Short on Gameplay,
Long on Tedium
When EA set out to craft Red Alert 3, they did so with the intention of creating the most over-the-top RTS ever, and they were successful. Something about iconic actors appearing to deliver cheesy dialogue in live-action cutscenes made for some entertaining storytelling. The gameplay maintained the fast-paced atmosphere created in Red Alert 2, and, for the most part, fans of the series were content. Fast-forward to almost a year later and EA has released the first stand-alone expansion pack, Uprising.
Gamers will find the core gameplay elements remain unchanged, which is both good and bad. What was changed, however, probably won’t garner the same support. Uprising’s campaign focuses on forcing players to manage small squads of units. And, while gameplay similar to this can be done well, such as in Dawn of War II, Uprising doesn’t provide any additional elements to make this intimate control interesting. Instead, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover the very specific strategies you need to execute to get past the scripted A.I. Essentially, players will find themselves hitting the restart button and saying, “Okay, what if I do this?” Of course, those more familiar with the original Red Alert 3 will have an advantage in this regard, but they’ll find the limited choice in strategy a bit too restrictive.
As with most expansion packs, the mini-campaigns are relatively short. A few hours should see most players through all three factions’ plots. But, it isn’t the shortness of the campaigns that make them hard to consider playing through, it’s the repetition. All three factions, while having a number of new units to play around with, play very similar to each other, so while the look changes, the feel stays mostly the same. Moreover, the lack of cooperative play as an option completely debunks what made Red Alert 3’s campaign interesting and replayable.
The additional entourage of actors and actresses do a good job of maintaining the Red Alert status quo, but the only performance that is really tip-of-the-hat worthy comes from Malcolm McDowell, who gives the impression he is reprising his role as President Eden from Fallout 3. The rest of the cast does an okay job keeping with the program. Consequently, fans will find the cutscenes are as corny as ever.
While the mini-campaigns don’t leave much to be desired, EA has thrown in an additional dungeon-crawler style mini-campaign in which players take control of a single hero unit named Yuriko. While it is fun to plow through hordes of enemy troops using psychic abilities, this particular mode doesn’t do anything special. It is another attempt to find some common ground between action and real-time strategy, but there just isn’t enough there to satisfy fans of either genre.
Another new mode in Uprising is the Commander’s Challenge, which pits players against nine other commanders through 50 missions. As each mission is completed by the player, he or she is granted additional units. While this is another deviation from the standard gameplay elements offered in Red Alert 3, this new mode, in comparison to the others, is definitely the most satisfying way to play Uprising. Unfortunately, because it makes up such a small part of the entire package, it makes it difficult to justify the rest.
Visually, Uprising is the same as Red Alert 3. The new units are modeled in the exact same style and fit well. The environments are as well-rendered as they were in the original. Conversely, the environments don’t really offer much in the way of variety. Even the dungeon-crawl experience doesn’t throw much new into the mix for the player. Moreover, the fact that the camera can’t zoom in very far is another drawback, especially when other RTS games allow players to practically get down to eye-level and witness the action in a more intimate setting. On a brighter note, the game is full of bright colors and vibrant particle effects, so those looking for escape from the muddy colors of other games should find sanctuary.
The controls have remained untouched, so anyone familiar with Red Alert 3 should feel completely at home. And, being Uprising is a stand-alone expansion, newcomers with a little RTS experience will find them intuitive and easy to learn. Aside from the player controls, there are still some pathing issues that can make for a frustrating experience. Units aimlessly walking against barriers, and getting stuck on each other can be a painful thing to watch. Meanwhile, Uprising’s music is probably one of its better qualities. With a number of different styles thrown into the mix, the music tracks complement the over-the-top style very well. Hard rock, oriental ballads, and the original music from Red Alert and Red Alert 2 sync well with each other.
Overall, there isn’t much to say about Red Alert 3 Uprising because, frankly, there isn’t much new to talk about. It is nice to see that gamers don’t need to own the original in order to play the expansion. However, the campaigns from the original aren’t playable in Uprising, so if you’re at all interested in the single-player, buying the original is a necessity, despite the laughably short “recap video” that you can watch. To its credit, Uprising is just another installment in a series that knows what it is-a complete exaggeration on everything an RTS game is. Just don’t go into it expecting anything more than that though, because you’ll be disappointed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
A fine-looking game that uses its bright and colorful style to its advantage. 3.0 Control
Standard RTS controls are left untouched since the original and make for an easy-to-manage experience. However, the camera not being able to zoom in to a more intimate level is a drawback. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music stands out as the game’s best quality, with the standard Red Alert acting to complement it. 2.0 Play Value
Standard and repetitive gameplay isn’t made any more entertaining by new units or the dungeon-crawler mode. While the Commander Challenge mode is fun, it lacks the depth and replayability it deserves. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.