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#1  Edited By Mooks
What's the game about? Albert Einstein builds a time machine and attempts to prevent World War II by hindering Hitler's rise to power. It almost works; Stalin, not Hitler, ends up becoming the main aggressor in World War II. Then the Russians attempt their own time-travel shenanigans to make themselves more powerful, but as a result, they end up making Japan a superpower. That's the basic premise of Red Alert 3, which continues the Command & Conquer tradition of action-paced real-time-strategy gameplay and adds Red Alert's goofy, over-the-top charm. While the previous RA games have given us plenty of crazy units, such as telepathically controlled squids and soldiers who erase their enemies via time travel, it was with just two sides (the Soviets and Allies). Thanks to the backstory, Red Alert 3 adds a third side, the Empire of the Rising Sun, among other improvements such as snazzier graphics, a co-op campaign, and naval gameplay.

What's new for E3? While we've covered some of the basic changes to RA3, such as the ability to construct bases on water and some of the new units, this is the first time we've seen the new faction in its entirety. For E3, the developers had this third faction fully playable. In fact, while I was experimenting around and just doing enough stuff to build each unit to check it out, I served as an impromptu demonstrator, as RA3 producer Amer Ajami asked me to highlight specific units for a Japanese writer, so I got a pretty in-depth look at the faction.

First off, the Empire of the Rising Sun seems to be a gigantic love letter from EA Los Angeles to Japan, with allusions spanning across movies, anime, and games. The best anti-infantry unit in the faction? The Shinobi, of course. Its backbone vehicle? The Tengu, which transforms from a bipedal robot (Mecha Tengu) to a fighter jet (Jet Tengu). This means a lot of people on the team like Macross. The Seawing submarine that toggles between "light" mode underwater and a "dark" mode as a support bomber? That unit can trace its lineage to the Dreamcast (and later GameCube) shooter Ikaruga. The battleship's eerie resemblance to the Space Battleship Yamato is no coincidence. And finally, Ajami describes the commando unit, the Yuriko, as a "combination of the Gogo Yubari character from Kill Bill and Tetsuo from Akira." The elite Rocket Angel infantry that can pound on both vehicles and other infantry? Watch some episodes of Bubblegum Crisis to see where her jet-pack-wearing girl design comes from.

Two other big things that stand out about the faction are that it has no build radius and that most units transform. The first means that unlike the Soviets and the Allies, the Japanese don't have to construct buildings near their bases; they can drop a building anywhere they want. To make a building, the construction yard creates, well, a giant box with wheels that then unfurls into the actual structure. A smart player can build multiple refineries and send them off to capture resource nodes without having to actually create expansion bases beforehand.

Also, astute players will notice that the Japanese don't have a building dedicated to aircraft like the other two armies, which is precisely due to their transforming units. With the exception of most infantry and a couple of tanks, the bulk of the Japanese faction can transform between an air form and a ground form. The previously mentioned Tengu serves double-duty, shifting between a robot form that can pound on tanks and a jet form designed to take out other planes and bombers. Another unit shifts between a ground-based antiair mode and a helicopter that can pound the crap out of anything on the ground.

What's our take? Red Alert 3's biggest strength also pulls double-duty as its biggest weakness: It plays a little too similarly to the previous games. The naval gameplay is pretty neat, and we haven't had a chance to try out co-op, but as it stands, the moment-to-moment gameplay is pretty much the same as the moment-to-moment gameplay of Red Alert 2 -- which is eight years old. The welcome return to old-school C&C nostalgia worked fine last year for Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, but we're a little concerned that people's nostalgia might have already run out by the time RA3 hits shelves, and hence, they could end up overlooking some of the newer features because it "looks like just more C&C."


I think the guys at EA LA did a fantastic job bringing the franchise back to its roots with Command and Conquer 3, and all the coverage from Red Alert 3 so far seems to indicate they are doing the same thing here.  They have definately retained the light-hearted kitschy feel from the previous red alerts, and although the author here sites similairty as a weakness, Red Alert 2 came out nearly 8 years ago, so i don't really think that would be an issue.