Impressions: Red Alert 3 Beta [Better than C&C3] | Posted at 8:08 PM
Updated: I updated this to be less unfair to the game. The original was written when I was in a bad mood.
I usually form an impression of a game within the first 30 minutes.
- C&C Red Alert: Awesome
- C&C Tiberian Sun: Extra awesome
- C&C Red Alert 2: Super awesome
- C&C Red Alert 2 YR: Epic awesome
- C&C Generals: Fail
- C&C Generals ZH: Less fail
- C&C 3: Ok
- C&C Red Alert 3: Alright?
So I got the RA3 beta invite yesterday and I sat down to play a game today. I played one game, it’s multiplayer only, and let me just say going into this that I heavily dislike multiplayer RTS games mostly because I am not good against humans. You won’t ever find me playing online with an RTS, only LAN.
That said, I am not trying to outright say Red Alert 3 is a disappointment just yet but I will walk you through my impressions. I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt and say that single-player may prove to be a fun experience but I wasn’t really that impressed with the multiplayer for my first go. I will play with it some more but I did have my brother play it and he didn't like it so we'll see where it goes.
Before I continue let me say a few things to those who will inevitably criticize my point of view:
- You and me like different things in a game, thus I don’t care if you like it, I don’t. EA can never appeal to all of us.
- This is from the perspective of a first-time player. Chock it all up to the fact I suck if you want (I do), but what will the opinion be of other newbies to the game?
- I am lazy and don’t want to perfect my multiplayer gaming skills because I have things to do, so I realize that there are many strategies to doing things and I hope I can learn them when I buy the game.
- This relates to above but this is just a rant at its core and I know I'll pick the game up if not for just being curious.
Here is a list of things I didn’t like during my first game. Much of this is nit-picky fanboyism but I am a picky person:
- Didn’t feel like classic C&C. It didn’t even feel like Red Alert. No garrison-able buildings in my vicinity that offered useful protection, no funny civilians flailing about, no destroyable cars to pilot or play with, the atmosphere was just missing that classic RA2 feel which I loved. This might have just been the map and other maps might be better, but I didn't see any so there.
- Takes forever to make money. I guess you’re supposed to have two ore refineries to make money and like 4 prospectors (ore miners), but seriously, all I needed in RA2 was one refinery and 2 miners and I was good to go.
- Perhaps too-similar buildings. In all the good C&C games you could ALWAYS tell what a building was for. In RA3 and C&C3 sometimes you can get confused. I know I found myself trying to remember what building I was looking at. If you look at this screenshot, you can tell the top two buildings are a power plant and war factory, but what about the other two in the water (disregarding the power plant)? I only played once but I can’t tell you, but maybe it’s because they are the water-equivalents of certain land buildings.
- No deployable GIs or units. One of my favorite things about RA2 was deployable GIs… if only for that silly sound effect they make when they deploy. They were also awesome and owned.
- Air units might be too powerful. Four bombers, $1200 each, can take out my MCV. In RA2 I needed 7 Black Eagles to destroy one MCV and they had hardly any health. It took 8 regular aircraft to do the same. They send 4 bombers and they destroy half my base, and they just don’t die. Not. Cool. Also, let me expand further, I had a bunch of RPG guys AND missile launchers AND IFVs with missile guys and they still got through. This might be a new balance issue so that aircraft can be more effective but damn!
- Sidebar: I miss the static C&C sidebar. I realize people want to see more of the map but what made a C&C game a C&C game and not some other RTS clone? That sidebar. I want it back, damn it. I realize that, yes, other RTSs like Dawn of War, Warcraft III, and AoE have static interfaces… but of the RTS I have played, C&C always had the unique side UI.
- No countries: The countries were a great dynamic in RA2 that was really nice. Even though the only difference was really special units, it was still a nice touch. In RA3, they have these "top secret protocol"? things that are basically general powers… but most of them suck.
- Third side: Japan? Seriously? Yuri was the sweetest added-in side of all time. That expansion seriously added a crap-load of features into the game that made it fricking amazing. I haven’t played Japan side yet (so take this with a grain of salt) but it seems to me that they can’t be as cool as Yuri was. I want mind control, damn it! Well, I hope they prove me wrong.
