Last year, I pieced together a preview of Command and Conquer 3 when it was announced by EA back in during the Winter of 2008. As time went on, the PlayStation 3 version went missing, and EA later announced an indefinite hiatus in development for the Sony game, leaving the Xbox 360 and the PC as the only platforms where Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 would be available. But, by now, we should all know that nothing stays exclusive, and that Red Alert 3 still had a high chance of being released. Well, nearly five months later, the Ultimate Edition has arrived, boasting new content exclusive to the PS3.
As has been customary with the Red Alert franchise, it retains the "what if" concept, once again involving the existence of Albert Einstein and his influence over world politics and wars. It is World War II, and the Russians are on the verge of destruction. The Soviet Colonel Anatoly Cherdenko attempts to travel back in time in order to restore the glory of his mother land. He arrives at a 1927 International Physics Conference of Albert Einstein's in Brussels, and despite being told not to touch a single thing so as to not alter the spacetime continuum, the Colonel shakes the hand of Einstein, vanquishing him. With Einstein now gone, a new timeline is created. In this alternate reality, Cherdenko is the Russian Premier, Einstein never created nuclear weapons, and technology has entered an all new level of sophistication as a result, with a dominant superpower you'd never expect.
The Empire of the Rising Sun (the Japanese), are at the forefront of the world, and wage war against the Allies (Europe) and the Soviets, and here is where the game picks up. You can control either one of the three armies, and you will suddenly find yourself immersed into a deep and well-thought out storyline with twists and turns everywhere you look. The "what if" situation asks what if every unusual research project and technological experiment over the past 70 years had garnered results? Results ranging from the Philadelphia Experiment, to time travel, teleportation, invisibility, Tesla technology, and 100 other projects. What if all of these results had made these advancements mainstream? What if the Soviet Union never collapsed? And what if the Japanese Empire became the supreme, most technologically advanced military superpower on Earth?
Red Alert 3 explores all of this, and the outcome is a game with complexity, as well as antics. Technology has advanced so far that it allows for the control of armored bears, even more intelligent dolphins, floating island fortresses, teleportation, and shape-shifting tanks that go from land to air in a second. It doesn't really sound like your typical real time strategy game, does it? Seems more in line with what Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) would conjure up in his head. Well, that's what Command and Conquer has always been about, and the third iteration continues that tradition.
Unlike many other RTS games, gameplay here is fairly accessible, and in case you need any help, a set of training exercises will help familiarize you with the game and its features. And while you may think you need a mouse and keyboard, commanding the troops is done very easily with the controller. Fans of the RTS genre will find a lot to love in Red Alert 3, and they'll love it even more when they discover the co-op. Co-operative gameplay is definitely a plus, especially when it involves the core campaign mode, and what's more impressive is that the campaign was designed around co-op gameplay, so the feature doesn't feel tacked-on like an afterthought. A total of four people can go online and enjoy Red Alert 3's multiplayer, but it's really the co-op that'll draw you in most.
For an RTS beginner, Red Alert 3 is complex to a point of not being overwhelming. It may take some time to get used to, and adapting to the controls will require some patience, but there's a pretty solid game here that fans of the genre will enjoy very much. Also, the PS3 version features some additional content in the form of behind the scenes footage, as well as exclusive multiplayer maps, which is a nice bonus for those who've yet to play the game on their PC or X360.
I must admit, for a strategy game, Red Alert 3 looks beautiful, with fantastic texture detail and a very clean picture. The water is also particularly nice to look at, as is the color palette all throughout the game. The framerate issues that plagud the Xbox 360 version have been addressed, and while it's not perfect, it's certainly a notable improvement over the Xbox 360, running more consistently at 30. Lastly, image quality is super smooth and clean, with 720p as the game's native resolution.
B-list cutscenes keep the pace of the story going, which means B-list acting, as well. Red Alert 3 employs the talents of actors such as Tim Curry and Jenny McCarthy (among many others), but unfortunately it doesn't employ any substance. The cutscenes are all live action, so there are no voice over to be found here, and in a way, that heightens the cheese factor of the acting. Often times it feels as if the scenes were filmed with minimal attempts made in hopes of achieving some quality. The acting isn't abysmal, and is tolerable, but it sure is hard to swallow at times.
All in all, if you've been waiting for a proper real-time strategy game, and Ubisoft's Endwar wasn't what you were looking for, then Red Alert 3 is the game you want. Red Alert 3 boasts a deep single-player experience that allows you to take control of three separate nations, and watch a rather cool story unfold. The co-op experience and the solid visuals are also a pleasant surprise for an RTS game. And sure, the acting is stale, but that isn't enough to hurt Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3. Fans of the series and/or genre, pick this up.