Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
After losing two wars, the Soviets finally saw fit to build a time machine of their own. In a stroke of irony, they go back in time and do just as the Allies did to the Nazis by removing the person responsible for their dominance. For the Allies, this is Albert Einstein, inventor of the Chronosphere, which he used to eliminate Hitler, paving the way for the events in RA. By removing Einstein from history after he removes Hitler from history, the Soviets prevent WWIII (the events in RA2) from ever taking place. Instead, Japan rises to power. Why is it necessary in RA3 for Einstein to die for Japan to come to power when Japan really did not even need Germany IRL to do the same? Where has Japan been for the past two games? Indeed, trying to make sense of the story is futile. It is bad. However, any reader who has come this far and watched a few cutscenes along the way should be well aware of the cheeseball nature of the plot outside of Joe Kucan’s portrayal of Kane in the Nod scenes. However, while previous C&C games are genuine in their efforts to create serious videos, RA3 embraces its cheesiness in full. J.K. Simmons, George Takei, and Tim Curry are among the list of actors, yet the results are so dismal that RA3 almost overshoots its target of satire into something more excruciating. Though the between-mission cutscenes are cringeworthy, I do appreciate the videos which play during missions, a feature introduced in RA3. Some characters such as Randy Coture’s only appear in (multiplayer) missions to talk trash at the beginning and end of a level or match, and concede defeat in the event of a player victory.
Story be darned, this game is so over-the-top that anyone who tries to take the story seriously should be flogged for a lack of sense in humor. I mean, some of the promotional artwork might be SFW but not safe for this website! EA knew precisely what it was doing with this…fanservice. I mean, Gina Carino “Russian” accent was so bad, that EA replaced her VA with that of another actress. What a shameless, campy, meta-parody that is RA3!
EA continued to evolve its still positive influence on the C&C franchise with this entry, following-up its success with the unit diversity found in TW and bringing it over to the world of Red Alert and intensifying the effort by adding alternate abilities to Every. Single. Unit in the game. Now that is dedication!
Like Yuri’s Revenge and TW, RA3 provides three factions from which players can choose. Interestingly enough, even though other games have three factions, RA3 is the only game in the C&C series which has so much depth in unit variety and usage that I could have filled this entire article with nothing but RA3 unit coverage and it would still be as long. That’s how dynamic this game can be. Practically every unit has a unique within a faction’s tech tree has use that cannot be rendered obsolete by a unit higher in the tree. For example, there are no GDI railguns which make building Riflemen a waste of resources. Also special in RA3 are the Top Secret Protocols which vary in how the player can manipulate the battlefield, free of charge unlike the abilities introduced in TW. I am confident that EA “borrowed” these ideas from Ensemble Studios’ Age of Mythology.
Where do I even begin? How do I even begin? There is something to be said about every single unit because every single unit is unique even though there is almost a 1:1:1 unit equivalent for every unit found in a faction. I’ll explain via list:
Allied Peacekeeper, Soviet Conscript, Empire Warrior; Javelin Soldiers, Flak Trooper, Tank Busters; Spies, Shinobi, Shock Trooper; Tanya, Natasha, Yuriko Omega; Multigunnder AFV, Sickle, Jet/Mecha tengu; Guardian Tank, Hammer Tank, Tsunami Tank; Athena Cannon, V4 Rocket Launcher, Wave Force Artillery; Mirage Tank, Apocalypse Tank, King Oni; Riptide APC; Bullfrog Transport, Sudden Transport; Dolphin, Stingray, Yari Sub; Assault Destroyer, Akula Sub, Naginata Cruiser; Aircraft Carrier, Dreadnaught, Shogun Battleship; Apollo Fighter, MiG Fighter, Rocket Angel; Vindicator, Twinblade, Stryker VX/Chopper VX.
