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13 Reviews

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3

Martin Korda welcomes back a dear friend and discovers that the old dog has learned a few new tricks...

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Yet despite their great strength, the Pinkos also have a smattering of subtler units such as the Bullfrog, a transport vehicle which is as comfortable bobbing on water as cruising along tarmac. The Bullfrog can also be employed as an AA gun and best of all, launch troops cannonball man-style into enemy territory. Propelling its troop contingent over enemy walls, the men glide to earth on parachutes ready to engage an unsuspecting enemy. And let's not forget brutal female sniper Natasha.

In the plot department, the Soviet campaign is somewhat lacking. Hammed up to laugh-out-loud proportions by Tim Curry's portrayal of an increasingly megalomaniacal premier, and topped off by a twitchy, madness-tinged performance by Peter Stormare as the jittery but brilliant Dr Zelinsky, the whole thing is incredibly kitsch. You just can't help but smile at the unashamed self-indulgence of it all. The increasingly vitriolic rants of self-professed genius General Krukov provides an excellent counterpoint to the eye-bulging (or in the case of your comms officer Dasha, bra-bulging) performances of his comrades.

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The Soviet plot also has one of the most telegraphed twists I've ever seen, compounded by the fact it's the same twist that C&C games have been using for over a decade.

The Allies' arsenal is the most unspectacular of the three, though that's not to say there aren't standout units, including the Athena Cannon, a vehicle that can tag an enemy then call down fire from a satellite. Tanya is, as ever, a highlight and comes equipped with a time belt that allows her to rewind the action; an ability that can transform her into a destructive force like no other if used cannily. Spies are also worthy of praise, able to bribe enemy troops to defect to your cause.

You can't really go wrong with their FMV selection either, with Jenny McCarthy perhaps not filling the boots of the Tanya of old - but with J.K. Simmons stealing the show as the rambunctious apple-pie loving President Howard T. Ackerman.

Saving the best till last, we have the Empire of the Rising Sun. Here we have one of the finest factions seen in a C&C game, by melding nanotechnology, robotics and Japan's samurai heritage, EA LA has created the perfect alternative to the Allies' and Soviet's more conventional arsenals. Many of the Empire's units can also transform into different vehicles, such as the Sea-Wing, which begins life as a bomber but can morph into a submarine and the Striker-VX, which can fill the role of an air-to-ground attack chopper or an AA gun. The versatility this provides is impressive as it can fundamentally change the way you approach missions.

King Onis are giant robotic warriors that crush tanks with their mechanical arms and reduce entire regiments to mush with blows from their Radiant Eyeblasters. But even this hulk is dwarfed by the might of the Shogun Executioner, a titanic tripod housing three giant, swivelling mech bodies wielding samurai swords that cleave through enemy armour like a katana through butter.

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The Empire also possesses more subtle and imaginative units, like the Sudden Transport that can morph its appearance to resemble an enemy vehicle. Rocket Angels meanwhile are brutal females clad in combat suits that wield devastating paralysing whips and missile launchers.

The Empire also has Yuriko Omega, their counterpart to Tanya and Natasha, and arguably the most powerful of the trio of killer babes. Don't let her pigtails fool you: this girl has psionic powers that can fell the most powerful pieces of battlefield technology. Strong male units, similar to Tanya, Natasha and Yuriko, are conspicuous by their absence.

The Empire's base-building abilities have some interesting strategic options, most notably the ability to construct buildings anywhere on the map, rather than in a set area, as is the case with the Allies and Soviets. Plot-wise, things are again positive for the Japanese, with the faction featuring the most compelling and well-acted scenes that depict the struggle between old and new schools of thought, while some intelligent historic reversals - such as the US attacking the Japanese stronghold of Pearl Harbour - add substance. It's striking just how effective the more serious performances of the actors are during this campaign, providing ample proof that FMVs don't have to be corny to work, they just need to be acted by performers who don't see video games as a way to make rent payments between movies.

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