Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Uprising

Psychic imbalance.

Hmm. We're going to see a lot more of this kind of thing, aren't we? Standalone expansions that don't even have a retail version at all. Nothing but online content. Uprising is a pure download beast, just on PC, and it's pretty cheap to boot. It's about a third, perhaps even a half, of the length of Red Alert 3, with four short campaigns, and it's all single-player. So that includes a gaggle of further missions all delivered by the same colourful cast of actors, models, plasma-ejecting mecha-troops, transforming robots, and psychic-death schoolgirls. That seems like reasonably good value, after all, why wouldn't we want to play another stretch of the Command & Conquer series' wackiest RTS offshoot?

Well, perhaps because it's piss-boilingly frustrating.

The very first mission is a baffling exercise in face-palming idiocy - a poorly designed onslaught in which confusion repeatedly leads to death. The failure conditions are so hard to control, and so utterly galling, that there's no reason why you'd want to continue playing. Towards the end of the mission the level instructions specifically tell you to avoid engaging the units that you have pass to get out. This is bad enough, but they're sickeningly over-powered. You die again and again. It's as if you're being punished for thinking you want to play some more Red Alert 3. Finally, miraculously, you manage to dodge enough of the instant-death missiles to escape the level. No clever problem-solving required, just run for your life and hope for a lucky break.

It's one of the worst opening levels to an RTS game in memory, and it must be completed to open up two of the other campaigns. Assuming you can be bothered to drag your bored carcass through this demented grind you'll be rewarded with some FMV featuring pretty women and posturing actors, and the unveiling of the rest of the campaign: lots more fighting bears, bombarding bases, and seeing how many robots it takes to rush a Russian tank battalion. The journey into these later levels is a familiar one: heavily scripted scenarios that escalate into the unveiling of ludicrous new units and stupidly overwrought battles against the odds. It's this stuff that show off just how imaginative the EA team really is, particularly when it comes to designing insane units. It's no-holds barred here, as there's no multiplayer balance to worry about.

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First the Dead or Alive movie and now this? Does she want to make a career out of it?

The Russians get a walking missile silo, a toxic-waste-spewing heavy infantry dude who is really rather unhappy with his lot, a bike with a mortar for a sidecar, and a tank with a giant, whirling grinder mechanism on the front. The ever-enthusiastic Japanese guys get a hyped-up mecha warrior, a techno-archer with lasers for arrows, and a giant transforming mobile base head thing that spews missiles into the world. The Allies, meanwhile, seem practically pedestrian with their liquid nitrogen-armed Cryo Legionnaire, and heavy bombardment artillery thing with anti-infantry batteries. They do get Holly Valance reading the news, however, so there are compensations.

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