COMMAND & CONQUER™ RED ALERT™ in Review – The russkies are coming, the russkies are coming!

It’s hard to imagine the real-time strategy genre without the famous Comand & Conquer series. While the game that started it all was Dune 2, Command & Conquer was the one that really put it in the charts. The great story, amazing graphics (for the time of course), superb FMV cutscenes and distinct factions basically made the genre of Real Time Strategy games. And now the franchise is finally on the iDevice. Will Command & Conquer™ RED ALERT™ for the iDevice prove that it IS possible to play RTS games on the iPhone? Let’s find out!

The Red Alert series is a spinoff of the main franchise and speculates on what would happen if Einstein invented a Time Machine, went back and killed Hitler thus preventing World War 2. According to EA if that happened the USSR would have massively grown in strength and quickly invaded and taken over Europe. And thus we’re thrown in the middle of the conflict between the Red Army and the Allies.

The gameplay mechanic takes the best of the Real-Time Strategy genre and tries to adapt it to the iPhone. The missions are split between stealth and the usual kill-them-all type of scenario. EA decided to skip one of the main components of RTS – harvesting resources and instead replaced them with refineries that have to be positioned above mines with a fixed amount of resources. The base building component is otherwise the same, with the good old Construction Yard, Barracks and Vehicle Factories, Airfields, Power Stations, two turret types and the Super Weapon. And as in the original – they vary only in appearance and name, not function. Seems ok so far.

The units are one of the main disappointments however. Each faction (the Allies, The Reds and the Emperor of the Rising Sun (purchased separately in-app) has 5 infantry units with an obligatory engineer, 3 ground vehicles with one of them being the mobile construction yard and 3 aerial units. Unlike the original, units largely have the same function and differ in name and appearance only. Now that is a downer.

Units’ similarity to one another and the limited view on the iPhone and the removal of harvesting leaves little tactics or strategy required to play C&C. The only option is to build as many units as you can and simply rush the enemy. This ties in quite logically with the fact that the special weapons recharge at an amazing rate. I know the iPhone is targeted at the more casual gamer, but still…

The campaign features 5 missions per faction that feel more of a tutorial than a challenge. But that shouldn’t be much of a problem, right? After all, Red Alert has always been famous for its multiplayer! Well, yes… but the multiplayer is head-to-head local Wi-Fi and Bluetooth only. And there are only 2 (yes, TWO) skirmish maps included in the base release. You can download a map pack with 6 more maps, but that does little to expand the gameplay. Good luck finding someone else with C&C in your immediate vicinity.

The graphics and interface part of Red Alert are a masterpiece and probably the main upside of the game. EA has put the iPhone through the wringer and squashed every last drop of performance out of it. The graphics are eye-candy and rival the desktop version. However, this comes at a price. To get Red Alert running more or less stably on my 3G I had to reboot it in safe mode and put it into airplane mode. Otherwise the game crashed every couple of minutes. Once running, though, there is almost no lag. The interface does what it can with the limited space on the screen and surprisingly it works. As well as can be expected at least. You can pinch-to-zoom, use the minizable sidebar to order units and buildings, quickly select all or part of the units on screen with the handy buttons and save your selections to 3 quick-slots.

Command & Conquer Red Alert is probably the best real-time strategy for the iPhone currently out there. But it still leaves a lot to be desired. While EA did an amazing job on the graphics and the interface, the content part leaves much to be desired. The strategy element has been watered down so much that it’s almost boring to play. There still is no online multiplayer and the amount of single-player content included is appalling. The recently released DLC pack does a little-bit to alleviate that, but that’s an extra $2.99 charge. Add another $0.99 for the skirmish level pack. All of this makes this probably the most premium title out there which I can’t really recommend to anyone but the most die-hard fans of the series.

With this I declare COMMAND & CONQUER™ RED ALERT™ officially touched!

App Summary
Title: COMMAND & CONQUER™ RED ALERT™Developer: Electronic Arts
Reviewed Ver:1.1.0Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$6.99App Size:63.7 MB
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Reasonable performance
  • Excellent interface
  • Natasha
  • Stability issues
  • No online multiplayer
  • Seriously watered down mechanics
  • Appalling amount of included content

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Checkmate! There’re loads of strategy games at the App Store and at TMA:

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