Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - first look

At the beginning of Red Alert 3, the situation is dire for the Soviets - the Allies have driven back their forces to Moscow and the leadership is cowering behind the gates of the Kremlin. In a crazed act of desperation, the Soviets head to the basement where they have been working on a time machine which they plan to use to go back in time and get rid of Einstein - the man most responsible for the technological achievements that have led to the Allies’ victories. And also, let us not forget, the man who traveled back in time to kill Hitler in the first game so that this whole Red-centric timeline could happen anyway.

This notwithstanding, the Soviets erase Einstein and come back to the present day where it looks like the experiment has been a great success - the Allies have retreated and the Red Menace has returned to its former glory. However, almost immediately, klaxons begin blaring and the Russians are again under attack, except this time from a superpower their time meddling has spawned upon the world stage: the technological cult of the Empire of the Rising Sun. A sickening feeling hits the Soviet commanders’ stomachs as they realise that they’ve created a new enemy for themselves, and the new war begins...

This is the first time in a Red Alert game that there’s been a full-fledged third faction (the Yuri’s Revenge expansion had a sub-faction), and each of the three campaigns will have eight to ten missions, with the Japanese Rising Sun currently aimed at being unlockable when you’ve completed the Allied or the Soviet campaign. “It’s really important to us that we don’t just build one faction, then cut and paste those units into another faction,” says executive producer Chris Corry. “Each will feel very different from a capability standpoint. Japan has the most dramatically different building mechanic with an emphasis on higher technology weapons, so it’ll feel and play uniquely.”

The RA3 team isn’t revealing much about the new faction just yet, but we eked out a chunk of stuff about their design and gameplay style. The Empire of the Rising Sun will be the most sci-fi faction, drawing from Japanese influences like samurai warriors, anime, ninjas and military history. We saw concept art displaying beautiful dragonfly-type ships, as well as techno-updates of military uniforms from WWII, ninja dudes with futuristic weaponry, units packed with attachments looking like Shinto gates and huge intricately-designed robots, all splashed with those distinctive red-and-white national colors.

“The Sea Wing is a submarine unit that can shoot out of water and be used as an aircraft - the only unit in the game that can do that,” says Chris. “Japan is probably the strongest in the water. Many of their units deploy into a different unit, so there’s lots of, er, transformation.” Robots in disguise? Oh yes.