Fans of RA3 may recognize that some units are missing in this list, and that is because there are a few units so special that there is no equivalent in the rival faction arsenals. These include The Soviet Terror Drone and Kirov Airship—both units from RA2, with the former being equipped with a Lockdown ability (think Terran Ghost from StarCraft) that has to be channeled, and the latter now has a “speed up” ability which depletes health upon use, but makes moving them faster. The Allies have the Hydrofoil, Victory Bomber and Cryocopter. The Hydrofoil is an evolution of the Aegis, but it uses rapid-fire AA guns instead of missiles. Its most important feature, however, is its secondary ability to disable a (usually naval) unit from attacking, an outstanding counter against the superior Empire navy and Tesla Coils. My favorite end-game strat is to build five Victory Bombers and place a Tanya in the rear so that after carpet bombing a Soviet Super Reactor (I thought nuclear power did not exist in this alternate timeline?), I parachute her into the (powered down) Soviet base to finish it off. The Cryocopter may be the strongest support unit in the game with its ability to freeze ground targets so that they can be one-hit shattered, though I personally dislike them despite their power because I loathe the idea of a unit that is permanently airborne being vulnerable to anti-air units like Apollos, MiGs, and Jet Tengu. Finally, the only “special” unit that the Empire enjoys is the Sea Wing/Sky Wing….Empire players should not be upset that they get only one specialized unit because the majority of their options are already dynamic by design. The majority of Empire’s options are versatile enough to where just Tengu and VXes can take out most armies.
Don’t get me started on the Top Secret Protocols, which is an entirely different kind of tech tree from building actual units. The meta potential in RA3 is vast. I wish it had stuck around for a little longer.
I would love to discuss how popular Empire was during the RA3’s competitive heyday due to the modular nature of its structures so that one could build anywhere on the map, or the mobility and versatility of the Tengu as the ultimate rush strikecraft. I would also love to discuss how the Soviets would base-crawl (pack the MCV and build structures right up to the enemy’s doorstep), but remember, I said at the beginning of this entire thing that the Allies were my favorite faction, and unlike with Nod in C&C3/KW, there is no persuasive character like Kane. I have always been a fan of finesse over brute strength, and the Allies are strong at both, which is why, for the first time since Westwood Online, I took my C&C skills online. I considered myself pretty good. I would win about three-fourths of my 1v1 games and half of my FFA and 2v2/3v3/4v4 kinds of games. My pocket 1v1 strat was to get a barracks down ASAP like all other players do with their scouts, but instead of a War Factory, I would go Naval Yard so I could put three Javs and two Peacekeapers aboard a Riptide APC. The Allies have the strongest tier 1 infantry in the game, and there is very little that other not-Allied factions could do against three Javs on their secondary “paint” rapid fire on structures, the Riptide, and the power of the Peacekeeper shotgun. By the time I had taken out an Ore Miner and/or Ore Refinery, I have already built my second Refinery and was teching up to T2, a stage if the game where I usually faltered due to my over-reliance on Vindicators, which are fun, but not as effective as they could be in combination with Gyrocopters—a unit that I almost never built until when people began to move on from RA3. If my opponents did not quit after being ravaged in the earlygame or we end up rolling a large map where this rush is not possible, then I try for T3 with Victory Bombers, Aircraft Carriers, and Tanya. I almost always would choose Advanced Aeronautics for air superiority with Apollos—an absolute necessity against Empire—but few advancements are memorable or effective after that first one. Another strat I would often use is to, again, rush the Naval Yard and deny my opponents access to the sea, where there would often be easier-to-defend ore deposits. Dolphins are ultra-fast and about three of them hit pretty darn hard. They auto-die against the secondary attack of the Soviet Stingray, but that is what Leap is for. Once I deny access to the sea—critical for the Allies because pound-for-pound, I would say that its navy is weak compared to other factions even with Destroyer Gravity wells—I worry less about losing because my economy will out-pace the enemy.
In FFA and 2v2/3v3/4v4, I get paired with and go against random; like in DotA 2, there is no strategy to overcome what might do down in those matches.
RA3 is by far my favorite game in the RA timeline, and that’s even before the addition of the ridiculously imba units from Uprising. The special Yuriko Omega missions complement the entire package, and are a throwback to the days of the original RA non-building missions.
Awesome write up Maurice!