Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Review for PC

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Review for PC

An Iron Curtain of Attitude

Command & Conquer has become a solid contender in the world of competitive multiplayer RTS gaming. Realizing this, Electronic Arts has been hard at work continuing the series’ many faces, one of the most popular being Red Alert. Moreover, this third installment harnesses all of the unique characteristics that make Command & Conquer games stand out and then takes them to the next level.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 screenshot

The premise is simple: the Soviet Union is losing ground to the Allies. To help their cause, the Soviets once again rely on time travel, this time to eliminate Albert Einstein. With Einstein out of the picture, the Allies’ technology is far less advanced and nuclear technology doesn’t exist. However, altering the timeline in their favor comes at a great cost and brings rise to a different threat in the Empire of the Rising Sun. At this point, each campaign plays out like a battle-royal full of cheesy dialogue and acting.

Red Alert 3 boasts some impressive visuals on the PC. While it lacks the visual scaling abilities of games like Supreme Commander or Sins of a Solar Empire, its charm isn’t in how many units can be squeezed onto the screen at once. Instead, the game relies on its own unique and quirky art design and style. Exaggerated and ridiculous units are both detailed and colorful, making Red Alert 3 stand out against the backdrop of RTS games attempting to provide realistic visuals.

While very colorful and vibrant, Red Alert 3 isn’t breaking any ground in the way of graphics. It’s actually just barely on par with what most games are capable of achieving. Nevertheless, realism isn’t, and never was, what the Red Alert series was ever attempting to simulate. The ability to run the game on less powerful computers is always an advantage, especially when playing online. It is important to note that Red Alert 3 is in no way an ugly game. Its style is simply unique and interesting, which may or may not be appealing.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 screenshot

The controls are pretty straight forward for an RTS game, and Red Alert veterans should be right at home with the way things work in Red Alert 3. Selecting units, issuing orders, creating control groups, etc., are fluid and easy to manage. There is the ability to zoom the camera both in and out, but zooming out seems almost pointless, since it barely goes out any farther than its default setting.

One of Red Alert 3’s most notable features is the ability to play through the single-player campaign with a friend. Every mission is setup to be played with an ally. If you choose to play by yourself, however, an A.I. ally will step in, which isn’t too bad. It helps that you have basic control over the A.I. without having to micromanage units and resources. For example, you can tell your ally to attack a specific position or target, or have them defend an area. Once the issue has been ordered, the A.I. determines the specifics. So, while playing solo is definitely a way to go, joining up with a friend or random stranger makes for a much more fulfilling campaign experience, especially when playing on the harder settings.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 screenshot

Unfortunately, the A.I. is one of the least impressive parts of Red Alert 3. There are a definite number of pathing bugs and glitches that result in units getting stuck running in place against edges. Sea units seem to have the most trouble getting around, getting stuck on the edges of land and spinning in circles. While these issues are certainly fixable through the release of patches, they can be extremely frustrating because of how often they occur. And, when you’re relying on an A.I. ally to follow simple attack/defend orders, the last thing you need is for those units to get stuck on some corner while you’re left to fend for yourself.

The three factions present in Red Alert 3 make for some very interesting skirmishes. While not particularly unique in the way they gather resources (all three requiring ore refineries and power plants), the differences among the units is key. Nearly every unit comes equipped with a secondary attack mode or skill, while the Empire of the Rising Sun’s units can practically transform into entirely different units with different functions. These additional modes add another level of complexity, strategy, and depth to the game.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 screenshot

The Chronosphere and Iron Curtain abilities make return appearances in Red Alert 3, along with a whole host of unlockable abilities that can be gained during missions. Many of these special abilities include things like airstrikes, gravity beams, and upgrades to specific unit types. Overall, Red Alert 3 brings a lot of popular traditional units to the fray while not being afraid to throw in some big changes, most of which come in the form of the Empire’s units. Giant robot-like units and sea-to-air transformable units are just a taste of what is new. And, despite all the new additions to the Red Alert formula, a relative balance is achieved among the three factions. There are specific advantages that are noticeable, but, for the most part, each faction has the ability to hold its own against the others.

The musical score and sound effects can only be described as being true to the Red Alert series. Hard-sounding guitars are a staple of the music found in Red Alert 3. So, while the more lofty and classic sounding scores normally found in RTS games have been dumped in favor of a more modern, adrenaline-pumping one, it does nothing short of fit the atmosphere perfectly. The sound effects won’t steal the show, but they aren’t anything to laugh at either. Strong-sounding and seemingly accurate, they complement the game’s style well without causing a distraction.

The crux of the Command & Conquer series is the use of live-action cutscenes and acting to tell the story. The story itself isn’t anything special-full of predictability and standard plot twists involving traitors and double-crosses. Yet, Red Alert 3 understands exactly what it is, and that is a giant cheese ball of ham-fisted story telling and over-the-top gameplay. With that in mind, it is nearly impossible to find fault in the ridiculous acting and one-liners that permeate the story. Instead, these things just bolster and support the overall feel of Red Alert 3, elevating it above and making it stand out from the rest.

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 isn’t the greatest RTS game on the market right now. And, as far as gameplay is concerned, it is as traditional and standard as they come. However, what it lacks in the way of new gameplay design, it makes up for in flavor, attitude, and exaggeration. While these elements have mostly to do with the style of the game rather than the gameplay, they certainly contribute to the fun factor. So, whether you’re playing Red Alert 3’s campaign with a friend or fighting it out with a bunch of friends online, Red Alert 3 will deliver. Veterans of the series should find it familiar enough to love while being introduced to a little more, while newcomers will enjoy a less serious romp through the RTS genre. In the end, Red Alert 3 isn’t the best dressed guy at the party, but he will certainly turn some heads and keep everyone entertained.

A nice-looking game that is both colorful and unique in style. 3.8 Control
Standard RTS controls that are hindered by minor A.I. bugs. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The hard-hitting musical score, suitable sound effects, and over-the-top storytelling come together nicely. 4.0 Play Value
Challenging gameplay that boasts a cooperative mode for the campaign as well as a multiplayer experience that drives competition make for an exciting amount of replayability. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Co-Op Done Right: Every mission is designed from the ground-up with co-operative gameplay in mind. Join forces and strategize with friends online or join forces with nine A.I. commanders, three for each faction, all of whom have their own unique personality and style of play that might come in handy depending on the situation.
  • A New Threat from the East: The Empire of the Rising Sun is a technological terror, with unit designs influenced by a mixture of science-fiction, martial arts, and robot culture. The Empire’s futuristic units can transform into alternate forms, and they specialize in naval warfare.
  • Star-Studded Storytelling: Command & Conquer’s trademark live-action videos return in HD, with over 60 minutes of footage featuring the largest cast in the history of the Command & Conquer franchise.

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