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Command & Conquer Red Alert 3: Ultimate Edition
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Los Angeles
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Poorly acted live-action cutscenes, blatant CGI scenery and female officers in revealing, ill-fitting uniforms.... Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Ultimate Edition doesn't take itself too seriously and neither should you. That isn't to say that it isn't a good game, because it is; but if you go into it expecting anything other than a fun, campy B-movie experience, you'll give up before the first FMV ends.

The in-game unit models and maps look great. They're colorful, easy to identify and animate smoothly. However, the real star of Red Alert 3 (or really any Command & Conquer game) are the cut scenes. With Red Alert 3 you've got a gun-ho, anti-communist president in JK Simmons, a overly self-confident Tim Curry as the Russian Premiere, and George Takei leading the Asian forces. Then there's Jenny McCarthy performing a tough, yet incredibly seductive interrogation and Gemma Atkinson feeding you intel in a skirt that is anything but military issue. All are delivered with such tongue-in-cheek perfection that even longer story-sequences are entertaining.

Back to the in-game stuff, the music and sound effects help drive home the game's over-the-top presentation. Background music has a techno-y, rock sound that fits with the re-mastered tracks from past games.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 continues the series' time-bending ways by once again exploring the importance of Albert Einstein in history. In previous games, Einstein was able to use time travel to remove Hitler, allowing the Russians to gain power and fight the U.S. in WWII. Red Alert 3 finds the Soviets on the losing end of the war, prompting high command to use its own time machine to remove Einstein from the timeline. The stunt manages to save the Russian Empire, but also helps birth a new threat - the Empire of the Rising Sun - who pose an even greater, more technologically advanced threat to the Russian Empire and the world.

As with past games, the game's "What if?" nature allows for a variety of creative unit types. If there's an unusual research project or theory out there, Red Alert 3 finds some way to work it into the game. Tesla coils, man-cannons, armored bears... you name it. The addition of the Empire of the Rising Sun also allows the game to go the sci-fi route, complete with Gundam-like mechs, transforming jets and psychic schoolgirls.

Missions are straightforward and even though some objectives offer a slightly different goal, they all eventually involve destroying another faction's base. Gameplay is built with co-op play in mind; each mission features two commanders on the field with their own particular mission objectives. Playing with a friend is more entertaining than playing with an A.I. partner. Even with the favorable tip in balance, the game is just as challenging as each player has their own objectives to complete.

All three factions are playable from the start and offer their own particular stories that tie into the overall war story. Each faction's plot is complete enough that you'll get a reasonably satisfying story, though playing through all three in the suggested order is the only way to get all of the information.

The PS3 version's "Ultimate" billing comes from the addition of a few new multiplayer maps, some behind-the-scenes features and a set of video tutorials. Beyond these features, there's no significant difference between this and other versions of the same game.

The control system is easy to grasp and, in case you need a little help, a set of tutorials is available to get you up to speed. As helpful as the tutorials are, however, they are a bit drawn-out. The number could just have been halved and been just as useful. Some are painfully obvious and there's no way to skip through the needless, almost excessive explanations given for each function.

If you'd rather skip the tutorials altogether, each campaign begins with a short starter mission that serves as a suitable initiation into the group. New units are introduced slowly and their functions tend to mirror ones used by other factions. Units share a paper-rock-scissors relationship; though the relationship is diluted the higher you get on your respective tech trees. The relationships only matter in a handful of situations (spy vs. bear, for example). Ultimately, the relationship only helps in creating the illusion of depth rather than actual strategic depth.

Game Mechanics:
Navigating the battlefield via mini-map is easy, but not that accurate. Pressing the (Left Trigger) brings up a simple, but enlarged view of the map that you can then click with the pointer, instantly bringing you to the desired location. The process gets you in the general area, though it requires a bit of adjustment and fine-tuning to make it to the position you want. It's good during calmer times, but the extra time will cost you in battle.

Construction options are accessed through the (Right Trigger). One press brings up a Radial Build menu showing your construction options. Selecting an object, such as a barracks, begins construction. Once completed, the building remains in the Build menu until you drop it on the battlefield. The system works and is far more elegant than other systems, but still feels clunky. Having to go to the Radial menu twice is confusing and, like the map system, pulls time away from more important aspects, like commanding troops.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is built for speed and even with the added bit of clunk provided by the controller, the scheme does a good job of getting your troops around the field. Troops are selected either by painting them with a pointer or through a Radial menu. Unless you're the type of player that needs to devise elaborate schemes, just running the cursor over a group is usually all you'll need to do. Once selected, you can choose a target by pressing (X), or click an area to send them in move-and-attack mode. Again, it's easy and works as good as the system can on a console.

Red Alert 3 is by no means a revolutionary RTS, even on a console. But, what it lacks in the ability to push the genre forward, it makes up for with fun gameplay. The "ultimate" branding doesn't offer enough incentive for PC or 360 owners to invest in another copy, but first-time players in the market for a good strategy game should be satisfied with what Red Alert 3 has to offer.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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