Review by SRusher
"An expansion with many merits drowns its gameplay in aggrivation"
It wasn't too long ago I hooked myself up with a copy of Red Alert 2, and was thoroughly impressed. I loved the original Command and Conquer, though Red Alert didn't impress me for one reason or another. After playing through the campaigns and beating them on the highest difficulty, I grabbed a copy of Yuri's Revenge, which wasn't particularly awful, just extremely aggravating.
Story - Simply a continuation of the first, but both sides start assuming the Allies won the Cold War, and now, the evil psycho psychic Yuri has decided to use his Psychic Dominators to mind control the entire world, and the Allies attempt an airstrike, but Yuri's defenses shoot the planes down, and one crashes into the power generator to his Dominator on Alcatrez. After that, the Allies decide to go back in time to change things. If you play as the Soviets, then you need to steal the time machine to use it yourself, and while the methods are different, the end objective is the same: Stop Yuri before he can finish the network.
The cheesy half-acted cutscenes and such from the first are back, as are a few familiar faces. The whole ridiculous parody-like take on warfare and even historic events from the first is back, possibly even more so. The first Soviet mission provides a very clever little twist unseen in any other strategy game, and one Allied mission puts you in Hollywood along with a few hero units which are basically spoofs of several modern action heroes. There are other bits of clever parody thrown in as well, and some VERY ''exotic'' locales, but overall, the story was probably the best-done part of the expansion.
Graphics - Yuri's units blend in perfectly with the rest, visually, and the production quality of the cutscenes hasn't gone down either. There isn't really anything tremendously impressive by comparison: The added graphics are as good as the originals, no more, no less.
Audio - Many voiceovers have been added, and most vehicles/ships get their own voices in YR. The extra variety is a definite improvement, and some of the new voices for things like the Apocalypse Tank and Aegis Cruiser are marked improvements over the old ''default'' voices. One thing that had me quite happy was the recreation of Tanya's voice set, by far the most annoying thing of the original. If I heard ''shake it, baby'' one more time, my head would have exploded.
Gameplay - Unfortunately, gameplay is where the expansion falls flat far too often. There is basically one problem which plagues both the single player and multiplayer quite thoroughly: Yuri's side is just too powerful. Having a unit mind controlled is far worse than losing it, because then you have it turned against you, and that's what Yuri's side not only relies heavily on, but is able to do far too easily.
The biggest problem of all comes from the confusion, caused by the rather clueless AI. If you send in 3 units, and one gets controlled, then the unit that controlled it usually escapes in the confusion, or sticks around until one dies, then grabs the healthier survivor. The result is that one Yuri Clone can basically ruin almost any vehicle assault unless you see it coming. It's also the ultimate trump card against even the most powerful units. If you have a fleet of Apocalypse Tanks and a Yuri Clone grabs one, then runs the other way, then you just lost a $1300 tank to a $800 clone ($400 if they have cloning labs) in the blink of an eye, and if that's not enough, now that tank is fighting you.
Easily mind-controlling vehicles isn't where Yuri's balance issues end though. Psychic Towers make bases essentially spyproof, not to mention impregnable to almost anything except miners and heroes. The way Bio Reactors work makes Yuri bases MUCH harder to power down. Yuri's Magnetrons can siege buildings from long range with a beam attack (no missies to get shot down) without requiring a Battle Lab. Floating Disks can render entire bases absolutely useless in seconds just by getting over a single reactor. Gatling Tanks are one of the best anti-infantry vehicles, with only their health as a downfall. Yuri's Initiates are about twice the power of an Allied GI, but cost the same amount, or with Cloning Labs, half as much. Slave Miners are the only harvesting unit which doesn't have to go back to base to mine at full efficiency. And to top it all off, Yuri even gets a sniper-like unit to stop infantry attacks in their tracks as well.
The result is basically a single-player campaign chock-full of annoying moments where 15 minutes of careful planning get turned into nothing because of a single unit. One time in the campaign I had a single Initiate, Yuri's weakest unit, get lucky and kill a Pillbox, which gave it a promotion to Elite, allowing it to destroy 3 Power Plants and a Patriot Launcher, not to mention grinding up countless GIs on its own, before I was forced to restart the mission. The end result is an insane amount of undue frustration, which is very disappointing after playing Red Alert 2, which was mostly an exercise in persistance, and reaping the benefits of careful planning. Now, all careful planning does is force you to reload your save when your most powerful units get mind controlled and then come back to wreck your base.
Even with the single-player campaign aside, the game suffers from some noticable problems. As stated before, Yuri's side is VERY off-balance, leading many players on Westwood Online to ban players who pick Yuri, but the infantry portion of the game has been reduced to almost nothing now as well. Almost all additions concern vehicles, either making them easier to destroy, or easier to make, while almost every infantry unit gets obsoleted by some vehicle or other. The Allies also get tipped a bit off balance thanks to the Battle Fortress alone, which gives the Allies' weak anti-vehicle arm a massive boost, even when their anti-infantry capabilities (SEAL IFVs, Tanya, Snipers or Sniper IFVs if Great Britain) are already second to none.
Pros - Some definite memorable moments, a few much-needed additions, and noticable improvements in the AI. Remains very true to the original.
Cons - Yuri's side is horribly unbalanced, making for many VERY frustrating moments in single-player, and making multiplayer against Yuri no fun at all. Increased reliance on vehicles makes skirmishes and multiplayer more monotonous.
The bottom line - If you have $20 to throw around, and seriously can't get enough RA2, then this expansion is for you. If not, you may want to just leave RA2 the way it is.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 04/07/03, Updated 04/07/03
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