Review by pubbisk

"Yuri's Revenge defines what an expansion should be"

Admit it. When you finished Red Alert 2 and watched one (or both) of its somewhat inadequate finales, all you could do was wonder about that Yuri dude. Knowing that the cliffhanger spelled mucho additional green, the now late Westwood Studios :( released this nice expansion pack so we could further feed our C&C addictions. It's obvious they put some work into this one, and the result is a truly awesome experience.

Concept: 8/10 Considering that Yuri’s Revenge (YR) is built on the shoulders of a game that already exists, this is a pretty high score. I love they way they've made mind control a significant part of the strategy involved and not just an expensive side show amusement like it was in RA2. Also, I can never stop doling out points for the premise of the RA series: you just can't beat the computer game version of Red Dawn.

Graphics: 8/10 I base this off of when the original RA2 came out. While the detailing is only decent, this RTS is nothing short of exemplary when it comes to onscreen animations. Seriously, the animations in this game are great. Turrets on tanks move, structures actually operate and offload finished units realistically, and the 3D environments are alive with movement. Individual soldiers do tons of stuff such as crawling in a firefight, and even trivial things when idle such as stretching, checking their weapons, and tying their shoes! The visual effects are also great. There is gunfire and explosions aplenty, and it's all well done. Speaking of well done, the electrical effects are neat too (i.e. Soviet Tesla technology). While that’s fine and good, the real cream of the crop consists of the superweapon effects. Allied thunder storms, Soviet nukes, and Yuri's Psychic Dominator are all something to behold onscreen and happen to be perhaps the coolest visuals to ever grace an RTS. Since I semi-neglected it earlier, I'll say that the units and environments themselves look good too, but nothing that could be defined as cutting edge even for 2001. The graphical strength really lies in the effects and animations.

Sound: 9/10 The techno/rock soundtrack fits the bill perfectly here. No complaints at all. While I like the new tunes, what really drew my attention was the upgraded and improved unit sounds. When I say this, I mean when you click on a unit to do something and it acknowledges you. In RA2 these were bland --- all armored units sounded the same, as did the ships. Now, each and every unit gets its own set of quips and phrases. While that doesn't seem like much, it greatly adds to the experience of the game, especially after you've heard the same ''vehicle ready'' clip 50,000 times per mission.

Playability: 7/10 Sadly, this is the part of the C&C series I never liked all that much. The system in place here works, but you can't give it much more credit than that. Don’t get me wrong, the building menus and taskbar are fine and I like the speed of the game. The only thing that truly is a problem is the unit management. This is absolutely terrible! Precision movement is a godawful affair, and selecting a single unit in a group can be difficult. Deselecting a unit is even worse. You do get used to the setup after a few hours of play, but in an RTS when fundamental things like moving your units around is troublesome, you have to wonder what exactly was going through the developer’s head when they designed it.

Additions: 9/10 This is where I have to give Yuri’s revenge the most credit. There are tons of new additions to renew your interest in the game. Let’s start with the deluge of new units. The allies get a huge boost in the anti armor department with the Guardian GI, a unit that’s highly effective against tanks. They also get a large mechanized infantry unit called Battle Armor (I think). This unit works like an IFV but holds more infantry. Lastly, the Allies get Robo Tanks added to their arsenal, which go with the new Robot Control building. As for the Soviets, they get the Battle Bunker defensive structure which works like a garrisoned building. A new Tanya-like hero unit has been added called Boris, meant to fill the gap left by Yuri. Also new are some air units such as MIG attack fighters (called in by Boris for air strikes) and the Siege Chopper. Though these additions add more power to the red army, what’s more significant is what got taken away. With Yuri’s departure, the Soviets have lost their precious Cloning Vats (removes a huge advantage in terms of infantry) and mind control is obviously gone too. The Psychic Sensor has also flown the coup. In a different twist, the time it takes to produce Soviet tanks has been increased. This means that Allied players can no longer gripe about far superior Rhino Tanks building just as quickly and for the same amount of money as their weaker Grizzlies. Watering down the Soviets actually helps level the playing field quite a bit. In the original RA2, the Soviets were just too powerful, hands down. The game is more balanced now and far more strategic.
Of course, what you really want to hear about is Yuri’s army. His forces are, on the whole, completely different from those of the Allies and Soviets. Many units and structures rely on mind control, including some wicked ones which take over anything within their range. Also big in Yuri’s forces is biotechnology. His bases are run on Bio Reactors (which provide insane amounts of power if you fill them with infantry units) and the Cloning Vats have made the jump here as well. A great number of other units are also at your disposal, including a sub that’s almost too good, a sniper-like infantry unit, and a tank that uses magnetic fields to pick up enemy armor and move it around. Yuri’s ultimate weapon, the Psychic Dominator, is a powerful mind control device. Surprisingly, despite all this high end technology, Yuri’s army is not offensively strong on the whole. This doesn't mean that he is weaker than the Allies or Soviets; you just have to play smarter when using him if you want to win. Because it takes more strategizing to use Yuri’s superweapons effectively, a great balance is created within the game that just wasn’t there until this expansion came out.
As for the actual game itself, I was both pleased and disappointed. The story is even more over the top than RA2’s; Yuri resurfaces with a huge mind control blitz and threatens to enslave the world. To prevent this, you travel back in time to stop him before he can follow through with his maniacal plan. YR delivers this B level sci-fi plot through its two campaigns, one Allied and one Soviet. Both have 7 missions each. Surprisingly, there is no Yuri campaign. This really ticked me off, but not so much as the poor missions. These were a mixed bag. On one hand, Westwood hired the original actors from the first game and incorporated a full compliment of cinematics into YR. The movies were one of my favorite parts of RA2, always fresh and entertaining. Sadly, this does not help the sub par mission design. Almost every mission had the same layout: Complete secondary objective ‘X’ (which typically took only 5-10 minutes) and destroy all Yuri forces. Honestly, the only thing that changed was the map. When I think back to how fun and varied the missions were in RA2 then look at all the stinkers here, it’s hard not to feel just a bit let down. Still, some of them were lots of fun (especially the moon mission and the opener of each campaign), and considering all the new material that was added I can’t really dock it more than a point.

Entertainment: 9/10 This is one entertaining game, no doubt about it. I really enjoyed the time I spent with this one. Nothing can match the satisfaction you feel after nuking someone’s base into oblivion and then crushing the fleeing survivors under your tank treads. The missions may only be okay, but YR is still tons of fun, offering some seriously challenging RTS action. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that YR is harder than RA2, but in a good, non-frustrating sort of way.

Replay Value: 9/10 What give the entertainment score most of its credence is what I’m going to write here. YR is certainly good enough to finish each campaign at least once, but where it really shines is the multiplayer. You can spend a seemingly endless number of hours duking it out with C&C enthusiasts the world over. Better yet, now that the game is more balanced, online matches have become increasingly strategic and fun. You’ll be popping YR into your PC for quite a while.

Closing Remarks: YR does exactly what a good expansion is supposed to do; It ‘expands’ the horizons of the original game, all the while correcting its flaws and making the experience more enjoyable. Because YR accomplishes all of these things, I must applaud Westwood for the excellent job they’ve done here. Many expansions that we see are little more than a poorly produced attempt by the developer/publisher to rake in a few extra bucks. Rather than victimizing its fans in a similar fashion, Westwood has really gone the extra mile to make YR a great addition to the C&C universe. Bravo!

Overall Score: 9 (an average)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/04


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