The over-the-top real-time strategy action of the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series returned last year with Red Alert 3. That game took the basic gameplay of real-time strategy games--gathering resources, building structures, and churning out armies--and added in wacky army units (such as electro-dolphins, transforming robots, and parachuting bears), along with enthusiastic performances by Hollywood actors in live-action cinematic sequences. The three factions of Red Alert 3 are gearing up for the next round with Uprising, a new stand-alone expansion that will focus on single-player play with a single-player challenge mode, and a new campaign with role-playing game elements built around Yuriko, the commando unit from the Empire of the Rising Sun faction. We sat down with story and cinematics producer Mical Pedriana to get the details.
GameSpot: We understand that part of Uprising's new focus on a story-driven single-player mode will include a brand-new adventure starring the Yuriko commando character from the Empire of the Rising Sun faction. Give us an overview of this new mode. How is it different from what we've seen in the previous games?
MP: With the new Yuriko campaign, we get to focus on a single character and let players build up her abilities, similar to what you might see in an adventure-RPG style of game. This, of course, is a clear departure from the traditional Red Alert games where the player is responsible for a whole army and base building. The Yuriko campaign will definitely appeal to our RTS fans, though, because it is still fast-paced and will require quick wits. We've moved the camera in closer so that players can get a good view of the situations which are going to require Yuriko's various new powers. As the story progresses, players will be able to choose [different] powers, depending on their play style. We're very proud of the unique Red Alert universe, and this special campaign allows us to get a closer look at one aspect of it.
GS: Tell us about the Yuriko character. She's a Japanese schoolgirl with psionic powers... Where did that character come from? Were there any specific sources of inspiration for the character's design?
MP: The Empire of the Rising Sun has always been about merging traditional Japanese culture with futuristic sci-fi technology. Yuriko, the Empire's commando character, is the perfect example of this theme coming to life. First, you have this stereotypical, shy little Japanese girl who would otherwise blend in with the Japanese civilian masses. Then she has these extraordinary anime-character-like powers which let her pretty much wipe out a battalion of enemies. This is a perfect fit for the Empire of the Rising Sun's mythos, as well as for the tongue-in-cheek tone of the Red Alert universe.
GS: What is Yuriko's story in Uprising? What are her motivations? And how does she end up going from her origins to being the high-powered psychic commando she was in Red Alert 3?
MP: Yuriko was born with the gift of simple telekinetic abilities. But it wasn't until she was kidnapped and subjected to drastic experimentation by the Imperial scientists that she became the powerful menace she was in Red Alert 3. When the story begins, she's a confused girl who doesn't know who to trust as she confronts those who are trying to control and exploit her. Chronologically speaking, we begin her story before the Red Alert 3 war and then continue through the events which followed after the war.
GS: We understand that in addition to the Yuriko campaign, Uprising will including a new challenge mode for the Red Alert series. What will the experience be like for players that play the new challenge mode?
MP: Commander's Challenge is a game mode where players get to confront various enemy commanders from RA3 (as well as some new additional ones like Ric Flair and Jamie Chung), while unlocking units to bolster their arsenals. There are a total of 50 unique scenarios, each taking on a theme often related to the unit to be unlocked. This is all wrapped in a fictional premise based around the FutureTech company and its dubious motives. You are essentially contracted by FutureTech to engage the three world powers and steal their technology. We went all out in some of these scenarios--giant bears, armies of Yurikos, falling satellite shows. I think we have put some really cool things in there. Each challenge is totally unique, and there's about 30 hours of gameplay wrapped in there. For our biggest fans, par times have also been set by the dev team for each bout, so there is a time challenge element as well.
GS: The Rising Sun faction had a powerful offensive advantage in Red Alert 3 with the ability to move and redeploy structures. What additional abilities or units will help enhance the faction's mobility?
MP: In Uprising, the Empire remains very mobile. They're definitely a force to be reckoned with, and the Steel Ronin comes to mind here. This is a new anti-armor walker that relies on its speed to overtake enemy vehicles. Once the Ronin has closed the gap, its uses its powerful glaive to slice up the enemy. This helps the Empire's offense even more--the previous anti-armor units (the Tankbuster and the King Oni) are very slow by comparison.
GS: We recall that the faction also had several units with the secondary ability to change into a different form with different properties for navigating and fighting by land, air, and sea. How will the faction's new armies fit in with this theme?
MP: One of the most devastating new units in the Empire's arsenal is the Giga Fortress. This beast takes a full 30 seconds to build, during which time it's completely vulnerable. But once deployed, its naval form is able to take out entire armadas and flight groups. When the Giga Fortress' secondary mode is activated, it transforms into a floating head with a powerful base-killing laser. Like the Empire's other transforming units, the Giga Fortress plays completely differently depending on its form.
GS: Are there any other tweaks or additions being made to this faction to make it more competitive with the updated versions of the other factions or to fill in any specific gaps?
MP: Uprising is a single-player campaign expansion, so when we designed the new units for all three factions, we didn't set out to fill gaps in the combat chain. Instead, we wanted to design units that would be really fun to play in our campaign and Commander's Challenge mode. All of the new Empire units get their chance to shine in the campaign, and they also each have their own mission in challenge mode. With that being said, we still made sure the factions are balanced for skirmish play, and many of the post-launch balance changes made in Red Alert 3's patches were brought over to Uprising.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the Empire faction in Uprising, or the Yuriko character or adventure?
MP: We really tried to improve on Red Alert 3 with every aspect of Uprising: the units, missions, skirmish, and the Commander's Challenge mode. But the Yuriko adventure stands out as one of the most unique new features this team has done. It's a lot of fun, and we really hope the Red Alert 3 community enjoys it!