Reviewed: April 18, 2009
Released: March 23, 2009
Time and time again, it has been proven that amazingly complex world of the real time strategy (RTS) genre has never found a great fit on the laid-back console crowd. Every now and then we have a title that breaks down the console barrier – obviously, Tom Clancy’s EndWar and Halo Wars are recent examples – but these games typically succeed by tweaking the standard RTS formula to make it more palatable for the console crowd.
To put it another way; the RTS folks would say that the developers tend to “dumb down” the standard RTS gameplay for the consoles. And with Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 for the PS3, we have the perfect example of why this practice is absolutely necessary.
Let me start by saying that Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is absolutely phenomenal so many ways. It is quite apparent from the start that Red Alert 3 is a labor of love from the folks at EA-Los Angeles. Whether we are talking about the superstar service in the awesome FMV cutscenes, the incredible level of detail in the interactive isometric viewpoint, to the amazing degree of customization given to gamers in building bases – everything about Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is simply dripping in quality.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 tells a unique alternate-reality in which Russian leaders travel back in time to 1927 and alter the outcome of WWII by blocking the use of the atomic bomb. This leaves the world under the control of three major powers all pitted against each other; the Allied forces (US/UK), the Soviets, and the Asian Empire. Those familiar with the RTS genre will know that each force has its own set of unique advantages and shortcomings that come to play in the various land, sea, and air battles that ensue.
Each faction follows closely to real-life stereotypes. Soviets troops are loyal and resourceful units, and as expected are excellent snipers. The Empire is technologically advanced, sporting mechanized warriors and self-sufficient robotic refineries. The Allied forces fall somewhere in-between, with excellent infantry and high-tech air support. And just to add a bit of humor to the mix, each faction has a handful of special animal-based attacks like the Soviet’s armored bears, the Allies’ dolphins, and the Empire’s dragonflies. These units don’t add a lot to the game, but they are good for a chuckle.
Knowing how to exploit your enemies’ particular strengths and weaknesses, all the while defending your own vulnerabilities, is key to the gameplay of Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 . This is taught to gamers via an exhaustive series of gameplay tutorials, that easily meet the five-hour mark when all is said and done. Thankfully, these brain-busting tutorials can be bypassed by Command and Conquer vets, they are strongly suggested for Command and Conquer virgins who need to learn the highly complex concepts and multi-layered controller actions required to command troops and equipment in and out of battle, and to build efficient mining operations and base structures.
And that’s where the console gamer finds himself/herself utterly lost in the sea of complexity that is Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3. Having recently played Tom Clancy’s EndWar on the PS3, in which the onscreen actions could be controlled using either voice-command or controller navigation using a horizontal menu bar, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 ’s drill-down dial seems clunky and confusing.
Commands are carried out by selecting units using the controller, then navigating through a series of menus and submenus all arranged around a series of overlapping clock-face dials marked only with graphical icons. It takes time until the “drilling” becomes second nature – remembering which higher level selections lead to which lower level commands and whatnot. The system is nowhere near as intuitive as EndWar’s voice command system. Thankfully the game walks players by the hand for the first few levels, introducing some of the basic concepts a bit more cohesively than the droll tutorials.
The real treat with Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is the absolutely fantastic FMV cutscenes featuring an ensemble cast sporting the likes of Tim Curry, Jenny McCarthy, George Takei, and even an exclusive cameo from The Hoff himself (David Hasselhoff). And this isn’t just voice acting people, we mean real live HD movie-quality cutscenes with costumes and sets and the whole deal. For anyone who may have doubted Jenny McCarthy in the past decade, I challenge you to take one look at her in full camo as the Allies’ Tanya and not think that she is the hottest babe to ever grace a videogame in the past decade.
As you can guess by the cast, the cutscenes are purposely corny and cheesy – but always with a solid tongue-in-cheek that makes as much fun of the genre as it does make homage to it. There are few games over the years where I have found myself re-watching cutscenes, and Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is at the top of the list. They are almost worth the price of admission alone.
The in-game visuals are colorful and detailed, and flow at a smooth clip as you fly over the varied battle sites. Individual soldiers and equipments feature great animation sequences, and the various units are uniquely distinguishable from even the farthest vantage point.
In closing, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is a fantastic game that just doesn’t fit in with the everyday console crowd. It’s a shame because EA-Los Angeles really put their heart into the PS3 version, but the game ultimately stumbles because it’s just too darn complex for the controller crowd. Still, if you can get past the overly difficult HUD and gameplay design, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is one hell of a game.