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Pew Pew Pew! Red Alert 3 Scores Big

By AgmLauncher - 27th October 2008 - 14:32 PM

There isn’t much going right in the world these days. There’s a global financial crisis, the Middle East is unstable (again), The USSR-take-2 (Russia) wants payback for the Cold War, the climate is changing, oil prices are way too high, the PC gaming market is struggling, and reviews of RTS games have reached an all-time low. If you’re an avid RTS player, you might feel that it’s time to abandon all hope.

Red Alert 3’s first review was recently released on GamesRadar (PC Gamer), which gave the game a 92%. Wow, the game must be awesome then, right? It very well could be, except you wouldn’t know that from reading the review. The review, written by Dan Stapleton, fails to perform the most basic function of a review: inform its readers with an accurate account of what the product is like. Instead, 20% of the entire review is a meaningless history lesson, and the other 80% doesn’t tell you anything meaningful about the game, and especially the gameplay. In fact, the only justification for the score seems to be the all-too-obvious pictures of hot women and the line: “But any game in which a giant laser cannon pops out of Teddy Roosevelt’s head on Mt. Rushmore is a winner in my book.” at the end. I guess without that giant laser cannon, it would have been a loser? Indeed, from reading the review, the impression you would get is that Red Alert 3 is about sexy women and lasers.

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On top of failing to even mention (let alone review) the most critical components of the gameplay, the little feedback we do get about the gameplay is either irrelevant or inaccurate:

…though it’s fair to say the gameplay may be too fast-paced for its own good. Why bother with notifications that your units are under attack when by the time you hear them and figure out where the attack happened, your troops are probably already dead? I also have the same problem here that I do with all C&C games: you can’t zoom out in any meaningful way

There are three parts to the above quote which either lack substance, or they are inaccurate. The first is the claim that the gameplay might be too-fast paced for its own good. While this is a matter of opinion, it’s actually a fact that Red Alert 3 has the slowest overall pacing of any C&C game to date (I should know, I played them all……a lot). So if RA3 is too fast-paced, then what did that make RA2 or even Starcraft? How is it that the speed and pacing of RTS games has slowed down considerably over the last decade, and reviewers are STILL complaining that they’re too fast? How slow do they have to get before the lowest common denominator finds their pacing acceptable? How is that even remotely fair to people who are capable of playing at much higher speeds? Its comments like these that are responsible for the growing trend to slow down RTS games to the point where they’re not even engaging or challenging anymore (unless of course, you’re easily entertained by lasers…..)

The second is the claim that notifications are pointless because the battle is over before you can “figure out” where the attack happened. As it turns out, the game has a nifty feature that lets you jump to the latest map event by pressing the space bar (you know, the largest key on the keyboard?). This is the standard in many, many RTS games. The only way you could not know this, is if you don’t play them. If you don’t play them, then what good will any review that you write about them be? Is this the reason why Dan thinks the gameplay is too fast? Because he doesn’t know all he has to do is hit the space bar to jump to the latest announcement to instantly take control of the situation? It’s fair to say that the most influential opinion in this review seems to be predicated on a complete lack of knowledge of Red Alert 3’s most basic interface functions.

The third is Dan’s opinion that it sucks that you can’t zoom out farther in Red Alert 3. Even if we overlook the fact that RA3 is not Supreme Commander and one does not need to zoom out farther than the default camera position in order to play the game effectively, it doesn’t change the reality that Dan’s opinion here is utterly irrelevant to the review. It’s one thing to mention that you feel the gameplay might be too fast, but not being able to zoom out is by design, and does not negatively impact the gameplay in any way. Moreover, why fixate on this point and not more important things like pathfinding, the lack of upgrades in the game, the fact that the game’s economy scaling was designed to reward combat rather than base building & production, average army size, and the most important feature of Red Alert 3’s gameplay: the all new naval mechanics? Why is it that this review focuses so much on girls, graphics, and hammy acting rather than on the characteristics that make a game what it is: interactive challenges and puzzle solving to stimulate creative thinking?