IGN Review of Command and Conquer Red Alert 3: Uprising
When last we left Red Alert 3, all sorts of crazy things were happening, not the least of which was that David Hasselhoff becoming president. Of course, the ending you got depended on the faction that you played, as each of the three campaigns in the game basically existed in its own universe, separate from the others. Here we are now at Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 -- Uprising, an expansion that provides a hearty single-player challenge to fans of the series. What it doesn't offer is a continuation of the Hasselhoff storyline, but that's probably fine, as we can only imagine that Executive Order #1 would be to mandate curly hairdos for everyone.
Uprising is a collection of four "mini-campaigns" along with an escalating Commander's Challenge that tests just how good a Command & Conquer player you really are. These mini-campaigns consist of three or four missions each and take place from the perspective of the three main factions and Yuriko, the Akira-inspired Japanese schoolgirl with terrifying psychic powers. The four mini-campaigns in Uprising don't sound like a lot, but taken as a whole it constitutes a sizeable amount of content equivalent to many regular real-time strategy games.
There's no narrative thread that unifies the campaigns, as each serves as a vignette of sorts. The Russian campaign is about the aftermath of defeat and taking on a dangerous megacorporation. The Untied States campaign is about the pacification of the occupied Japanese islands. The Rising Sun campaign deals with Russian aggressiveness. And the Yuriko campaign tells the story of the Akira-like Japanese schoolgirl-turned-weapon. So like the original game, each campaign exists in its own separate universe, but since they're so brief, there's very little story to follow.
If you were accustomed to the co-op gameplay of Red Alert 3 (even if you played by yourself you were always paired with a computer partner), then Uprising will remind you of the good old single-player days of C&C. There is no co-op mode, or multiplayer in general, but you do get challenging missions that will test your ability to micromanage an economy and army at the same time. Since the mini-campaigns are so short, there's no time to "ramp up" in terms of difficulty, so things get hairy quickly. That's a plus, as most C&C fans are probably longtime veterans of the genre, and even if you are a newcomer you will have been battle-tested by Red Alert 3.
And for what it's worth, the mini-campaigns tend to be fun when you get to unleash the new toys at your disposal. It's telling that there's no multiplayer built into Uprising, because many of these new weapons would easily unbalance any match. Take for instance the Allies' new Harbinger gunship, which pummels units and buildings while soaking up a lot of damage and repairing itself over time. Then there's the Rising Sun's new Giga-Fortress, a transformable island that turns into a floating Samurai head that fires a devastating laser. It also self-repairs and can absorb a ridiculous amount of damage. It wouldn't be fun to be on the receiving end of these weapons, but if you're the one dishing out the hurt, fire away! What's not as fun are some of the puzzle-like parts of each mission that require you to do a task exactly as the designer envisioned with almost no room for variation or error. That just makes you constantly quick save and quick load until you get things right.
Thankfully, even though it is digitally distributed and not being packaged in a retail box, EALA still maintains a high degree of quality. There's a slew of new live-action cinematics and cutscenes, starring some notable talent, like Malcolm McDowell, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, and others. There's also returning talent, like the lovely Gemma Atkinson to give the Allied commanders orders. This is a well-polished product, which we've come to expect from EALA, which has been making strategy games steadily for years now.
When you're done with the mini-campaigns, a task that will occupy about eight to 10 hours of your life, you can move on to the Commander's Challenges, a series of missions that are geared toward C&C experts. The idea in Commander's Challenges is that you're placed in situations and scenarios that will push you to the limits; you have to win without being able to save the game and with an eye on the clock. That's because the game records your time to complete a mission, with the idea that you can try and better it.
The Commander's Challenge is indeed that, though it's mainly done through the traditional method of making C&C tougher; giving the computer opponent plenty of handicaps instead of making it smarter. In the campaigns and the Commander's Challenge, the AI will settle for the same tactic or pattern and repeat it endlessly; you just have to recognize the pattern and counter it. Don't be surprised to see the AI in Commander's Challenge basically spam you with an endless supply of units; until you can cripple its economy or production facilities, you're going to have to brace for them. It'd be nice if someone could make a proper, adaptable AI for these kinds of games one day, but since nearly everyone in the RTS genre is guilty of it, it's hard to ding EALA.
There is no proper multiplayer in the game, though. You can't play anyone online or over a network, as Uprising is geared as single-player only. There's a skirmish mode if you want to do something other than campaigns or Commander's Challenge, but that's about it. Again, that's probably for the best, because the new units in the expansion would need to be extensively balanced and tweaked to make for a "fair" multiplayer match.
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