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.

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