Review by DeAdMaNRoLliN

"Here comes Hell March 3, I mean Red Alert 3!"

When I was younger and I owned a Pentium II 350 Mhz PC, Red Alert 2 was the game that kept me entertained for hours. I remember sticking to the PC playing the campaigns and muttering to myself "wow". Red Alert 2 was not the first C&C game for me, but it was the first Red Alert game. I loved everything about the game, and since finishing Yuri's Revenge, I have been eagerly waiting for a sequel.

However, times have changed, and the studio that used to make Red Alert games is no more. Still, we get a sequel to one of the most famous real time strategy games of all time. Is it good? Yes, definitely. Is it groundbreaking? Well, no. But it sticks true to the Red Alert universe, and if you have played any RA game, you should be able to find a lot of common stuff that will make you nostalgic.

The game opens up with the series' trademark theme—some intruding nation taking over the US of A. This time around, it's the Japanese; i.e. smartly titled “Empire of The Rising Sun” instead of the Russians. Russians are also there. So is agent Tanya, dreadnoughts, attack dogs, harvesters, spies, engineers, conscripts, kirov airships and the deadly shadow casting Apocalypse tanks. In addition to that, you get a whole new faction full of new units, and the existing factions also get many new units.

There are three campaigns; all of them revolve around a similar story line. The campaigns will take some time to complete, and the missions are mostly enjoyable. They are not as much fun as RA2, but still it's a memorable experience. There are few “push over” tasks and painful missions, but as a whole, you won't probably be able to resist playing through all three campaigns. The campaigns mainly familiarize you with the strengths and weaknesses of the three factions. This time around, most units get a secondary ability, which can be triggered by pressing a short key. As an example, instead of firing at buildings or vehicles, your apocalypse tank can actually pull a tank towards itself by using a magnetic harpoon. This makes it easier to destroy; other tanks can fire at the harpooned tank. Also, the Japanese engineer gets a sprint ability, which can make him escape from enemy ambushes pretty fast.

For each faction, there are land, naval and aerial units. Allied force has superior air power, Russian tanks are the strongest, and Empire of the rising sun has a little bit of everything. Each faction plays very differently, which means you can enjoy skirmish games for hours, both online and offline. The AI is very competitive, even at medium difficulty, and deploys mixed strategies to counter the human player. There are 3 commanders for each faction with whom you can wage war. These commanders have their specific roles in the campaign, so if you play it first, you will have a good idea as to which commander will play in what style.

Empire of the rising sun is a very specialized faction, and one needs to do a lot of micro managing to get the best out of this faction. If you are not too good at micromanaging, you should probably stick with the Russians or the Americans; but once you've mastered all the abilities of EOTRS, it's a very rewarding experience. Who wouldn't want to have units that can both go ground to air and air to ground, or both air to air and air to ground? Most Japanese units have surprisingly helpful secondary abilities, which is not the case for many allied and Russian units.

If you have played RA2, you will know that during the campaigns, you will get a secretary sort of character, who will brief you about new mission objectives. Real life actors have been chosen to represent these characters, and they did a great job. Although I've missed Kari Wuhrer as Tanya and the premier Romanov, the new guys did an entertaining job of giving the game a realistic feel.

The game has a bit cartoonish graphics. If you played C&C 3, you will find that RA3, although built on the same engine, doesn't look as neat as C&C3. The graphics is a bit washed out, which looks a lot like an anime. To further reinforce that point, the EOTRS units are mostly taken from Japanese anime; i.e. you get huge robots, flying mecha tengus, and such. But the water looks really cool, and also the animations are picture perfect. RA2 has 2D graphics when most RTS games have already moved to 3D; thus emphasizing gameplay over looks. I wish the same was true for RA3, too. But I can't really say it's the best RTS game around. It's a good game—a really good one, but it's not perfect.

The packaged version of the game was slow and buggy. I had to apply all four patches to get the game running properly. I can play the game with full details in my PC smoothly; which has a Core II Duo 2.0Ghz processor , Windows XP SP2, 2 GB Ram, 280 GB hard disk, MSI 8600 GT 256 MB graphics card and Sound Blaster Xtreme X-Fi Music Edition sound card. However, people with dual core processor or slower configuration might face more difficulties. There is a new feature in this game that forces it to “aggressively search for new patches” whenever I start the game. The end result of this behavior is, even if I didn't want to download a new patch (which didn't have any improvement apart from multiplayer optimization), my game would look for the patch and take 5 minutes to show the game menu. This was a very annoying problem, which I tackled by starting the game and going for a toilet break or coffee break. It got fixed in the 1.04 patch, but still, it shows the lack of proper testing before releasing a game.

I never had to bother about patches when I played RA2, and I still have the game running properly in windows XP. But it is clear that this game was not properly optimized before its release.

The audio is good, but not as great as RA2. It has a few tracks composed by Frank Klepcka, which clearly stands out, but the rest are mostly generic, uninteresting techno beats. However, the unit sounds are quite authentic, and sounds nice.

Gameplay wise it doesn't break any new grounds for RTS, apart from having the first totally co-op supported campaign. Yes, now you and your friend can defeat the enemies together. In any case, all campaign missions will give you a co-op commander to whom you can give some basic commands like attack/defend/etc. In the campaign, this is pretty much a useless addition if you are co-opped with AI, but I guess a human partner would bring a totally new, strategic aspect in to the game. Unfortunately, I could not test this feature as I have a slow internet connection and no access to a LAN.

Overall, I thought about giving the game a 7, but that seemed too harsh after the 1.04 patch is released. I hear there's a 1.05 patch, too, but I haven't tried it yet. The unpatched game definitely deserves 7 or even less, but with this patch installed, you can say it's an 8/10 game.

If you can overlook a few minor glitches, you will have lots of fun with Red Alert 3.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/18/08

Game Release: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (US, 10/28/08)

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