Red Alert 3, the latest in the Command & Conquer brand of RTS games to come out for PC, brings back alot of what makes the Command & Conquer games, and the Red Alert brand in particular, great. Unfortunately, it doesn't do very much to change that.
First off, let me get full disclosure out of the way and say that I'm a huge fan of Command & Conquer. I've played every C&C RTS to completion. As someone thats into History and not prone to Sci-Fi however, I've allways prefered the camp and alternate history of Red Alert to Command and Conquer's darker alternate future story line. Red Alert 3 brings back everything that made the series great.
And thats exactly the problem. This game is really just more of the same. All the problems from the series are still here. The game is wildly imbalanced when it comes to units; five of any unit in an RTS should NEVER be able to wipe an opponent off the map, yet I did this several times with Apocalypse tanks as the soviets or my crazy japanese Samurai mechs. The imbalance in favor of air power is not only back, but its made even worse with helicopters that never have to refuel and japanese copters that can transform into aa mechs. These are all problems that have plagued the entire series since its inception, and for that reason I'm inclined to think its a conscious design choice. After all, these are things that fans have been complaining about since the original Command & Conquer came out, and they've never made any noticable effort to change it. Also, while they have some real quality acting talent in this game, like George Takai and Tim Curry, it is totally thrown off by some of the other choices. If you want to have Jenny Mccarthy in a game for the pure sake of T&A, thats fine, but don't make her a central character to the story, for god's sake!
There are a few small additions, like unit abilities and the ability to construct bases on water, but these are totally unnecessary to enjoy the game. The single player campaign makes very little effort to introduce the player to the alternate powers, and to be honest, with the exception of a couple Rising Sun units, I never even used them. You can't build bases that are totally aquatic unless you want to play the game without vehicles or infantry.
And while we're on the subject of the games new faction, The Empire of the Rising Sun, I found their whole storyline to be very tacked on and unnecessary. This happens all the time in long-running RTS series. Franchise getting stale? Add a new faction! The trouble is, with the exception of maybe Warcraft, it hardly ever works. In this case, the Empire feels like, at best, a bonus mode, and at the worst, a cheap attempt to grab some Otaku money with its manga-esque designs and kitchy samurai feel. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against that sort of thing, but it feels really out of place in what is supposed to be an alternate-history game. Its just seems really silly to have crazy-psychic anime schoolgirls and ninjas running around on a battlefield surrounded by tanks and modern infantry.
However, I don't want to just dump on this game. Its got a great sense of humor. Thats what I think alot of reviewers and gamers are missing. When the game does things like deliver troops to the battlefield via cannon, its supposed to be funny. If you want serious RTS from EA, then go play Command & Conquer. All you have to do is look at the box to know that this game is all about crazy weapons and ridiculous characters. After all, whats more farfetched, RA3's battle bears, mechs, and cannon transports, or RA2's storyline about a psychic dictator that was trying to conquer the world with an army of clones?
Red Alert 3 is a good strategy game that isn't afraid to poke fun at itself. If you like your RTS alot, and you like it a little on the silly side, then I'd definitely go with Red Alert 3.