Previews

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3

Preview: Exclusive in-depth look at the RTS legend's return

Jamie Sefton climbs aboard a secret Kirov Airship for the exclusive story on the biggest RTS of the year...

As I'm ushered into a demo room at EA's Los Angeles studio, I clutch my ultimate wish list of features tightly in my hand, and catch a tantalising glimpse of a fleet of grinning Kirov Airships on a stupidly-large hi-def screen. This is a big deal.

I'm the only UK journalist allowed to see Red Alert 3 - a title that millions of gamers across the globe have been waiting to play for seven years.

The previous title, Red Alert 2, is one of the most iconic real-time strategy games ever created; a beautifully-balanced, fast, colourful, silly and exuberant Cold War classic stuffed with ridiculous units (Giant Squid), OTT technology (weather machines) and campy cinematics featuring actors hamming it up as presidents, Russian commanders and sexy agents with a penchant for C4 explosive.

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Over the next couple of hours, I'm talked through the features of the game, shown concept art plastering numerous walls throughout the offices and given a personal demo of a Red Alert 3 Allied mission.

As it all unfolds, I start to tick off the wish list of features one-by-one - crazy time travel plot, a third faction, story-driven campaign with co-operative play, German shepherds, more naval combat, more Tanya - until I'm frantically scribbling down more features than Soviet psychic agent Yuri could psychically shake a stick at.

If you're a fan of the Red Alert series, you'd better relax, sit down and take in every word that follows - I think you're going to be a tiny bit excited...

RISING SUN
At the beginning of Red Alert 3, the situation is dire for the Soviets - the Allies have driven back their forces to Moscow and the leadership is cowering behind the gates of the Kremlin.

In a crazed act of desperation, the Soviets head to the basement where they have been working on a time machine which they plan to use to go back in time and get rid of Einstein - the man most responsible for the technological achievements that have led to the Allies' victories. And also, let us not forget, the man who travelled back in time to kill Hitler in the first game so that this whole Red-centric timeline could happen anyway.

This notwithstanding, the Soviets erase Einstein and come back to the present day where it looks like the experiment has been a great success - the Allies have retreated and the Red Menace has returned to its former glory.

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However, almost immediately, klaxons begin blaring and the Russians are again under attack, except this time from a superpower their time meddling has spawned upon the world stage: the technological cult of the Empire of the Rising Sun. A sickening feeling hits the Soviet commanders' stomachs as they realise that they've created a new enemy for themselves, and the new war begins...

This is the first time in a Red Alert game that there's been a fully-fledged third faction (the Yuri's Revenge expansion had a sub-faction), and each of the three campaigns will have eight to 10 missions, with the Japanese Rising Sun currently aimed at being unlockable when you've completed the Allied or the Soviet campaign.

"It's really important to us that we don't just build one faction, then cut and paste those units into another faction," says executive producer Chris Corry. "Each will feel very different from a capability standpoint. Japan has the most dramatically different building mechanic with an emphasis on higher technology weapons, so it'll feel and play uniquely."

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