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Posted on Jun 5, 2009 in Electronic Games

Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 – PC Game Review

By Jim H. Moreno

Command & Conquer Red Alert 3
Electronic Arts Inc. / EA Los Angeles. $29.99 (download).

Passed Inspection: Incredibly well balanced units, huge variety of tactics to employ, and very fun.

Failed Bootcamp: Camera focus in a little too close, lackluster final ending.

RA3 does an excellent job at providing some serious strategic gameplay, while tactfully never taking itself too seriously.

Fun! There’s not a much greater accolade I can throw at the entire Command & Conquer series than to say they are downright fun. Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 is no exception. It has all the hallmarks that have come to be expected from the previous games: strategic RTS action, engaging multi-player maps, outlandish weaponry, and quality actors giving the campiest performances of their careers. All these have made Command & Conquer a long-standing classic series, and Red Alert 3 once again brings it all home for us fans.

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From the start, when the game begins with the iconic sounds of the Hell March, I was smiling, remembering the many long hours of gaming goodness I’ve had with the former Red Alert games. I fully expected to spend plenty of late night hours hunched at my computer playing, and I was not disappointed. The fun commenced during the tutorial, which included talking tanks instructing players through six training sessions covering the basics, base building, units, powers, tactics, and introducing and explaining how co-commanders operate. As with the majority of the game, the voice overs for the units is spot on and amusing.

RA3 comes complete with the standard fare of RTS gameplay options, but the hook is how very well done these are, one of the main factors that have this series among the top in the genre. Campaign mode is the greater part, where players can combat their way through a twisted story of a world war mixed in with a bit of time travel involving the Soviets, Allies, and the Empire of the Rising Sun. Nine campaigns are included with each faction, with a multitude of varying missions within each campaign.

Three difficulty modes allow the replay of the entire campaign to be vastly different. It had been some time since my last RTS, so I began on Easy, and was quite impressed with the seemingly relentless AI. My skills had rusted some to say the least, but by the end of the main campaign, I was ready and able to handle the final battle, with only some minor troubles. Switching to Medium difficulty was like a combat-booted kick in the face, as the AI jump seemed to me to be much greater than my own skill progression. It’s going to be some time before I’m quick enough to advance to Hard mode, if I make it that far, but the fun I’m having is even harder to pass up.

The other main option is Versus mode, which comprises Skirmish, Online, and Network play. Skirmish is direct play against the AI, with a choice of up to six armies going all out against each other. No less than twenty-eight maps are available, with configurable options such as Random faction choice, starting number of credits, and random bonus crates. Online play requires an EA account, and allows for voice chat and access to special Website functions.

The single player campaigns for the entire series have become well known as being some of the best RTS action around. RA3 only adds to that by combining thoughtful unit abilities very well balanced across the three factions, making it fully the players’ task to craft a lethal combined arms force able to attack and defend with equal precision. Each unit has an opposing and equalizing unit, and it’s up to the player to know which one to use and how best to deploy it against an opponent. Every unit also has a primary and secondary function, increasing the tactical capabilities of even the most basic unit, thereby making them all combat effective to a point and not merely cannon fodder.

Like the games before, RA3 also has over-the-top super weapons, each capable of utter devastation when used correctly. Players who are fast enough at climbing the tech tree may reach these quickly, but with the expert unit balancing, having one doesn’t mean you’ll win the fight. Still, when the Proton Collider, Vacuum Imploder, and Psionic Decimator are employed, they wreak no small amount of havoc to the enemy, and are just as fun to watch as they are to use.

Popular actors, including Tim Curry, George Takei, and J.K. Simmons, along with many others do their part in lending RA3 its unique flavor. With a nod towards the genre’s major fan base, some very eye-pleasing actresses also appear: Jenny McCarthy, Gemma Atkinson, and Kelly Hu, to name a few. The video skits that precede the missions in Campaign mode are a hoot to watch, all the while doing what’s needed for passing along the next mission’s details.

I have a negative notion about a couple of things. First, in Campaign mode at least, the camera doesn’t pull back far enough. It allows you to zoom in real nice and close, but I would like it if I could pull it back another notch or two. Next, the Campaign ending was very anti-climatic in my opinion, very lackluster as compared to some mission endings before reaching the final battle. Lastly, in single player Skirmish mode, the video enemy taunts and ending reports could use a greater variety, instead of repeating the same messages.

Overall, RA3 is yet another shining addition to the Command & Conquer series, and I would recommend it to all RTS fans looking for a game of deep combat balanced with that often elusive fun factor. RA3 does an excellent job at providing some serious strategic gameplay, while tactfully never taking itself serious. That’s what fun is all about!

Armchair General Score: 90%

ACG Intel

C&C Red Alert 3

C&C Red Alert 3 – EA Games

1 Comment

  1. So many RTS games have the camera focused too closely in. I want to manage my battle, not look just look at the nice models. I loved Rise of Nations, and I love steampunk, so I was so excited about Rise of Legends… But then it’s an exercise in maneuvering your camera around watching chunky models piloted by ‘heroes’ grrr.

    Then there was American Conquest, the sequel to the brilliant Cossacks. Two mapmodes: one zoomed too far in, the other way too bloody far away.

    Sigh. Why do they do this? Do their market researchers tell them board wargamers sit there with their heads a couple of inches above the map?

    Rant over.

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