You can't fault EA's marketing bods. They know exactly what's exciting about Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3. That's why every trailer has had sod all in the way of game footage and lots of a shouting Tim Curry at his ridiculous, eye-bulging best.
Part of a spin-off series, RA3 ditches C&C 3's drab sci-fi in favour of a bold, colourful art style and, best of all, intentionally ludicrous cutscene acting - there's more ham flying about than a food fight at a Bernard Matthews factory.
Mechanically, RA3 is based on the formula that's kept C&C popular for over a decade. Build a base, set up resource gathering and then start churning out your units for battle - standard-ish soldiers for the Allied Forces, robots for the Empire of the Rising Sun and, bizarrely, even parachuting War Bears for the Soviets.
Red Alert 3 isn't afraid to play fast and loose with its alternate history. One neat change is that many of the units are now amphibious - boats clamber onto the shore with mechanical spider legs and you can deploy your base on the salty brine. It adds a new tactical consideration, but it's hardly a revolution.
More significant is that you can have a friend in tow. Every mission is designed to accommodate two commanders and while in solo play that'll be an AI general, you can pile through the three campaigns in Xbox Live co-op as well.
There's no cheap dividing of armies either - you will both get your own base and, to a certain extent, your own objectives, though concerted pushes on a single target are just as much fun.
There aren't many niggles, but it's worth mentioning that the path-finding is atrocious. A unit that's blocked by another will just sit there, the driver presumably inspecting his navel, until you manually clear the obstruction. At one point we had to restart a mission because a critical transport stopped and never moved again. For the sake of our vocal chords, it's a good job it was early in the scenario.
Strategy fans will be in heaven, but thanks to the slick production, amusing cutscenes and accessible controls it could also get a few converts to the RTS cause. It's certainly a great place to start.
Solid and stylish, not too serious
- Solid mechanics
- Cutscenes are barking
- Gemma Atkinson, obviously
- Giant, stomping robots
- Infuriating pathfinding