Review: Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3: Commander’s Challenge

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, the latest installment of EA’s popular franchise, featured a quirky storyline that set it apart from the horde of other RTS games released in recent years. Events unfolded in an alternate reality where the atomic bomb was never created. A few misdirected deeds caused a separate universe to be born, one in which chaos and wacky inventions run rampant. Now the Soviet Union, the Japanese and the Allies are vying for world domination. While that may seem like an inane premise for an RTS game, it actually worked quite well and injected a sense of humor into what would otherwise have been a bland adventure.

That brings us to Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 – Commander’s Challenge. With its release, gamers who have played through the full retail title—and even those who just go for the new download—can take on an inimitable and boundless new mountain of content jam-packed into a digital download. The new content provides more of the same goofy charm that its predecessor relied on — and then some.

As far as core gameplay goes, typical RTS elements apply here and are pumped up on steroids. The game is almost impossible to take seriously, what with its explosive combat, B-movie cut scenes and laughable plot line. Combat employs mechanics similar to a game of rock, paper, scissors. Players must distinguish between using naval, air, or ground units for different situations. This adds a deeper layer of strategy to the proceedings. Units are selected and put to work via a circular menu. Aside from those revisions to the play mechanics, there is a dearth of any decidedly “new” elements to the series and genre. Each faction can create facilities with which to train more soldiers, and each goes about building structures in different ways. The differences don’t change the outcome of any of the missions, but they do a good job of imbuing otherwise bland units with personality.

Part of what makes the expansion so much fun is that it was obviously never meant to serve as a realistic jaunt throughout history. That’s evident in a number of ways. Many of the units that you will control are outrageously silly. If they were mere soldiers, you’d be crusading through an entirely different game.

Genuinely funny dialogue works well with the hilarious character units. Obvious embellishments are made to the characters that might be expected. For example, the Soviets have terrible accents and there are numerous bad jokes relating to the Cold War. Along similar lines, the entire installment is riddled with the titular “Commander” characters. They seem to take great pleasure in verbally thrashing you in the heat of battle. Among those quirky individuals is Ric Flair. Just hearing him insults at you justifies the price of admission. Who hasn’t wanted to go toe-to-toe with the Nature Boy?

Throughout the experience, the interface is slick and menus are easy to navigate. The overall presentation is smooth as butter, as well. A host of live-action cutscenes come across crystal clear. Each mission is filled to the brim with vibrant colors, busy environments and enough enemies to send you scurrying behind the couch in fear that you just won’t be able to tackle the mission at hand — and there are a ton of missions.
Commander’s Challenge demands a hefty 2 GB from your Xbox 360 HDD, which is quite the lump sum of space. If you’re planning on exploring the game, you need to plan on clearing up some space, especially if you lack the funds to upgrade from a meager HDD. What all of that space gets you is a selection of more than fifty missions and a set of brand new achievements that should go a long way toward satiating your hunger for a higher gamerscore.

For 800 Microsoft points, any fan of the Command and Conquer series should be delighted with that this expansion presents. Though the developers could possibly have gone with a stand-alone retail disc and charged quadruple the price, this choice was for the best and is the most economical. More of the same Red Alert 3 whimsy, action, and frenetic battles should certainly enthrall and intrigue anyone ready to give the title a shot. Suit up, soldier, and move out!

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