Those Soviets are up to their old tricks again. After suffering through a debilitating war against the Allies in the first two Command & Conquer: Red Alert games, the Red Army has had enough. Using a time machine, the Soviets go back in time and eliminate Albert Einstein and all the future weapons that were created as a result of his scientific breakthroughs. And it works. In the alternate future, the Soviets have an advantage over the Allies, only an unexpected thing happens. While the Soviets and Allies have been engaged in war over the years, the Empire of Japan has been free to develop its military might unimpeded, and now there's a new threat to Mother Russia from the east. To understand the plight of the Soviets, we sat down with Red Alert 3 executive producer Chris Corry. Here's what he had to say.
GameSpot: Red Alert 3 begins with the premise that the Soviets went back in time to eliminate Albert Einstein to give themselves an advantage over the Allies. Tell us about the consequences of this action.
Chris Corry: Can you think of any science fiction story where going back in time didn't have some sort of unintended consequence? This is the crux of the Red Alert universe and the central theme of the Red Alert 3 fiction. By going back in time, the Soviet leadership hopes to erase Einstein from the timeline, and in fact they actually pull it off. When they return to the present day they find that the man most responsible for the technological successes of their adversaries, the Allies (comprised of the US and the Western Europeans), is gone and Moscow has been restored to its former glory. And indeed, the Soviets appear to have the upper hand in their war against the Allies.
But their elation lasts all of 90 seconds before they come under attack by a mysterious new superpower, a mighty army spawned by their own unnatural tampering with the space/time continuum: The Empire of the Rising Sun. Driven by their emperor's belief that it is the empire's divine destiny to rule the world, the fantastical forces of Japan have launched an all-out offensive against the Soviets.
GS: In this alternate history, the Soviet war machine continues to grow. Tell us about the new Soviet units in Red Alert 3.
CC: For starters, we sought to retain enough of the Soviet units from the previous Red Alert games that the faction would still feel familiar and satisfying to returning players. Red Alert fans will be thrilled to see the return of classic units like the Apocalypse Tank, the Terror Drone, the Kirov Airship, the Tesla Trooper, and the mighty Dreadnaught battleship. But we've put a satisfying new spin on these returning units. Since every Red Alert 3 unit now has a secondary ability, we get to show people a new side to their old favorites. For example, the Apocalypse Tank now has a magnetic harpoon that you can use to ensnare other units and draw them into the gaping shredder blades that adorn the front of the vehicle.
Of course, there's no shortage of new units either. The Stingray is an amphibious fast-attack Tesla boat, armed with a powerful electrical attack. Fire off its secondary ability in the ocean, and it unleashes a dramatic storm of tesla energy, dealing devastating area-of-effect damage to everyone in the vicinity. And give the Stingray a move command onto land, and it sprouts lobsterlike legs, leaping out of the water and becoming a dangerous (albeit slow) light tank.
Although it's making its first appearance in a Red Alert game, the Twinblade gunship is an homage to the classic real-world Hind helicopter gunship featured in big-budget Cold War blockbusters like Rambo III and Red Dawn. Our version has two main rotors--it must be twice as cool, huh?--and can unleash a brutal rocket barrage on unsuspecting units and structures. It's also an able troop transport--watch out for that Twinblade/engineer rush!
GS: The Soviets have traditionally been labeled the "bad guy" faction, at least by us patriotic Americans. What strategies serve the Soviets, and what kind of player do you think will enjoy using this faction the most?
Chris Corry: Hold on there, buster! Bad guys?!? It all depends on your point of view. We love all three of the game's factions. The game has three campaigns, one for each faction, and when you play the Soviet campaign you'll quickly learn just how dastardly those Allied capitalist pigs can be (not to mention the ruthless techno-cultists leading the Empire of the Rising Sun).
The Soviet faction is conducive to heavy armor tanking tactics, with a healthy dose of electricity thrown in. In the early game you can get a lot of traction out of scouting with War Bears, and their secondary roar ability is perfect for incapacitating any level-one infantry they may stumble upon. The early application of Terror Drones means that unless your opponent is on his toes, you can quickly sneak devastating antivehicle capabilities behind enemy lines. Slipping a Terror Drone into one of your enemy's harvesters is a sure way to elicit howls of frustration--and to win a quick economic advantage.
The Soviets have some fearsome level-three technologies that tend to emphasize hard-hitting artillery tactics. The V4 rocket launcher can deal horrific damage from land (try out its secondary MIRV mode to cover more territory); the lumbering Kirov Airship can drop an enormous payload of bombs on an enemy's base (and never needs to return to the hangar for a fill-up); and the Dreadnaught battleship can literally wipe out any undefended base that was foolishly built too close to shore.
The Soviets have some very capable aircraft, but keep in mind that it generally takes longer to tech up and access them. It takes a skilled player to pursue an aggressive Soviet air strategy and be successful.
GS: Because cooperative play is a large focus in Red Alert 3, how do you think two players should go about using the Soviet faction to crush its enemies?
Chris Corry: The possibilities are almost limitless, but first and foremost players need to read the lay of the land. As many ways as there are to win a campaign mission, the designers have left little hints--sometimes subtle, sometimes more overt--about effective strategies for approaching mission objectives. Sometimes you might get a hint in a mission briefing or through a snippet of video featuring the enemy commander. On some missions you'll find that you and your co-commander have access to different parts of the tech tree, which means that some objectives will be more easily cracked by the player with the right units at their disposal.
