does feel confusing at times. With practice, we can imagine that we would be issuing all the right commands without really thinking about it, but it is certainly a learning curve that not everyone will cope with. Fortunately the difficulty can be adjusted with ease before individual missions, meaning that if you're struggling, you can tone it down until you adjust.