Red Alert 3 Beta Impressions, Screens

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A few things to clear up – this is a bit of a pain to get hold of. The beta code is hosted by those pillocks at Fileplanet, who require you to sign up for at least their free user account if you want to download the beta. You can then expect to wait anywhere up to an hour for the download to begin because you’re probably, like I was, waiting on a public server. At just under 800Mb the download shouldn’t take too long on a decent connection. Once you’ve installed it you’re then going to have to sign up for an EA account in order to be able to get online and play some games. But not before you install the quick patch or two from EA’s servers.

So, it’s a bit time consuming and finicky to get sorted but once you’re there, what’s it like? Brief thoughts and screen shots below the cut.

It’s not bad. That may seem like a bit of an underwhelming revelation but there you go. It’s beta code, what more can you expect? The lobby system and game browser are a bit broken, meaning the quickest way to get a game in is to host your own and hope a random gamer or two drops in. Currently there are only two maps with the beta, a 1v1 called Cabana Republic and a four-way called Roundhouse Redux. Both are compact affairs, meaning serious combat is usually underway in less than three minutes unless you’re playing for fun.

Both maps feature substantial areas of water, probably to show off the design decision to allow players to construct pretty much any building they’d like on water. It’s full of interesting possibilities but I’ve yet to explore them fully – a hefty chunk of each side’s arsenal is amphibious or airborne, so constructing a base entirely on water is perfectly feasible but at the expense of some useful tanks and infantry. Indeed, it actually makes a lot of sense to spread structures out on both land and sea, as it’s easier to hide some of the more valuable (like a Tech Centre or a Super Reactor) in less explored pieces of the map.

Resource gathering still works as you’d expect. Build refinery, deploy miner, collect ore. This time you’re not doing it from vast fields of the stuff but from dedicated mining structures, which are essentially static resource points more akin to the likes of the oil derrick structure you might remember from RA2. They can’t be captured so your harvesting units need to drive to them and bring loads of ore back to the refinery. On paper there doesn’t seem much wrong with this setup, but in practice it can seem a bit superfluous. There will usually be at least on ore mine within a stone’s throw of your MCV deployment, meaning you can build a refinery right in front of it to watch your harvester travel the walking distance back and forth endlessly. It all seems needlessly complicated and expensive and I’m not sure how well the resource model will hold up. Perhaps it would have made more sense to allow players to just build a refinery structure on top of the mine for a steady stream of resources and cut out the harvester all together.

I’ve only been able to play properly as the Soviets and only for a couple of games, but there seems to be a pleasing mix of new units and revamped old ones to keep things feeling fresh. The Apocalypse tank is still in there along with the massive Dreadnought warship, as well as an updated V4 rocket launcher. Tesla coils, tesla troopers and the fodder-like conscripts and flak troopers will all be familiar to anyone who played RA2. New surprises include the Stingray, a tesla coil-armed gunboat that can clamber onto land by extending some spider-like legs from its hull, and the War Bear, which is exactly what it sounds like – a great big armoured bear. The Iron Curtain Superweapon is still in but the Nuclear Missile Silo seems to have been excised from the multiplayer. The Soviet’s Nuclear Reactor is now the Super Reactor, and the great Kirov airships have been given a refresh and inexplicably shrunk to give the impression of an angry weather balloon and not of a city-busting flying fortress. Which is a shame.

Sitting down to play as them didn’t feel particularly exciting. The maps and units look gorgeous (even with no anti-aliasing) with the water effects looking especially vivid, but underneath it still feels like good ol’ Command & Conquer, cranked up another notch but still looking over its shoulder. Kane’s Wrath given a face lift and some new terrain to build on,  with a dollop of trademark Red Alert zaniness. It’s in the exact same mould as its predecessors, but then I never reasonably expected anything else. It’s a solid gameplay model after all but I don’t know if there’s any ‘pop’ or ‘oomph’ left in it after so many iterations. It looks like a new game but it doesn’t feel like a new game.

If you happen to have a beta spot I’d certainly use it, the core of the game is still quite fun and it’s always nice to get an early look at something like this. If you’re one of the many who missed out, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it if I were you. As for whether the final product will be any good – time will tell. Sooner or later, time will tell. Enjoy the screens below (click for bigger versions).

The initial menu screen

The initial menu screen

1000 Ping? Sure...

1000 Ping? Sure...

The game setup screen

The game setup screen

A deployed Soviet MCV and Reactor

A deployed Soviet MCV and Reactor

Ore mining in water? The future is here!

Ore mining in water? The future is here!

Bears of War

Bears of War

Marvel at the pretty water. Also, rockets

Marvel at the pretty water. Also, rockets

The Empire of the Rising Sun forces are on the right

The Empire of the Rising Sun forces are on the right

I got my team mate to do all the dirty work

I got my team mate to do all the dirty work

Walls are back. The fanboys will weep

Walls are back. The fanboys will weep

In retrospect it was probably a bad idea to surface there

In retrospect it was probably a bad idea to surface there

It was inevitable really

It was inevitable really

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2 Responses to “Red Alert 3 Beta Impressions, Screens”

  1. kateeb Says:

    thanks for showing this screenshots.

  2. Alex Says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

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