Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Review
Red Alert 3 is a raucously fun strategy game that overcomes its issues with both style and substance.
- The story and cutscenes are wonderfully corny
- Fully cooperative campaign gives standard missions new life
- Each faction is fun to play thanks to cool, balanced units
- Vibrant visual design and smooth performance.
- Problematic pathfinding and other glitches
- Clunky co-op invite system.
Where else but in the Red Alert universe could you pit transforming mechs against bears, or decide the fate of your mission by attacking floating fortresses with intelligent dolphins outfitted with sonic disruptors? Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 doesn't take itself seriously, but that's what makes it so much fun to play. This is the most rambunctiously over-the-top strategy game to reach store shelves in years, filled to the brim with laugh-out-loud cheesiness and a cheerful disregard for political correctness. Underneath that kookiness is a fairly standard RTS with some noticeable flaws, but it's a great one nevertheless, thanks to entertaining units, a strong multiplayer component, and support for an online, fully cooperative campaign--a first for the genre.
So here's the setup, told in a hysterically overacted cutscene that could have been ripped directly from a bad sci-fi flick: Russian leaders, including the premier (played by a heavily accented, wonderfully hammy Tim Curry) travel back in time to kill Albert Einstein. The theory is that doing so will change the course of history, causing the Soviet Union to dominate as a world power. Instead, this bit of time tampering gives rise to a new threat, the Empire of the Rising Sun--and, of course, more broadly played histrionics. The whole thing is a live-action riot: JK Simmons as US President Ackerman is all anticommie swagger, and George Takei scrunches his face into superserious knots as the Emperor. Then there is Jenny McCarthy as Tanya, stroking an enormous toy gun in one scene, holding a sexy pose but still prepared to slit a man's throat in another. Skimpy, ill-fitting costumes, blatant computer-generated graphics, and bad accents--it's all quite wonderful, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
All three factions--Soviets, Allies, and Empire--are fun to play, and though not dramatically different from each other, they’re distinct enough to make each of them feel fresh. For instance, Allied structures can be placed only after fully completed within the build queue (a standard C&C mechanic), whereas Soviet refineries can be placed immediately and assembled afterward. The new faction for the franchise, Empire of the Rising Sun, is even more flexible in this regard, but it also requires a bit of micromanagement. In this case, you queue up movable vehicular pods called cores that then unfurl into the appropriate structure. Additionally, most Empire structures (with the exception of defensive turrets) can be placed anywhere without the fetters of a nearby base, which makes them the easy choice for players who like to establish an early presence across the entire map. Of course, these differences extend to ore refineries, but in all cases, resource collection is more measured than in prior C&C games. Gem fields are gone, which makes ore mines your only source of income. The method of implementation is a departure for the Red Alert franchise, given that it generally means a one-to-one ratio of ore collectors to refineries and a resulting slower pace.
Nevertheless, a slower economy doesn't make for less explosive gameplay, and each faction boasts a number of awesome units to throw into the fray. Some of them, such as attack dogs and flak troopers, are carryovers from previous games. But no matter whether you're using familiar units or new ones, clashes are fiery and tense, especially when you've grasped the nuances of each unit's secondary mode. This is particularly true when playing as the Empire, considering that most of its units are more than meets the eye; they transform between two distinct states with differing strengths. For example, the mecha tengu can attack infantry from the ground or do antiair duty in the skies. This flexibility translates to most Empire units, making them fun to use as long as your finger is hovering near the F key on your keyboard, which toggles between unit abilities.
This isn't to say that Soviet and Allied units aren't equally entertaining to use. All factions use ground, air, and sea units, with many of them doing double duty in water and on land. For example, the ever-helpful Soviet bullfrog can transport troops across land and water (and can amusingly spew infantry a good distance with its man-cannon). Late-game skirmishes bring the best and most fun-to-use units, such as the Allied aircraft carrier, which sends a squadron of drones into the fray and is one of Red Alert 3's most autonomous naval units. The campaign introduces these units with style, and the size to which some of its maps expand will often keep you busy across the entire map, particularly during the frantic final missions.
The gameplay twist within the campaign is the addition of a co-commander. If you play on your own, this position will be granted to an AI player of a fair level of competence, and you'll be able to issue basic one-click commands, such as "hold this spot" or "attack this structure." There are also some contextual commands when mission objectives get more intricate and require very specific actions, such as destroying a reactor or capturing a building. This addition makes the largest campaign missions feel wonderfully dramatic, with engagements scattered across the map involving not just your own units but friendly ones as well. It also adds a bit more oomph to the light puzzle-solving missions so common to the genre ("take these three units and follow these specific instructions"), because it requires the assistance of your compatriot. On the other hand, it makes the campaign easier than you would expect, seeing as how your AI comrade will usually buy you enough time to rebuild if you make a costly mistake.
But as with most games, it's better to add a real friend than deal with the occasional questionable decisions of an artificial teammate, and Red Alert 3's greatest asset is its cooperative campaign, a first for the genre. Should you go this route, your online partner (co-op play is unavailable on a local network) will take the role that the AI otherwise would, making the specific objectives mentioned above even more satisfying. It's a treat to play this way, and as you can imagine, completing a mission with a real-life counterpart is more compelling; it's a wonder that strategy games haven't attempted this sort of venture before. Unfortunately, getting another player into the match is a bit cumbersome. You must choose the mission and then enter the online lobby to issue the invitation, and when you invite the player, the game offers no feedback to let you know that the invite has been sent. The invited player does receive a notification pop-up and an invite notice, though there are times when the invitee won't receive an issued invitation, for no discernible reason.
- Player Reviews: 235
- Game Universe:
- Command & Conquer (PS, PC, N64, SAT, MAC),
- Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (PC, X360, MAC),
- Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath (PC, X360),
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PC, PS3, X360, MAC),
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Commander's Challenge (PS3, X360),
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert - Retaliation (PS),
- Command & Conquer: Generals (PC, MAC),
- Command & Conquer: Generals - Deluxe Edition (PC, MAC),
- Command & Conquer: Generals - Zero Hour (PC, MAC),
- Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight (PC)
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
6 Players Online