COMMAND & CONQUER™ RED ALERT™ is a game from , originally released 31st December, 1969

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Command & Conquer Red Alert Review

Although the iPhone is a casual-dominated platform, there is still a place for ‘hardcore’ genres such as first-person shooters and real-time strategy games. When it comes to the latter, there is one title that has had gamers stirring about for months: Command & Conquer Red Alert. This celebrated franchise gained success due to its exciting multiplayer and generally comical live-action cutscenes. While neither of these made it into the iPhone version, there’s still enough quality content to appeal to fans of the series.

The premise of C&C:RA can best be described as a fantasy Cold War. Playing as either the Soviets or Allies, you must crush the opposing faction so that your country can prosper in victory. Each faction has a unique campaign with five missions and a storyline, albeit a basic one. The first few levels ease you into the game at a steady and understandable pace, with a visual tutorial when a new mechanic is introduced. These are great for RTS newcomers, since most games in the genre throw you into the fray instantaneously.

Should have worn a sweater!

Playing through the campaign is a blast. The levels last for a good 15 to 20 minutes on average, plus optional objectives bring in extra replay value. There is some variety in the missions as well. For example, one could have you using a hero unit and brute force to fight through the opposing faction, while others require tactical placement of new cities and buildings. It never gets too hard, considering the platform, but we would have liked several difficulty levels to challenge ourselves when we revisited missions.

C&C:RA has some of the most intuitive controls we have seen on a touch screen. Unit selection, movement, and attacks are all initiated through taps and drags, with the occasional need to press a button. The camera angle is panned in and out by pinching and expanding, and moving around the field is as easy as dragging or tapping on the minimap. Everything works so naturally and seamlessly that it almost feels like the game knows what you are going to do even before you do it.

RTS games usually have intricate interfaces, but C&C:RA has successfully simplified this aspect without sacrificing functionality. Three custom unit groups can be created in order to quickly jump between different troops around the map, and the display shows you at a glance which types and how many of each unit are part of the group. A detailed minimap allows you to spot an assault before it happens and choose the best route to victory. The UI even expands to the audio, where an officer will alert you of any occurring events.

Who says the real estate market has tanked?

Building bases is also easily accessible. Scrolling panels give you all the options, and dragging an icon onto the map expands it. You can then place it down with surprisingly pinpoint accuracy. As always, you must keep a balance between defense towers, unit deployment building, and energy towers in order to keep the base in operation.

The selection of units consists of your average infantry, tanks, and airplanes. However, there is little depth in their implementation. They don’t have any special moves and no stat tables are provided, which makes it hard to play with tactics. Another unit is the engineer, who can convert enemy buildings for use by your faction.

To put a cherry on top of the gameplay are the graphics, which are beautiful. Different camera angles allow you to take in the little details of full 3D models. All of this and there was rarely a stutter in the game’s framerate on our 3GS.

One detail that this iteration of C&C was missing is live-action cutscenes. These are a staple of the franchise, and we had expected them after EA made original videos for Need For Speed Undercover. Unfortunately, all we got were text-based discussions prior to each mission. This results in a lot of lost personality.

Zeppelins, the invincible war machines.

The strongest aspect of almost every RTS game is multiplayer, but C&C:RA oddly has none of this. After all, the genre is built perfectly for it. On the PC, we have enjoyed the novelty of high-intensity wars against friends, but without that in the iPhone iteration there are hours of value cut out. EA has said that Bluetooth multiplayer will eventually be coming for free, but in our minds it should have been included at launch.

Another weak point is the game’s shallow skirmish mode. Since both campaigns are filled with unavoidable tutorials and set layouts, after completing them most players will want to play fully-customizable sessions. However, instead of fleshing out one of the most important modes, EA only gave the options to choose your faction and the amount of money given to each side to begin with. On top of this, there are only two maps, which is odd when each campaign missions has a different one. These limitations are discouraging. Six new maps are available via in-app purchases, but we feel that for the premium price these should have been bundled with the full game.

