A couple of months ago I had the apple of discord arrive through mail, a round object in a red box. Granted, it didn’t have any note on it from gals who would invite me to judge some beauty contest per se, but I’m being totally honest when I’m saying that I did judge one. Well, the contestants may not have been Athena, Aphrodite and Hera, but Dasha, Eva and Suki.
In other words, I had the opportunity of waving my cursor through perhaps the most controversial strategy game launched in the past twelve months – and that’s not because it had any subversive mechanics, but apparently a lot of people remember that its predecessors were serious and profound, while the campy and caricaturized atmosphere in the latest title of the franchise are somehow out of place. I’m talking, of course, about Red Alert 3.
I’m not going to bore you with palpable arguments, logic or other utterly irrelevant stuff – the Red Alert franchise was, from the very beginning and to its most recent offspring, a satirical hyperbole of the Cold War, without any debatable aspects or subjective interpretations, regardless of what various individuals might tell you. So what else would you expect when first hearing that the iron-masked bears, the GPS samurais and the time-rewinding nymphets make a comeback?
More chaos, more laughter and perhaps even some new content. Like its predecessors, the latest Red Alert title got an expansion that went overboard and then a few more miles swimming, catapulting the player in implausible, yet hilarious situations. If only Ceauşescu could see us now…
Rice, Origami and other stuff
The poster girl for this add-on is the eccentric Yuriko Omega, the schoolgirl who wields powers of the tea-guessing and turning tanks into steel accordions variety. An entire campaign was made for her (well, campaign means about three missions in Uprising) during which she is the only unit you control, having four different powers at your disposal. The first of them sends an outward pulse that shatters enemies around her with ease and immobilizes vehicles and robots for later packaging, like oversized origami figures.
Another converts enemies in a certain area to your cause, and probably the most spectacular of Yuriko’s powers lifts any object through telekinesis and throws it in whatever spot the player chooses. The schoolgirl also has an impenetrable shield at her disposal which reflects enemy fire for a few seconds. What’s interesting is that none of these powers uses up any limited resource – hence the picnic-genocide Diablo-style campaign.
As such, we are swiftly informed that the Allies’ victory is canonical (which probably means that Du has become the national anthem) – the result being that the Russians are now fighting an evil tech corporation, while the Japs are as stubborn as they were back in ’45. Some of the characters we were introduced to in RA3 make a comeback in the cut scenes, with a new, legendary figure added to the roster: Malcolm McDowell, and another less legendary name, unless you’re part of the MTV demographic: Holly Valance.
It has to be said that the Russians have a somewhat conventional campaign compared to the others and it’s made out of four missions instead of three. The first was an amusing surprise, basically because it takes place in our very own Transylvania – an almost mythical land, with mist as thick as butter, with flocks of bats and somber castles. Its cartoonish take is not very obvious overall (unfortunately), and when it comes to map design, I’m sorry to say that it’s pretty dull. There are few moments in which you have to cover two fronts or the resources at your disposal are on the border of insufficiency – and I do include the higher levels of difficulty in that statement.
On the other side of the fence, the Allies are confronted by Japanese loyalists, assisted by the cunning Crown Price Tatsu, with a twist ending (which is pretty predictable if you ask me). And the Japs, almost crushed by the very war they started, try to push back Russian invaders in the north, while the Allies utterly ignore the Soviet strikes on the Empire of the Rising Sun, and furthermore, hinder the latter’s efforts every chance they get.
As expected, the campaigns also present and use the new units in favorable context, so that the player may understand the pros and cons of Uprising’s new armament.
Although I enjoyed every second of Yuriko’s campaign, basically because every step she takes proves beyond any doubt that she is Darth Vader’s true disciple and secondly because part of it is very similar to Raynor or Kerrigan’s field trips through various stations and ships in the Starcraft campaigns, a more varied background could have helped just as much as more twisted objective could have. Uprising has, without a doubt, superficial campaigns when compared to its predecessor.
Still, various mini-puzzles emerge, forcing you to use a special ability or two or exploit the advantages one unit has over another – which sadly shouldn’t be a challenge to anyone with a minimum degree of intuition. Thus, the campaigns are more like a soft cloth you rip through while drinking your coffee, smoking your cigarette and watching soap operas than a teeth-gnawing challenge which fries your brains because of all the tactical thinking you’re put through.
To complement them, you have the Commander’s Challenge – a cousin of the General’s Challenge from Command & Conquer: Generals. Basically, it’s made up of 50 timed scenarios, with a few snappy tidbits sprinkled all over, with a pretty steady difficulty curve – becoming simply frustrating in the latter missions. However, while you only have limited tech in the beginning – basically, every nation’s fundamental tier – after defeating various Commanders you take over their weapons and buildings.
And while we’re on it, one of the most annoying situations was defeating Yuriko’s clones (who easily broke through most of the units and vehicles I’d sent to destroy these copycats). The reward, however, was pretty sweet – I had access to the aforementioned units in other missions, which eased out a lot of confrontations to reach the top.