Leipzig has been good to EA's newest entry in the Command & Conquer series, Red Alert 3. On Wednesday, the company announced a host of big-name acting talent (such as Tim Curry, Kelly Hu, and Jenny McCarthy) who will be starring in the fan-favorite cutscenes that provide the story line for the game. Today we got a chance to see another aspect of the game: a demonstration of the cooperative multiplayer missions that will be available throughout the game's single-player experience.
Co-op play looks to be a huge part of Red Alert 3; in fact, all of the solo missions in the game will be playable cooperatively with a friend. Because the missions are designed with multiple commanders in mind, even if you're playing a mission solo, you'll have a friendly AI commander on your side with whom you'll need to coordinate your tactics.
For today's purposes, we watched as two human players went through a Soviet faction mission, whose ultimate aim was to take down a science facility being used by the Allied forces to research experimental technology. Doing so, however, wasn't simply a matter of building up units and rushing the gates; thanks to some clever restrictions, it was immediately apparent that only cooperative strategies between the two players would result in victory.
The main restriction was an enemy doohickey known as a technology inhibitor, which limited the types of units each player could produce in their individual HQ. One player could only produce land units like transports and troops, the other was limited to battle helicopters. The first step to strategic success was to establish ore-mining operations on nearby islands. Each island featured very different defense structures; one designed strictly to deal with land units, the other decked out with antiair weaponry. Naturally this was the first point where cooperation kicked in; with the player with the battle copters sending in his forces to take out the ground weapons, and the player with the ground units looking to take down the antiaircraft tech.
With those island defenses clear it was time to set up new bases. To do so, you use Sputniks--which can travel over land and sea but do so very slowly and don't stand much of a chance against an enemy. To keep things moving quickly, you can request that the player with the flying units transport the Sputnik across the water and drop it off on the next landmass.
You can also set beacons to signify areas you need destroyed by an allied player. In the example we saw, one player set a beacon at a nearby island; once the helicopters gave a fly-by to eliminate the fog of war from the area, the ground troops were able to attack the antiair guns on the island with long range weaponry and prepare that island for an all-out assault. The final attack on the tech inhibitor featured both players working together--with the battle copters airlifting troops into the area, resulting in a quick and effective victory.
Though the gameplay is still being tweaked, Red Alert 3 producers told us that the game will provide a challenge for experienced players and capable AI allies if you can't find a friend to join you in the fray. That's great news, as is the game's gently mocking take on the RTS genre. After all, it's not every day you see enemy units in the form of enlisted dolphins, who fight wearing vests strapped with high-tech weaponry. The way we see it, heavily armed, fightin'-mad dolphins are why video games were invented in the first place. Look for more on Red Alert 3 in the near future.