Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 • Page 2

Brotherhood and freedom!

As to the mechanics of the series, to its credit RA3 tries to act as more of an overhaul than an update. All buildings that don't produce ground units can now be built on water (including, weirdly, ore refineries, which then harvest from the occasional floating ore mines you'll find), and tons of vehicles are now amphibious and plenty of infantry can swim. But that's the most boring of the new tricks at your troops' disposal, as almost everything now has at least one special ability or weapon that you can activate. You've got you've got war cries, laser painters, power-draining missiles, tractor beams, freezing beams, shrinking beams, psychic levitation, first-aid tent deployment, black-hole armour... Even the most basic infantry on each side gets in on the action. The Soviet Conscripts can toggle between AK-47s and Molotov cocktails, the Allied Peacekeepers can take out cumbersome riot shields and the Empire of the Rising Sun's Imperial Warriors can whip out No More Heroes style beam katanas.

And then you've got your protocol weapons. As a map goes on you'll gradually earn points that can be spent in a simple faction-specific tech tree, unlocking unit upgrades and support attacks which can be used to cause havoc anywhere on the map every few minutes. And even the starting protocol weapons for each side are ludicrous. The Allies can use chronosphere technology to swap the location of any two units on the map, the Empire of the Rising Sun can automatically strap all their vehicles with explosives so they blow up when close to death and the Soviets get a satellite that uses a magnetic beam to suck enemy vehicles up into space.

If right now you're thinking that Red Alert 2 was chaotic enough already and that all this new stuff might be overkill, you're probably right. Fun as all the new toys are, a consequence of them is that the micromanagement is often demanding to the point of being frustrating. Red Alert was never a slow-paced RTS, and while RA3 softens the beginning of matches by giving every side immediate access to base-defence turrets that are way more powerful than any starting unit, this still a fast game. Once a map gets busy, the fact that all of your units have a special ability that you have to manually activate can seem like a cruel joke, not least because getting the timing right when using it often means just watching that unit and waiting for the right moment. Once you've factored in protocol weapons and the fact that buildings and units are no longer restricted to land or sea, well... The kind thing to do here is call matches of RA3 unpredictable, although you could just as easily be mean and call them confused and fiddly.

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It's kinda sorta almost worth buying the game for the brilliant tutorials. And yet really not.

And yet you can't put this chaos down as an accident and call it feature-creep, getting in the way of the rock-paper-scissors system that made the original game work. EA seems to be doing this deliberately. So many of the new units are based around the idea of causing havoc, and boast rapid movement and surprise attacks. For example, the Japanese have mecha units that can transform from ground-pounding robots into jets and helicopters, and the buildings on their side all start as little flat-packed amphibious vehicles which can be deployed anywhere on the map with no regard for range or power. And the Soviets now have the Bullfrog and the Sickle, the former being an APC which unloads troops by firing them out of a cannon and the latter being a flea-like vehicle that can jump huge distances.

More than anything else it feels like the same giggly attitude you see in Red Alert 3's cut-scenes is leaking into the strategy. When an RTS is as unpredictable as this it becomes less about scheming and resource management and even more about simply reacting, and that's not going to be to everyone's taste. That said, everyone loves the sweet taste of co-op, so if you've got a friend who's a fan of either RTS games or cleavage (or both!), Red Alert 3 can and will show you a very good time indeed.

8 /10

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Quintin Smith

Quintin Smith

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Quinns has been writing about games for a decade. If you see him online, please be gentle. He'll be using a shotgun no matter the circumstances and will not be very good.

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