So clearly, RA3's three factions and campaigns are in pretty good shape. But the true test comes on the battlefield. Resource gathering has again been kept to a minimum, with Ore the sole resource, you're alllowed to focus on carnage.
RA3 uses a similar expanding level dynamic to the one which served Supreme Commander so well, with most missions starting off as mere microcosms of their end forms. As each key objective is completed, the map opens up and you are tasked with performing increasingly Herculean feats.
While the visuals (water aside) are somewhat of a disappointment, RA3 has been buffed to an impressive sheen. Buildings pleasingly degenerate as they're pummelled while code stability is rock solid, and intelligent game design ensures you're never left feeling lost. Plots have also been integrated well into missions, with snippets of information
and character development interspersed between the action, while the soundtrack is the finest in the series' history, slipping seamlessly between rousing Russian choruses and searing rock riffs.
A superb interface, the ability to garrison your men and unit veterancy are also worthy of high praise. As I mentioned earlier, RA3 has transformed the dynamic of C&C with co-commanders: an AI-controlled assistant. RTS games have flirted with this idea for years, most recently in World of Conflict, yet none have embraced it to this extent. RA3 has taken that all-important step of making teamwork integral to every mission and the result
is triumphant despite some AI irritants that we'll come to in just a moment.
Whereas previous C&C games were typified by long periods of inactivity while you built up a sizeable force with which to assail the enemy, many of RA3's missions are unrelenting battlefields that pull you in a multitude of directions at once. While you're building a force, your co-commander may be attacking the enemy, or repelling an onslaught that requires your aid to prevent the enemy from prevailing, generating some of the most dynamic battles seen in C&C.
During the larger conflicts RA3's co-commander mechanic shows its true worth. You must not only coordinate with your ally but intelligently read a fluctuating battlefield, just like a true commander rather than a connoisseur of build and rush. This is tempered only by your foes' AI lacking a proactive approach to offence, tending to probe your defences with incessant predictability. Why enemy AI remains such an underdeveloped part of many RTS games is a mystery and a travesty, but RA3 is not the only culprit of this.
Communicating with your co-commander is intuitive thanks to an excellent command interface that allows you to place attack and waypoint markers on the map for your sidekick to follow. Your co-commander also endeavours to mop up your mistakes, adeptly reading the situation and sending troops to back you up, if you've, say, left your base vulnerable to an enemy flanking attack.
Despite this newfound intensity, RA3 is let down by some irritating gripes. Despite its numerous symphonies of mass destruction, the game also features a collection of under-developed missions that can be completed without breaking a sweat. At least one in four levels can be won by taking out key enemy buildings from afar with your offensive Top Secret Protocols (see 'Protocols of Conflict'), while you sit safely behind your base defences.