There are plenty of general-purpose tactics available to the Soviet players. Try out some stop-and-smash for starters: One player can use the Terror Drone's secondary ability to root enemy units in place while the second player blasts them into oblivion. And a mixed-arms approach can be effective when both players are attacking the same objective. Have one player emphasize air or naval attacks, while the other tanks up and creates an imposing force of Apocalypses and V4s.
GS: How would you say the level design of the Soviet territories differs from that of the Allies and the Empire in terms of geography and topography?
Chris Corry: As you might expect, we pulled a lot of references of classic Soviet-era and early-20th-century Russian architecture. The structures tend to be monumental in bearing, but there's actually a lot of variety in there. Depending on which architects were in favor at any given time, you might find strong Renaissance influences one year and a healthy dose of art deco the next. Red Alert 3 tends to skew more towards the grand, palatial kind of structures that most of us are familiar with. And of course there are monuments and statuary everywhere.
As far as map design goes, we tried not to get too tied down to an accurate representation of a given place. For example, Leningrad, Odessa, and Moscow all appear in the game, and while the general geographical features of the cities can be seen if you look closely enough, our emphasis is really on building map geometry that has interesting combinations of high and low ground with strategic choke points.
GS: Tim Curry frightened many children as Pennywise the clown in Stephen King's It. Tell us about the Hollywood talent you've enlisted to lead the Soviet faction.
Chris Corry: The game's opening movie is all about the Soviets. Given that it's a five-minute-long affair that kicks off the events of the entire game, we knew we had to bring in actors that had a commanding screen presence and could sell the admittedly outrageous story setup. The Soviet story arc predominately features three characters. In addition to the great Tim Curry, the Soviets are joined by Andrew Divoff playing General Krukov and Peter Stormare as Dr. Zelinsky.
Of course Tim Curry has been entertaining audiences for decades. He's played everything from a "sweet transvestite" (Dr. Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) to his Tony-nominated turn as King Arthur in Broadway's Spamalot. In Red Alert 3 he plays Premier Cherdenko, the patron of the time machine project that throws the third Red Alert war into motion and catapults Cherdenko into the seat of the Soviet Premiership.
Andy Divoff plays General Krukov, a tragic character. He's vain and ambitious, but the fates are not kind to him. And if Andy looks familiar to you, you're probably a Lost fan; he plays Mikhail ("Patchy") on the hit TV series. I'm a big fan of the show, and given that Mikhail is the bastard who killed Charlie, I made a special point of kiddingly taking Andy to task about it--along with a million other fans, apparently. Of course it turns out that Andy's the sweetest guy in the world, who actually felt genuinely sad to see Charlie die. Go figure.
If you're a fan of the Fox network's Prison Break series, you might already know that Peter Stormare played the character of John Abruzzi on that show. Come to think of it, if you're also a Coen brothers fan, you know Peter from Fargo, and if you drive a Volkswagen, you might have pleasant memories of Peter "unpimping" an unfortunate street-poser's ride. I don't think I exaggerate when I say that Peter is a force of nature, a whirlwind of hysterical improvisation and the father of an acting style that I can only characterize as "inspired manic method." He was the perfect choice for Doctor Zelinsky, the hyper-anxious scientist who invented and built the Soviet time machine.
GS: Naval combat is playing a larger role in Red Alert 3. What are some of the Soviet naval units? Will we see Red October?
Chris Corry: Well, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the Red October (it must be out on deep ocean recon during the events of Red Alert 3), but there is a flotilla of Akula submarines available for the Soviet general to command. Try out this recipe for world domination: Build a fleet of Dreadnaught battleships, defended by Akula subs and Bullfrog transports. During naval battles the Bullfrogs can use their flak cannons for powerful aircraft suppression, but they can also be loaded up with Tesla Troopers, War Bears, and even the odd engineer or two. As your Dreadnaughts launch an artillery bombardment worthy of the "shock and awe" moniker, use the Bullfrog's circus-style man-cannon to launch the infantry into the enemy base. Micro your engineers well enough to capture the opposition's construction yard, and future generations will sing battle hymns about your bravery and cunning.
GS: It's not Red Alert without massive superweapons. Give us some examples of Soviet superweapons at the end of the tech tree.
Chris Corry: In keeping with the gestalt of the faction, the Soviet player powers (we call them "top secret protocols") are generally all about doing as much direct damage as quickly as possible. A level-three orbital downpour can rain surplus satellite debris onto the head of your enemy, along with any units that you sucked up using the magnetic satellite family of powers (and yes, any extra units you've sucked up will do extra damage when you drop them on your opponent). And that magnetic satellite power has a cool little minigame associated with it. Think of it as a steerable high-tech tornado that you can use to suck your enemy's units up into orbit.
The Soviets have two superweapons. The first is the vacuum imploder, a great direct-damage attack that will suck all of the units in the vicinity (friendlies too!) into a giant Katamari-esque ball before letting off an awe-inspiring explosion. And the iron curtain is back from previous Red Alert games. Cast this power on friendly units, and you make them invulnerable; cast them on enemy infantry, and it's insta-kill time!
Red Alert 3 has gone gold, and we're tremendously proud of the game. It's the best RTS yet to come out of EA Los Angles, and we can't wait for our fans to get their hands on it. Dasvidania, comrades! We'll see you on the battlefield.