Genre: Real Time Strategy
The third game in the highly popular Red Alert series is finally about to arrive. This sequel is set in an alternative history where Albert Einstein went back in time to stop Hitler before World War Two began. This fictional scenario allows Stalin to launch a massive invasion of Europe. The series has evolved to include not only the standard two factions of Soviet Russia and the Allies, but the developers have now also included a highly anticipated third faction: Imperial Japan. Continuing in the theme of the series, all the outlandish weapons from the previous games have been brought forward, including the Tesla Coil base defense, war bear scouts and bomber airships.
For those unfamiliar with the RTS (Real Time Strategy) genre, the objective is to expand from a simple base to control the entire map, collecting resources and researching technology until you are an unstoppable war machine. Maps are generally won by annihilating the competition, be it through swamping them with masses of tanks or by the precise use of a super-weapon or two.
The major difference Red Alert 3 has over its predecessors is a new focus on naval warfare. In fact, players are now able to build entire bases on the water. This adds a whole new element to the gameplay that ensures multiplayer games with large stretches of ocean are particularly interesting. To complement this, the water effects are amazing with light reflections helping to make explosive battles exciting and vibrant.
The acting talent in Red Alert 3 has been significantly ramped up from its prequels. Intermission videos are presented in superb high-definition quality. Of particular note is the trademark female super-commando Tanya, now joined by her Russian counterpart Natasha. Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show) also makes an appearance as a principal character, along with my personal favourite, Peter Stormare. Both these actors have a very distinctive style well suited to portraying Russians. Finally, the new faction, Imperial Japan is represented by top-caliber acting talent in the form of Star Trek’s George Takei. One of the great attributes of the series has always been its intermission videos that add a much more interactive ‘movie-like’ feel to the game, rather than a straight strategy title. With these features and slightly enhanced graphics, Red Alert 3 looks set to be one of the most beautiful games to grace the RTS genre.
The core enhancements in the beta code we played seemed to be fairly minor tweaks - mainly additional commands that reduce the need for micromanagement. For example, units can now be ordered to move backwards, allowing a valiant retreat while still facing the enemy to return fire. However, it is the multiplayer gameplay that will ultimately be Red Alert 3’s ace card. Online, the waiting area lobby is pretty much standard, allowing players to play or host games. An autosearch facility has also been implemented, but didn’t seem to work in the beta version we tested. Presumably once the online gameplay expands to thousands of users and the ladder competitions begin, the auto search feature will be one of the most efficient ways to find balanced competition. In terms of available maps, all the arenas seem well designed, even if they are limited in number. We saw two maps: a four-player map and a two-player map. Both are very small, which hopefully isn’t a symptom of the engine’s limitations, but more of an incentive to get to the action quickly. The four-player map consisted of a square piece of land with players starting in each corner surrounding a large lake that generally dominates the terrain. Each base has multiple exits and entrances, forcing more adaptive strategies than some players may be prepared for. The online game is fast and hard, and is already showcasing the strength of RA3’s burgeoning multiplayer.
Red Alert 3 is looking to be a great game for old fans and new prospective armchair generals alike.
Expected release date: December 1st, 2008