Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - first look

We got to see a mission that began with an absolutely gorgeous scene of a Cuban shoreline; deep blue water lapped the beach while a few disparate Soviet units were just visible at the edges of the fog of war. A Mirage Tank under the command of Major Giles was chronosphered (matter-transported) to the island, while our group of four amphibious Assault Destroyers from a Caribbean base nearby rolled up on the beach, immediately sprouting tank treads. The Mirage Tank then disguised itself as a Soviet Apocalypse Tank and covered the entire force in a cloaking shield, as we moved inland to check out the area. Ensuring we carefully remained hidden under the Mirage umbrella in this stealth portion of the mission, we witnessed various Soviet activities including an Akula Sub and a hilarious Bullfrog Transport. Similar to the Flak Track, the Bullfrog is an amphibious vehicle that doubles as a troop transport, blasting infantry units (in this case armoured bears) into battle using a man-cannon, before seeing them float to the ground using parachutes.

The incompetent animals failed to sniff us out, and we continued our reconnaissance mission, edging past a regiment of bubble-helmet-wearing Tesla Troopers, busily powering up Tesla Coils in anticipation of an attack. Major Giles suddenly spotted a group of real Apocalypse Tanks and joined the end of the line, as they eventually led us past saluting soldiers to a secret Soviet base. “Fire at will!” cried Giles, as we decloaked and began blasting the base to smithereens, the buildings collapsing with spectacular pyrotechnic explosions and real-time physics. Showing off what the team is describing as RA3’s visceral ‘footprint of destruction’ that transforms idyllic environments into war-ravaged hell-holes.

Unfortunately, this was a trap, and an FMV featuring a stereotypical Soviet commanderrrrr (roll those Rs) informed us that ‘Operation Grandslam’ was now in action, as a nearby sports stadium opened up to reveal a Kirov Airship carrying a 50 megaton bomb! A new objective of stopping the deadly zeppelin was given to us, and because we hadn’t the time to build up a force to take it down, our co-commander was called in to help simply by us clicking on the attack button and placing a beacon on the Kirov. Apollo Fighters were launched by Major Giles and the airship was destroyed, leaving the AI commander to blast the stadium.

On the ground, producer Amer spawned four Soviet Conscripts and two Allied Peacekeeper infantry units to demonstrate the primary and secondary weapon concept of RA3. The Conscripts’ primary AK-47 weapon tore into the two Peacekeepers, who were quickly dispatched, as their shotguns were unable to match the machine gun’s longer range of fire. Two new Peacekeepers were created, this time utilizing their secondary weapon - a riot shield - allowing them to get up-close to the Conscripts so they could unleash lethal shotgun blasts. To counter, a new battalion of Conscripts appeared, firing their secondary weapon of Molotov cocktails, which then burned the riot shields and left the Peacekeepers open to a deadly spray of AK-47 gunfire. The Conscripts’ flaming projectiles were then countered by some nearby German shepherds who unleashed an amplified bark secondary weapon that stunned the Soviet quartet and allowed the dogs time to run up and bite them to death.

In addition to this balanced RTS gameplay, we were struck by the detailed animation (the dogs stop and scratch themselves when resting, for example) and the hilarious unit voices, which were very much a feature of RA2. “We’ve put together a personality page for every unit in the game, where we have a bit of art to depict their style, plus a description of how they sound,” says Chris. “For Commander Kirov, for example, we have a picture of a big gluttonous crime boss, and this personality all flows into the dialogue.”