Red Alert! Red Alert! Read our review of...um, Red Alert 3 on the Xbox 360.
Micro-management, tactics and foolhardy marches into unknown territory are all elements that I found perplexing and enraging in equal measure. Sid Meier’s Civilisation Revolution offered me a glimmer of hope by stripping down the amount of work required to launch a successful campaign for domination, allowing time for careful consideration and planning – like a grand game of chess, but with mass slaughter and nuclear warheads. But then even that isn't a REAL TIME Strategy game, is it? Yet with negative prejudice only recently alleviated by the simplified strategy of Civ Rev, it’s with an air of caution that I tentatively slot Red Alert 3 into the console disc tray and fire it up.
As you’d expect from an EA presentation, the front end is incredibly shiny and functional, enabling you to immediately jump into a campaign or multiplayer mission with little fuss. No expense has been spared in this current-gen iteration of Red Alert and as such the game’s story is acted out via the age-old C&C custom of live action cut scenes, but with EA’s swollen budget pulling in an impressive cast of acting talent (and Gemma Atkinson). With tongue firmly in-cheek, the action is played purely for laughs with some of the hammiest acting you’re ever likely to see. But then the Red Alert series always was regular Command and Conquer’s wacky counterpart.
It's good to see Tesla Coils again. And it's great to see two attached to a naval frigate
Building your resources is still an important part of RA3. Obviously.
The publicity and marketing for the game is indicative of Red Alert 3’s resolutely comic direction. With David Hasselhoff’s deliriously daft infomercials for the game doing the rounds, C&C demands that you don’t take it too seriously. So, it’s in fine tradition that almost everything in the game is completely overblown and ridiculous making Red Alert 3 the most outrageous Command and Conquer game yet by a country mile. With a storyline involving a Soviet plot to travel back in time to eradicate Einstein, thus undoing every technological advance he ever created, you know you’re well out of the realms of coherence and sanity.
From the very beginning you’re shooting troops from a cannon over long distances, blasting your way through an abandoned fairground releasing attack bears from their cages and swimming out to sea to order devastating airstrikes on enemy battleships. It turns out that dolphins with weapons mounted on their backs is only the tip of the iceberg.
Red Alert 3’s complete rejection of reality provides one of it’s greatest strengths, giving the developers total freedom to come up with whatever outlandish World War III scenario they desire. And with the introduction of the new Japanese Empire of the Rising Sun faction (led by George Takei of Star Trek and Heroes fame), the towering mechs, cyber-ninjas, plaid skirted schoolgirls and armour-clad samurai units illustrate this perfectly.
Some of the factories wouldn't look out of place at a theme park
Notice the huge mech in this shot. Cool, no?
Red Alert 3 is fantastically easy to play, with intuitive controls that even RTS virgins will pick up in minutes. Obviously, mouse and keyboard controls remain king for managing your burgeoning army at lightning speed, but the 360 controller does a pretty fine job of keeping things quick and simple. Using a combination of the triggers and face buttons, navigation requires only the deft twiddling of the analog stick around your trusty radial menu, where you’ll find all of your basic commands. And any previous actions are mapped to a hotkey on the front bumper, so you can issue multiple commands with a quick tap. Selecting your entire unit is also a snap, merely requiring a stab of the X or Square button (depending on your console of choice), followed by a swift movement of your cursor to select where you’d like your mighty forces to trample next. That Red Alert 3 is so hugely accessible to console gamers is a massive plus point and one that may tempt gamers previously averse to the RTS genre (myself included).
At the heart of Red Alert 3 lies the same tried and tested RTS mechanics that you’ll have grown to love/loathe, so building barracks to generate troops, facilities to unearth valuable resources and researching new technologies is still very much the order of the day. There’s also the inevitable grind that comes with having to gradually unlock every upgrade and feature in your growing arsenal as you strive for complete domination over the rival factions. They’re the same components that I’ve always found irritating, but here they’re effortlessly implemented by the aforementioned control scheme.
Naval skirmishes play a hefty role in RA3. Good job they're fun to play
Things can get pretty hectic in RA3, but then you probably knew that already
The action always remains varied and busy enough to keep you fully engaged at all times and the increased focus upon naval warfare injects added variety to proceedings with skirmishes on the high seas providing a welcome diversion. (While we’re talking about diversions, the buxom beauties on show throughout the game is one that we welcome).
Red Alert 3 is a joy for fans and newcomers alike. With enough references to keep C&C stalwarts happy and a gentle learning curve to ease newbies into Red Alert 3’s barmy world of pseudo military techno-babble, wanton destruction and grade-A ham; the game manages to comfortably cover all bases. In short, Red Alert 3 makes for an exceptionally appealing RTS package. Throw in a fully realised co-op mode and fully featured online play and you realise that the guys at EA LA have thought of everything, making this a definitive RTS title more than worthy of your attention. It’s throwaway, popcorn stuff in narrative terms, but it has a genuine sense of the absurd that’s hard to resist.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Loads to choose from, but you can’t beat the sight of an armoured bear mauling an enemy soldier. Or a dolphin laying waste to a frigate. Or…