The Command & Conquer series is easily one of the most recognizable strategy games on the market. Fans have been following the old Westwood and new EA titles for more than a decade. It is safe to say that the fan base for the C&C franchise is expansive and expectant of nothing more than a fantastic real-time strategy game. Thankfully the pleas of these fans have been answered this November with the release of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 for the PC and Xbox 360.
Red Alert 3 is focused on bringing the classic elements of RTS back into a fresh 3D setting. The game play is very much the same, as it is still based upon a 'build then destroy' mechanic; however, there is a stronger focus on individual units and their abilities. Players will need to concentrate on mixing up their units to achieve battlefield superiority but must be wary of the enemy's ability to unleash special attacks.
Each unit in Red Alert 3 has a unique skill which can be used to turn a dire situation into a victorious one. Some units have the skill to switch weapons, such as the 'Soviet Conscript' who can switch out his trusty assault rifle for a Molotov – increasing damage against garrisoned units and vehicles but reducing their strength against infantry until their ability cools down. Other units can unleash powerful attacks or change their shape so they can travel faster or attack different kinds of enemies. This means that a player can change an anti-infantry squadron of Imperial 'Mecha Tengu' (resembles Starscream from transformers) into a deadly and fast-moving anti-air brigade.
One other notable feature about Red Alert 3 is that certain buildings can be built on water. Structures that produce power, allow further access to new technology, and harness resources can be placed in the open H2O, reducing the risk of it being demolished by a surface force. The downside to building a base out at sea is that it becomes vulnerable to enemy ships and submarines. To counter this a strong naval force could be assembled or base defenses set up around the perimeters. The addition of this water-treading ability opens up new and fresh forms of strategy into the Red Alert series.
The story in Red Alert 3 begins with the Soviets standing neck-deep in trouble. The current premiere has fled Moscow, leaving only General Krukov and Cherdenko (played by Tim Curry) to fend for themselves. Cherdenko leads the Soviet General into a secret chamber housing nothing other than a time-machine. Cherdenko and the General then get teleported back in time to 1927 where Einstein is giving a speech at a physics convention. Cherdenko then kills Einstein – the mastermind behind the chronosphere technology that teleported Allied forces into Moscow in the previous Red Alert game. With Einstein's death, Cherdenko and Krukov get sent pack into the present where Cherdenko is the new premiere and the Soviets are winning the battle in Europe. The repercussion of Einstein's death is that a new army has risen in the East – The Empire of the Rising Sun. The Empire's units seem to come straight from feudal Japan but with a science-fiction twist. The basic infantry resemble traditional Samurai yet carry laser rifles and beam swords and many vehicles can transform into different vehicles. The Empire army comes with a new play style and structure which also adds to the fresh game play in Red Alert 3.
If a player or their friend has any hassle with any of the levels in the single-player they can simply enlist their fellow comrade as a co-commander. At the start of each level in the campaign a player is helped out by a computer-controlled commander who will follow one of four orders given to him. He will build a base, harness resources, and fight the enemy but won't win a battle by himself. In the situation that a computer companion proves insufficient you can recruit a human companion to take their place. Co-operative real-time-strategy is recommended for finishing Red Alert 3 on the hardest difficulty or if two people want to have heaps of fun.
As far as strategy games go Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 is the current cream of the crop. The three separate campaigns provide over 15 hours worth of game play not counting the endless skirmishes and multiplayer matches available. Red Alert 3 is a fantastic title for fans of the series and highly recommended for anyone who wants to give the RTS genre a try.