The gameplay, however, definitely delivers on the whimsy. Though the game’s advertised co-op mechanic wasn’t yet ready for prime time, I played a 1-on-1 skirmish as the Soviets in the Heidelberg map, which will also appear as a campaign map. To test out the series' brand-new naval base mechanic, I drove my Mobile Construction Vehicle (MCV) into the water (automatically trading tires for water jets) and unpacked a Construction Yard just off shore. I immediately built a floating Power Plant and Ore Refinery as well; the refinery’s mining vehicle automatically headed to shore towards an Ore Node (a resource center that replaces the ore and gem patches in previous games). A potential crimp in my plans came when I tried to build a Barracks, which does not come equipped with a flotation device. Luckily, I was close enough to shore that I could construct one there within my build radius.
My first objective was to conscript an engineer to capture an offshore radio tower and clear the map’s thick fog of war. Also amphibious, he whipped out a pontoon boat at the water’s edge, motored to the tower, and took it over, which allowed me to see surrounding buildings and routes. Because this wasn't a real match - build times had been amped up for demo purposes and I started out with a huge war chest of cash - I decided to go a little crazy with unit production, pushing out a squad of lumbering Armored Bears (replacing the RA2’s Soviet Attack Dogs), a legion of Tesla Troopers, Flak Troops, Conscripts, and even a Natasha.
When my opponent eventually attacked, his canine scouts were ripped apart by my red-hot ursine fury. (Armored Bears 1, Attack Dogs 0). Likewise, my sneaky Natasha sniped encroaching infantry and my Tesla Troops ganged up on a couple of incoming tanks, frying them with blasts of electricity. When my Construction Yard became endangered, I was able to pack it back into an MCV and head for safer environs inland. Finally, one of my Bears found the enemy base. In a last-ditch effort to win before the devs ripped the keyboard from my hands, I launched a super-weapon nuke at his base, demolishing as much as I could in a single blinding flash. The ensuing destruction? In a word: Krasnaya.
May 20th, 2008