So, I may be too harsh (I am) considering this is a multiplayer-only beta… but I already know I won’t be playing it online with other people (but that isn't saying much anyway). LAN? Sure... I wish I could play with it by myself and not have someone kick my ass right away. Such is being a n00b.
I admit that all that above is negative and probably unfair, so I'll list some things I did like:
- Menu: The menu is great, if not for the super-awesome music ala Red Alert 2.
- SFX: I like the unit voices and sound effects, I am glad they kept some from previous games.
- Music: Yes! Sounds very Red Alert, I love it.
- Color: Finally, a game with color! I liked the rich colors they decided on, it made everything pop out a lot more.
- Navy: Now the Navy is a viable attack/defense option. Naval units pretty much were useless in previous RA installments except for maybe the carrier and boomer subs. Boomer subs were pretty rigged, though.
- No service depots: The service depot was a silly idea. I am glad they kept one of the good features of Generals: the repair drones. Also you can build an MCV with minimum prerequisites.
- Terror drones in the water: Two words: Friggin' awesome.
- Voice: This was in C&C 3 but I am glad they have VoIP support.
- Hotkeys: This was also in C&C 3 but having hotkeys makes for good programmable macro combos. I have 3 set up in C&C 3 to make each side's base in the minimum amount of time possible.
- Live cutscenes: I am so glad they brought this back with C&C 3 because that was a hallmark of classic Red Alert. Sure, they are cheesy as hell but they're so awesome.
- Superweapons: I only saw the Chronosphere and Iron Curtain in action but I am glad they kept them. There are tons of great strategies to use them with.
If you liked C&C 3, which I did up to a certain point, you will probably like this game. If, however, you are a die-hard classic pre-EA-only C&C fan like me, you probably will be disheartened but perhaps a little less considering it’s still recognizably Red Alert.
I honestly can’t really pin down why EA hasn’t been able to make me feel like I’m in the classic C&C experience. I think it’s because even since the original C&C, Westwood had a sense of humor that you could see throughout their games. Their level design was masterful and their maps were rich with things other than your or your enemy’s units. I don’t see any of that. I don’t see the little monkey scratching his butt near a palm tree, or an alligator that tries to eat my GIs, or a civilian getting pissed and shooting me with his crappy pistol, and the awesome Hollywood stars that had frickin’ awesome weapons. I mean there was always some scenic thing going on that just isn’t as apparent in EA’s games. Tiberian Sun was the same way with its mutated civilians, etc.
I’m not saying there wasn’t any humor in C&C 3 and maybe there is in RA3 (hopefully) but I can't recall anything specific. That's probably because I didn't play C&C 3 as much as other games. Of course, considering C&C 3's storyline there wasn't much room for humor ala RA.
Also, RA2’s missions weren’t just about destroying the enemy base. A lot of the missions had different goals, like sneaking past defenses, escorting a convoy, etc. Although I enjoy destroying bases I liked when it shook it up because it didn’t feel like I was just playing a skirmish.
Anyway, back to RA3. I am hoping single-player will be more refined. I am willing to hope and I may end up getting RA3 when it comes out or just trying it out to see what the campaign is like. I don’t think Red Alert 2 was a perfect game… I mean MP was like, "Ok I am ready to die in 5 minutes."? That’s what turned me off from it. That’s what turned me off of multiplayer RTS gaming period. The only RTS game I might play is Warcraft III but that’s because the games are all mods like DoTA or Tower Defense. When it comes to RTS, single-player is where its at for me. In that regard, I am willing to suspend my hatred until I get to play RA3’s campaign.
Overall I think RA3 is a better game at its core than C&C 3. I haven't played enough to fully write out my opinions but for a first impression it didn't bode well. There are a few factors that might have contributed to that and it would be:
- I don't know the sides very well. I haven't played all of them nor do I know the best way to build a base yet.
- The people I was playing against were really good and they kicked me and my teammate's ass.
- I suck at multiplayer RTS. It's true.
- Maybe it’s just the nostalgia talking and my denial of change to the series I love.
If you've played the beta and you like it, it's probably because you've played it more than I have, in fact I pretty much guarantee it. Once I've played at least 10 games or so I will post an updated (and hopefully more accurate) impression.