These issues aside, Command & Conquer Red Alert is the most playable RTS on the App Store. If the lack of multiplayer and a deeper skirmish mode don’t turn you off, we recommend giving this game a shot.

Command and Conquer: Red Alert Hands-On Preview

We recently took a visit to EA’s Playa Vista campus to spend some time with their highly anticipated Command and Conquer game coming soon to the iPhone. Though this new game is dubbed Command and Conquer: Red Alert, this isn’t a port of the PC original. Instead, this is a brand new title with a storyline that falls between the universes of Red Alert 2 and Red Alert 3.

It’s fair to say that Command and Conquer is the ‘OG’ of the RTS genre, and the franchise has amassed a huge following over the years. EA is very aware of that as they move the franchise to the casual-friendly iPhone.

‘We have a core group that would be disappointed if the game was too easy,’ says Command and Conquer Product Manager Michele Aguilar. ‘There’s no creampuff campaign here.’

From what we played, she’s telling the truth as the A.I. didn’t waste any time attacking us while we were leisurely building our base. We look forward to diving into Command and Conquer’s campaign mode, featuring five chapters of action for both the Ally and Soviet factions.

Going in, our biggest area of concern about Command and Conquer: Red Alert was its controls. After all, most RTS games make extensive use of the keyboard and mouse combo on a computer. After spending a few minutes breezing through the in-game tutorial, though, our concerns were wiped clean. Without digging into the minutiae too much (watch for the review), the development team at EA is doing some really smart things to get around the iPhone’s lack of tactile buttons.

Along with responsive taps and drags to build and select units, we loved how the onscreen menus were collapsible. This makes the UI very slick and customizable to suit users’ visual preferences.

While Command and Conquer: Red Alert will feature Campaign and Skirmish modes as the centerpiece of the experience, we’re happy to report about plans to future-proof the game. EA plans to launch map packs the same day that the game launches. Shortly thereafter, DLC will introduce new campaign fodder, bringing in an undisclosed third faction.

On the multiplayer front, Command and Conquer: Red Alert will not launch with multiplayer support. Before you RTS fanatics go grab your pitchforks, EA is working on multiplayer (over Bluetooth and local wifi) slated to arrive post-launch. With a solid complement of maps and factions to play with, we can see this being a huge hit.

You can all officially consider this one to watch. We were thoroughly impressed with what was presented, and we can’t wait to spend more quality time in this Cold War.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert Hands-On

Command & Conquer is one of the real-time strategy genre’s biggest names. It’s produced eight games since the series started back in 1995, along with many expansion packs, across three different mini-franchises. Now the series is making war on the RTS-starved iPhone in the form of Command & Conquer: Red Alert. We took a look at a pre-Alpha build of the game at EA’s booth and whooped some Soviet behind! Details after the jump.

The Red Alert games take place in an alternate history, where Albert Einstein traveled back in time to assassinate Hitler. No Hitler means no WWII… and a very powerful Stalin, who decides to flex the Bear’s muscles by invading Europe. Whoops. Thanks for nothing, Mr. Relativity!

Now the formerly Cold War has gone hot. Soviets and Allies are going toe-to-toe with all kinds of crazy parallel universe hardware, from Tesla Coils to cybernetic bears. The 1950s could have been so much more awesome than they actually were.

The iPhone build is clearly in a pre-Alpha state, so we only got to test a single level, pitting rival Soviet factions against one another–apparently the Allies aren’t ready to show off yet.

Red Alert is played entirely via finger mouse. A pop-up menu on the right side of the screen gives you access to all of your soldiers, buildings, and vehicles. Small buttons along the bottom of the screen allow you to select multiple units and choose their targets. The left-hand side of the screen has four boxes for holding groups of units, so you can easily recall and maneuver them during play.

The jury is still very much out on Command & Conquer: Red Alert. While the game definitely looks like C&C, we didn’t see enough to be able to say whether it will be as playable as the original.

Of course, it won’t be out until sometime this fall, so EA Mobile has plenty of time to polish this one up and make sure they get it right. We would love to see this game shape up into an iPhone classic, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on it going forward.