First Look: Red Alert 3

Red Alert 3 is the eighth game (excluding expansion packs) to bear the Command and Conquer title. Considering that the gameplay is effectively the same as all the previous versions, it amazes me that it is still so much fun.

The Command and Conquer series defined the real time strategy (RTS) genre when it was first released in 1995. If you’ve ever played one of the games before you’re in for more of the same; you command units, you build bases. It’s fast paced, and there’s normally a rather entertaining story holding it together. Red Alert 3 is all of the above with the exception that it is completely ridiculous, but ridiculous in a good way.

The plot itself is incredible. The Russian top brass, on the brink of defeat, travel back in time to kill Einstein to change the course of history. When they return to the present, they not only find the Allies are still a force to be reckoned with but that a new super power, the Empire of the Rising Sun, has been created due to their actions. With an introduction like that, does it really matter what the rest of the game is about?

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The story elements are presented through live action video clips with a surprising cast. J. K. Simmons (Spiderman), Jonathan Pryce (The World is Not Enough), George Takei (Heroes) and Gemma Atkinson (Hollyoaks) are all present, as well as many more. To be honest, the acting is so cheesy that it’s the main appeal of the entire game. Since everything regarding gameplay is so similar to the previous games (which, is not a bad thing), it potentially could have been a very dull rehash of old material; however, what we’ve got instead is an extremely engaging story with the best fake Russian accents ever.

The major addition to Red Alert 3 is that every campaign mission (divided into Soviet, Allies and Empire of the Rising Sun factions) can be played online co-operatively with a friend or anyone else. I made my way through the entire Soviet campaign with a mate and it was considerably more fun than playing on my own, so much so that I didn’t want to play missions solo. I did originally have some issues getting online with the PC version of the game, however since the most recent patch (which is downloaded automatically) I’ve had no problems, there is very little delay and the voice chat works well.

Most of the vehicles and structures from the previous Red Alert games have returned, bringing back some much loved nostalgia. There are a few new surprises; sonar dolphins, boats that can walk on land, tanks that shoot men across rivers, giant robots, bomb dropping blimps and even armoured bears make an appearance. There’s something undeniably awesome about wiping out your enemy with a pack of bears.

Graphically, the game holds its own. It’s no masterpiece, but it still looks pretty. The water effects are nice, textures are solid and overall detail is good. It will run on your average computer (a 2 year old graphics card should be fine) with no noticeable problems; you don’t need a powerhouse of a computer to enjoy it.

Sound design usually gets overshadowed by the graphics of a game; however it plays a vital role in making an experience enjoyable. Red Alert 3 comes through in this respect with a guitar heavy soundtrack and entertaining unit voices that go well with the rest of the game’s, slightly over-the-top, feel. A modified version of the game’s classic ‘Hell March’ theme is also present; an excellent nod to fans of the series.

I haven’t had Red Alert 3 for very long so I haven’t had chance to play much of the online competitive game, and to tell you the truth I haven’t even finished the last campaign. From what I have played so far, I can strongly recommend this to anyone that has enjoyed a Command and Conquer game before. On the other hand, if you hated your last encounter with the franchise then I’d stay well away, as the formula has not changed.

A lot of people hold Red Alert 2 dear to them, and I see no way in which Red Alert 3 could have been a better sequel.


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