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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Review

Unexpected, I know (I got a game that recently came out), but I was able to get my hands on this game and it has piqued my interest in RTS games once more.

I'm going to rip this synopsis out of wikipedia simply because I haven't played the Red Alert games enough to know the storyline. Mind you, this will probably be from the start of Red Alert.

In 1946, at the Trinity site in New Mexico in the United States of America, Albert Einstein created a time machine which he referred to as the "chronosphere" After his experimental "chronosphere" device is activated, he finds himself in Landsberg, Germany, in the year 1924, where he meets a young Adolf Hitler just after the latter's release from Landsberg Prison. Following a brief conversation between the two, Einstein shakes Hitler's hand, with this somehow eliminating the man's existence from time and returning Einstein to his point of origin. This prevented Nazi Germany from forming and averted World War II as we know it from taking place.

With the threat of Nazi Germany having been successfully removed from history, the Soviet Union began to grow increasingly powerful under the rule of Joseph Stalin. Had Adolf Hitler risen to power, Nazi Germany would have emerged as a force standing in the way of Stalin's own ambitions of conquest. Instead, left unchecked, the USSR seizes land from China and then begins invading Eastern Europe, in order to achieve Joseph Stalin's vision of a Soviet Union stretching across the entire Eurasian landmass. In response, the nations of Europe form into the Alliance, and start a grim and desperate guerrilla war against the invading Soviet army. Over the course of years there were many conflicts (Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, and Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge), some of which "never happened" due to tampering with the time stream, but with the Soviet Union ultimately on the losing side at the start of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3.

Seeing the Premier of the Soviet Union's office empty, Lieutenant Cherdenko reveals to General Krukov a plan to travel back in time to 1927 with their own time machine and assassinate Einstein (He still developed the high-tech nuclear weaponry for the Allies), in order to change history and restore the Soviet Union as a world power. They do so, with Dr. Zelinsky in tow, and arrive in the wings of an auditorium. As Einstein comes off stage from giving a speech, Cherdenko shakes his hand. The result of the action is presumably the same as what happened to Hitler: Einstein is erased from the timeline. The trio is then returned to the "present", where the Soviet Army has the Allied forces on the brink of defeat in Europe and Cherdenko is Premier of the USSR.
-This is where I fill in-

Suddenly, the Soviet Union is attacked from the East by the "Empire of the Rising Sun," the Japanese Army based on high-tech/nanotech weaponry. These invaders are unable to be immediately stopped due to a non-existance of nuclear weaponry (thanks to a lack of Einstein) and so a three way war begins between the Allies, Soviet Union and the Empire for control over the world.

From what I remember, Command and Conquer has always been EA's attempts at bringing a quality RTS to PC gamers. On many occasions it has worked on a pretty good scale. If people weren't playing Starcraft or Warcraft III, they were playing some variation of Command and Conquer.

Too often, the initial releases of Command and Conquer has had balance issues with specific units or an exploitation of a specific strategy that often results in some whiny outcry (see: Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and their "issue" on tank rushing....). That doesn't seem to be the case here though, after going through an extremely thorough Closed Beta, the final result is a game that has some really nice balances along with interesting touches from all their previous games.

First off, each faction has their own way of building. While the main concept has now been the MCV, expansion is different for the different factions. The Soviet Union is for those who are used to Tiberium Wars and its playstyle. The Allied Forces have a touch of the US building style. Then there's the Empire of the Rising Sun whose style is something completely new. You build the "building cores" from the MCV (miniature mobile units) which then need to be individually moved so that they then form the building that they're the core of. It makes expansion quite easy, yet hard. Because you can build Refineries in certain spots faster than the other factions, getting a defense core there is just as necessary. So each faction has their own advantages and disadvantages now based on their building style as well.

A great feature that's been implemented is the Co-op campaign mode. Every campaign will always have two commanders meaning you can go through campaign with a friend through the EA servers. Needless to say, that's going to be very fun. It's been a while since such a feature existed and I believe the last time it happened was Myth II....

Finally, naval units are introduced. If anyone loved the Naval support that the US had or the long range sea-to-surface artillery support in CnC:Generals you can now build aircraft carriers and other seafaring goodness. This made my day. I honestly think that this is probably the only other game besides M.A.X. that had units for Land, Sea, Air. It seems a bit primitive (no vehicle transport overseas, meaning no island battles... yet) but it's a good start and puts a really cool spin on amphibious units.

To be honest with you, I can't really find any other "good" things to say. It's not that there aren't anymore, just it's hard to explain the interface, general progression, and player strategy of a real time strategy game into words.

Basically, those that play these games already have a certain standard that they want. Decent A.I. Special unit functions. Good music (which EA never seems to have skimped out on), faction/unit balance. So to mention any of these traits would be superfluous, rather I would need to focus on the parts that bother me as that would give a better understanding of the overall feel of the game.

One of my main issues is actually with the A.I. It's been designed so that the computer rushes early and uses certain basic infantry tactics that rush based human players would use. On that matter, it's actually done really well. In fact, the entire small squadron management and rush tactics are beautiful, but that's about as far as it goes.

If you rush earlier than the computer, the result is a confused A.I. using desperation tactics, which means that you can whittle a "Hard" A.I. if you bring in anti-armor and anti-infantry/air based on the faction into a "please have mercy" A.I. If you stay defensive, what you don't get is a heavy stream of high tier units and merciless mass destruction on ALL your weak points like the earlier games. It seems all the focus was placed on squad support and management which resulted in a good but one-track minded A.I. that can't handle a 30 min+ game.

What I mean is. If you only play the computer. You're going to get used to its quick-fire rushing capabilities and while it's fun for a short period of time, it seems to lack advanced tactics for outposts and just becomes a sitting duck once ores are depleted. Not only that, you can't really enjoy the final tier units since you're always being pounded by small balanced squads that become a threat if you leave them alone.

While within each faction, each general does have their own unit/tactic tendencies, it's not drastic enough for you to really care. You really just have to tweak your anti-unit balances.

Honestly, I kinda miss Tiberium Wars...well more importantly, Generals: Zero Hour. All the maps in that game were abnormally huge which led to ridiculously intense, long battles. That isn't to say that a 6 player mayhem isn't fun in RA3, it just feels different. It doesn't seem as epic since you're not seeing over 200 or so units blowing the hell out of each other.

Now it's just me nitpicking, but I kinda miss being able to zoom so far in that you can see the parts of a single infantry's helmet. Superfluous? Yes, but it has such a grandiose look and makes you appreciate the graphics that much more.

Like I said before. This game has reignited my fire for RTSes. I thought I'd be rusty and lose interest but partaking in a 6 man Free-for-all suddenly made all my RTS memories come rushing to me like a Madeline cake (see: Proost). After the attack, I began setting squads and micro-managing units like I once did in Starcraft. Maybe it's the hype talking, but I haven't had this much fun from an RTS in a while, and no doubt Starcraft 2 will be the same

1 comment:

[Alpha]-0mega- said...

Personally Homeworld 2 is still on my highest spot on the RTS's that pwn list.

Regardless, the biggest ''outcry'' for C&C3: Tiberium Wars Pre-patch should probably by ''crawlers''.

The tactic is so easy to perform, yet so easy to defend against but almost everyone sucks against it.

For those that don't know what I'm talking about, all you do is get enough Defense structures ready for deployment, and a lot of powerplants, MCV (optional). And basically you just build yourself a way into their base and spam the defense units.

My NOD faction decimates the opponents this way, which results in them crying or selling all their structures.