Each one of the missions that you are sent on in the single-player has a co-commander who will assist you in completing the objectives.
This can either be an AI player, or it can be someone else over Xbox Live. The inclusion of co-op in every mission really is special and unique for an RTS title, and does add an immense level of re-playability to the single-player campaign. If you choose to use the AI commander you then have access to some commands in the game, such as having the AI commander prepare an attack on a given location, or having the AI commander aid you in defending a location.
These commands work well and the AI commander does an excellent job in following through and thinking for itself. Often enough, we had the AI commander get a considerable amount of work done towards any given objective, which can also be annoying when you are planning to complete an objective and suddenly your AI commander completes it (although this still counts as a victory for you).
The missions usually run a similar course; you are given a few objectives, and on completing them suddenly the game presents you with a host more to complete, as a turn of events has changed the situation. These will be presented to you by a small in-game video pop-up of your intelligence contact within your faction, which is nicely done, but the whole process becomes predictable as the game progresses.
Graphically the game is not quite what we had anticipated. Sometimes the screen appears to lack sharpness, and certainly lacks the clarity that the PC version has. However the water effects are fantastic, and seeing your ships cut through the water is exceptional, as well as the fire and particle effects which are gorgeous. Destroying buildings also looks quite cool, although as is true to the RTS genre once destroyed they disappear into the ground. The sound effects are great, with decent audio cues for when you are being attacked, as well as flashing on the in-game minimap. The superweapons and top-secret protocols are also well rendered.
The protocols are unlocked in the game through security points which are earned through the course of a battle, and these can then be spent on special attacks. These will (for example) have a satellite and some space junk come crashing down on your target, or use a magnetic satellite to suck away an enemy unit much like a tornado.
Some battles will also have superweapons and ultimate weapons, which can be game-endingly powerful, although you shouldn’t rely on them. They come in the form of defensive powers such as making all your units and buildings temporarily indestructible, or bringing some serious firepower down on your enemies base, obliterating everything in its path.
The inclusion of a solid multiplayer in an RTS such as Red Alert 3 is a must, and EA do not disappoint here. As already mentioned, the co-op is a new feature that works very well, but you also have the run of the mill online skirmish modes where you can play against your friends, or random people on Xbox Live, in teams or on your own. These are not much different to how they always have been, and basically its a matter of getting a big enough army as fast as possible and rushing your opponent. No time for mucking about building your neat, tidy base defences as these will be breached within moments. We struggled to ever be quite fast enough to win any online games, but it is definitely about adapting your play style and practice. At least you know that everyone else is struggling with the same control scheme, which cannot be said for the AI.
Overall match-making was fast and fluid, and we found there was very little lag. With such a solid online mode there is some serious re-playability to be had here.
Overall Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has lived up to our expectations. The storyline is as fantastic as previous versions, and the ability to play all three factions is great and adds some diversity to the game. The graphics are pretty solid, although they could be sharper, and the sound effects are great. The inclusion of live action cutscenes is also a big plus for fans of the series. Where the game seems to get caught up is with the control scheme, simply because Red Alert 3 tries to do so much and includes several new commands that make the controller feel overloaded. You can adjust the magnetic sensitivity of the cursor, however that doesn’t solve all the problems here. However with some perseverance there is little doubt that the controller will become second nature, but when a mouse and keyboard can be so simple it is hard to justify the need to reinvent the wheel.
Overall a solid RTS with great co-op and a strong online mode. Definitely a must buy for fans of the series, but if we had to choose between the PC or the console version, it would be an easy decision.
We've already reviewed the PC version of Red Alert 3 - if you're keen to learn more about this title, check out our article here.