Red Alert 3: Gameplay
The Command & Conquer games from Westwood Studios and then from Electronics Arts have always featured a good balance of the opposing parties based on the "stone-paper-scissors" principle: an advantage of one party in land force is compensated by its weakness in air or naval force.
Of course, it is next to impossible to hit the perfect balance in an RTS. There are imbalances in every game, and the above-mentioned principle would fail occasionally, too. One of the well-known examples was the too powerful armored troops of the Soviet Union in the original Red Alert that even gave rise to the new term tank rush. As soon as you built them, an avalanche of Mammoth tanks would wipe everything out of the way, leaving no chance to the opponent. However, Westwood/EA’s approach was far more appealing than the exactly identical parties of other strategies where the opposing units had the same specifications and differed in color and shape only.
Red Alert 3 carries this basic principle on. Although there are few genuine innovations on the part of the Allied Forces or the USSR, and most of them are of a humorous nature, the developers unleashed their inspiration, creating the units, buildings and construction methods for the third party of the conflict, the Empire of the Rising Sun.
Judging by the technological level, the new faction is at least a hundred years ahead of its opponents in technologies, making free use of such things as power fields, nano-assemblers, energy swords, wave cannons, psychokinesis and telekinesis.
An interesting feature of the Empire’s forces is the construction method which is fundamentally different from those used by the USSR and the Allies: each building comes as a mobile container with a colony of nano-assemblers together with design drawings. This container can be transferred into a convenient location on the map and then unfolded into a full-featured building.
The anime genre has influenced the design of the Empire’s war units. To see that you can just take a look at the Mecha Tengu, a striding battle robot capable of transforming into a Jet Tengu fighter.
Like every hybrid, it represents an engineering compromise and is inferior to specialized robots and fighters in each of its functions, though. And when you see the telekinetic girl dressed in a school uniform or the gigantic Shogun Executor, you’ll have no doubts about the source of the developers’ parody. By the way, playing for the Empire of the Rising Sun seems to be the most difficult game style because most of the Empire units are transformable and need the player’s attention to switch into what mode is presently necessary.
The Soviet forces and buildings look and behave traditionally but the characteristic grotesque style can be seen here even more than in the previous games of the Red Alert series. For example, the highly efficient anti-infantry bloodhounds have been replaced with armored brown bears performing the same battle functions. The Gulag, vodka and other Soviet archetypes have not been forgotten, either. The Red Army is still based on powerful armored forces, long-distance missile launchers, and fantastic electromagnetic technologies developed by Nikola Tesla who seems to be just as an important character in the Command & Conquer universe as Albert Einstein.
New in this game is the Bullfrog, an amphibious troop carrier. Using a special catapult, it can land paratroopers over long distances. The anti-infantry walker Sickle can jump over obstacles while the Stingray boat based on Tesla coils can move on both land and sea. Like in the previous games of the series, the style of playing for the Soviets is mostly offensive but the new units provide some flexibility. For example, you can land your engineers on an enemy base and capture its buildings.
The Allied faction seems to be the most balanced and classic one. It is not as advanced technologically as the Empire of the Rising Sun and not as grotesque as the USSR army. There is one logical slip, by the way. For some reason, the Allied forces can still move in time and have defensive laser rigs although the eradication of Albert Einstein from the history by Cherdenko should have deprived them of the appropriate technologies.
The Allies’ advanced navy with aircraft-carriers, orbital laser platforms and good aircraft coupled with such exotic technologies as Chronosphere, freezing or shrinking rays can be highly effective against an unprepared enemy whereas the well-developed defensive system should make your opponent lose his head thinking of ways to break or bypass it.
The key points of the gameplay have not changed much in comparison with Red Alert 2. It is unclear why the resource mining has become so simplified. The appropriate building can now be built right near the mine. Having an individual mobile unit for carrying the obtained resources makes no sense for such a short distance.
We don’t like that the camera adjustment options are not wide enough. The interface elements are rather large. Coupled with the small maximum zoom-out of the camera, this limits your vision of the battlefield considerably. Fortunately, you can disable the interface with the End button. Otherwise, people who played Red Alert 2 should not find any problem getting used to Red Alert 3. This stability is welcome, of course.
Now let’s see how the game behaves on modern graphics cards from different price categories.