C&C: Red Alert 3 – Uprising PC Review
Red Alert 3 was awarded a rather healthy 7/10 back when I reviewed it last year. This was largely due to the well proven multiplayer, as opposed to the uninspired campaign mode. The introduction of co-op missions was one of the few innovations on show.
It seems strange then that Uprising, the first expansion pack for Red Alert 3, is an entirely solitary experience. There is no multiplayer at all, not even co-op. After getting over this surprise, I delved into the campaign mode. There should be something new and exciting here to base an expansion pack around, right?
The half-baked story from Red Alert 3 continues, and there are 3-4 missions to play through for each faction – Soviet, Allied and Empire. These are the same affair we’ve become well accustomed to over the years. Rarely do you feel immersed, as the cut-scenes feel they are not driven by anything more than drawing out a lightweight story, and the missions offer few surprises. The difficulty is quite variable and the most challenging moments are more down to unfair mission design than anything else. In one instance, when you think you’ve completed the mission, the terrain expands to reveal a sudden attack by a huge force. Unless you happened to have a few hundred units in your base, the only option is to go back to your last save and spend 20 minutes building up a strong force capable of repelling two aircraft carriers in nearby ponds, a wave of units and a big floating mechanical head that shoots lasers.
Campaign mode also features a fourth section centred around Yuriko, the hero unit for the Empire who has destructive psychic abilities. Her story is pretty thin on the ground but offers a welcome insight into her character while you seek to free her from a laboratory. Bizarrely, the in-game action is played out from a fixed-distance isometric viewpoint, the kind of thing you’d expect to find in an old hack and slash dungeon crawler. You can learn and upgrade psychic abilities a you go, but the endless clicking to move or attack enemies grows tiresome. Along with the constant need to backtrack for health, what we’re left with is a tedious gameplay experience not suited to the limitations of the game engine.
Having forced yourself to complete the missions, you can take on the AI in the ever present skirmish sandbox or the new challenge mode. In the latter you start off with a limited arsenal of units; to expand your arsenal you tackle a series of challenges, each of which unlocks a specific unit. These battles are the base building kind, similar to skirmish mode, but the twist is that the AI general will favour a particular unit. This actually makes for the most strategic play in Uprising as you will have to formulate a counter to their tactics. I ended up enjoying this part of the game, and as there’s a challenge for each unit, this mode will keep you going for a very long time.
Unfortunately the lack of a multiplayer mode is a real shame. It’s hard to understand why the series’ strongest asset has been overlooked. At the very least, you expect an RTS expansion to bring new life to a game with new maps and units to enjoy with friends. There are new units here, such as the Grinder, Reaper, Pacifier, FutureTank and Steel Ronin, all of which are good additions, but you’ll only get to play with them offline. When you think back to how good the Zero Hour expansion pack for C&C: Generals was, Uprising feels like an archaic step backwards.
By going down the single player route one would expect the bar to be raised in some way, but all you’re getting for your £14.99 is a lacklustre story and the same old uninspired campaigns to play through. There just isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The live action movie-sequences are intrinsic to the game as ever, with Malcolm McDowell (Rupert Thornley; Linderman from Heroes) and Ron Yuan (Prince Tatsu) providing the best performances. Ric Flair and Holly Valance make bit-part appearances and are not used to great effect. The story as a whole shows a little promise in the Allied campaign, but is otherwise largely forgettable, as is the disappointing soundtrack.
If you did enjoy Red Alert 3’s single player missions, then Uprising is more of the same and you’ll want to give this a look. Everyone else will be left a little underwhelmed, particularly if you believe the series has gone downhill since the 1996 original.
The substantial challenge mode is all that saves this from sinking below average.