Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PC, PS3, XBox 360, and OS X)

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After World War II in his genius and his hubris Albert Einstein built a time machine and used it to go back in time to kill Hitler before his rise to power. Unfortunately without Hitler there was nothing to stop the meteoric rise of Stalin. Feeling personally responsible, Einstein used his genius to make the Allies new and incredible weapons that could crush the Soviet war machine. This left the Soviets desperate, but their network of spies was still good. They used these covert agents to steal the designs for the very time machine Einstein used to kill Hitler and a lowly aide uses it to go back in time to kill Einstein himself. Ignoring the grandfather paradox taking place here, if Einstein doesn’t exist, he doesn’t make nuclear weapons. If there are no nuclear weapons then the war with Japan did not end in their surrender. That’s right! Now it’s a three way free-for-all between the Tesla powered Soviets, the propaganda fueled Allies, and the crafty Empire of the Rising Sun. You play as an enterprising commander in the nation of your choice to take back the glory of your home and crush your enemies!

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Behold, the leaders of the not so free world. Yes, that is George Takei as the Emperor of Japan and Tim Curry as the Premier of Russia.

History

Red Alert 3 was developed by Electronic Arts. It was unofficially announced in 2004 by Mark Skaggs after the release of The Battle for Middle Earth but Mark left EA soon after. Red Alert 3 wasn’t spoken of again until 2008 when PC Gamer had the game as their cover story. The most note-worthy aspect of the development of Red Alert 3 is that it used the controversial SecuROM system. So, check this, the SecuROM system makes it so each CD key could only be used five times. If you uninstall the game and reinstall it or change video drivers it might use up one of your 5 installs. Eventually backlash from the players caused EA to abolish the system’s use in this game over time.

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 was released on October 28th, 2008. It’s competition was Fallout 3 (PS3, Xbox 360, and PC), World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC and Mac), and LittleBigPlanet (PS3).

Experiences

The live action segments are the best part of this game. It’s satire at its best and they got great actors to play all the characters. I stand by that the live action cast was only given their scripts moments before filming. It’s the only explanation that I can find for this scene.

Just… everything about it is comedy gold. The way Curry is trying to keep a straight face, the little false start he’s got before he delivers the final line, and the way he bellows “SPACE” like he didn’t know that was the line until it came out of his mouth.

Gameplay

Unlike Mob Rule, Red Alert 3 is your quintessential RTS. You build buildings, those buildings produce units, you manage your resources, and build an army that will counter your opponent’s. You’ve also got a bar that builds and accrues points which you can spend on your factions special abilities like an orbital launch or flash reinforcements from a splintered timeline– the bar builds faster the more combat you’re in so get to fighting.

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First one to blow up your opponent’s base wins.

You can play against the AI or other players in skirmish maps online. The game has also got a story campaign with 10 unique missions per faction. Normally each map gives you an AI companion but you can replace that digital dummy with a real player if you want– an RTS first by my reckoning.

The Gush

I already mentioned how much I loved the live action cutscenes. They’ve got more camp than a hundred tents put together– a secret button is hidden in a bust of Lenin for goodness sake. The only thing better is watching all the behind the scenes outtakes and silliness.

Holy co-op Comrade, you can play the main campaign with a friend. I recommend doing this because the AI isn’t exactly reliable. But if you’re not feeling the love then the AI will be a competent ally.

Normally naval combat is a poorly designed tacked on thing — I’m looking at you Warcraft 2 — but Red Alert 3 throws in a bunch of interesting and useful amphibious units. As a matter of fact every factions unique Commando unit is amphibious as well. Why did it take us this long to think of naval artillery?

The Kvetch

This game is uncomfortably sexist sometimes. From the scantily clad and sexualized Commandos to Tim Curry checking out his secretary’s ass and grinning at the player it’s all just a little cringe-worthy. The allied campaign even ends with the commander being rewarded with a night with the Allied commando or the Allied communications officer– just… blugh.

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Pictured is the Allied Commando and all the combat gear she isn’t wearing and her in game model is similar.

The Soviet campaign at least has got some insane difficulty spikes. It took me three tries to beat the fourth mission and then I breezed through the rest. Last I checked difficulty is supposed to be curve with the game getting more difficult as it goes on.

Spoilers, but the Soviet campaign culminates in the destruction of the Statue of Liberty. I was so excited and totally pumped to kick J.K. Simmons out of the White House but I dunno man, the whole thing just felt toothless. The mission is pretty easy and the ending is just such a let-down. There’s a toast and you’re suddenly the new Premier, nothing makes sense. I haven’t played the other campaigns but I hope their endings are more satisfying than the Soviet one.

The Verdict

I’d say that Red Alert 3 is worth it for the cut-scenes alone. If you’ve got any interest in real-time strategy games then I’d say go for it. But if they’re not your thing then you could just look up all the cut-scenes online. It’s $20 on Steam and it’s got a $20 expansion pack and I would suggest waiting for it to go on sale. They’re also available on PS3 and Xbos 360 and I can’t speak to the quality of the console ports but Starcraft 64 has always made me wary of console strategy games.

Next Week: Borderlands 2

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