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Red Alert 3: Uprising [PC]

George Takei. Peter Stormare. JK Simmons. Tim Curry. Red Alert 3 was fun, at least in part because of the B-movie cheesiness. Despite most of them not returning for this, the first expansion for Red Alert 3, I’m happy to report that newcomers Malcolm McDowell and Holly Valance carry the cheese levels perfectly: the cutscenes are hammed up beautifully. As for the game? Well…

Red Alert 3: Uprising is the first expansion pack for Red Alert 3 and, ironically, not getting a retail release.  It’s only available through digital download. The irony behind this is only apparent when you realise it’s taken one of the things Red Alert 3 did right, and completely removed it.

There is no co-operative multiplayer in Uprising. In fact, there’s no multiplayer content at all – you cannot play Uprising online. The quality of the game rests on the quality of the missions, which, sadly, varies wildly.

The game features four mini-campaigns – one for each side, as well as one focusing on Japanese commando unit Yuriko – with each being three to four missions long. The Soviet campaign is the one containing the main thrust of plot, with the remaining Soviet forces battling FutureTech, the rather shady megacorporation that acts as the defence contractor for the Allies. As such, the Allied and Japanese campaigns are locked until you finish the first mission of this campaign.

Which is a shame really because the first mission of the Soviet campaign is probably the single worst mission that’s ever been in a Command & Conquer game. It takes all of the worst elements of every other mission in the series, and combines them into one huge, boiling cauldron of crap. You have limited units. Your orders are contradictory to what you actually have to do. The rules change partway through without the game bothering to let you know (specifically, if you run low on units, you get “reinforcements” after a couple of minutes if you can hold out that long – until one point, after which it’s extremely possible to lose over half of your units in a single misclick, and this is exactly where the game stops giving you more troops.) It’s almost as badly designed as That NOD Mission in C&C3, which could be won or failed based solely on a combination of luck and the AI, only it’s actually less fun.

Things don’t improve much either. The campaigns, in what’s presumably attempt to provide challenge, generally force you into some degree of poorly-scripted, limited-unit bollocks at least once a mission. A few have fun scenarios, sure; the Allied campaign, once you get past the awful stealth sections, is probably the most amusing, focusing on the interesting use of their technology in the context of counter-insurgency, and the Japanese campaign has a few neat moments – not least the opening, involving Sudden Transport sneakiness. Which quickly devolves into limited-unit bollocks. It’s a shame, because when the missions act like C&C, they really are more challenging than Red Alert 3, and enjoyably so. Uprising, despite being stand-alone, is not for beginners.

Considering this, it’s surprising that the Yuriko campaign – which gives you just one unit – is good fun. It traces the origins of the psychic schoolgirl and elaborates on what happened to her, during both her initial escape from the Japanese labs following her kidnapping (perhaps this game should be called Amber Alert?) and what she did after the war. It’s easily the highlight of the campaigns, despite the fact that, for all intents and purposes, it’s Diablo.

Yuriko has her usual attack, in addition to four powers – a psychic shockwave, turning infantry into a cloud of blood; a shield, reflecting attacks back at their sources; a mind-control blast that makes enemy infantry turn against their own and follow you around, although not under your direct control; and a telekinetic slam, letting you pick up objects or vehicles and hurl them at enemies. All can be upgraded by finding terminals. In mechanics, it’s Diablo, but in feel, it’s Akira. For the most part, you’re wandering around labs, picking up giant robots and smashing them into other robots, and making soldiers burst, which is exactly as fun as it sounds. Despite a couple of quirks, it’s an impressively successful experiment, and I only wish there were more than three levels.

The real meat though is in the Commander’s Challenge mode. This sets players as a FutureTech commander, with access to the early forces for all three sides in the game. You choose which mission you want to do next, with more unlocking as you proceed, in addition to which side you want to play each mission with. Every mission completed unlocks a new unit for one of the sides – usually one heavily employed by your opponent in said mission. EA clearly felt they could have a bit of fun with this mode, with some truly ridiculous levels, such as one setting you against a Japanese opponent who builds nothing but Yuriko Omega commandos. It’s hilarious and bizarre, and a challenge quite unlike anything you’ll face elsewhere in the game. There’s an element of planning, as trying certain missions without having previously unlocked certain structures or units can make them nigh-impossible, although as you get further into it and your options expand, you can once again just focus on what you’d normally do in a Skirmish.

Yes, there are new units, but the majority don’t make a huge difference. There are personal favourites, as ever: the Cryo Legionnaire’s ability to freeze huge swathes of troops and then shatter them makes them particularly nasty, and the Harbinger Gunship is even more evil than the Kirovs – but it’s hard to argue that you can’t just stick to any tactics you previously used. It’s nice to see the Allies getting some really heavy units, but they don’t change things up in any truly significant way.

To be fair though, that’s what Red Alert has always been about. In the face of other RTS games, it’s increasingly difficult to state that it’s all about the strategy or the tactics. Red Alert, to me, is cool units blowing up other cool units in cool ways. Now there are more cool units to blow up. The main campaigns are a bit off, but the Yuriko campaign – while not worth the price of admission – is worth a look, and the Commander’s Challenge is a 50-mission marathon with some strange and amusing setpieces.

In the end it comes down to why you played Red Alert 3. If you loved the multiplayer and the multiplayer alone Uprising isn’t for you, thanks to its inexplicable removal of the best thing about Red Alert 3. If, on the other hand, you played RA3 single player and want more of that, you just need to ask yourself how badly. There’s a huge chunk of game here for the price – it’s just not all worthwhile.

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