Command & Conquer Yuri's Revenge Updated Preview

Read our impressions on the latest build of Yuri's Revenge.

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Craig Beers shares his impressions of Westwood's latest expansion pack.56K

Westwood Studios claims that Yuri's Revenge, the upcoming add-on to Red Alert 2, is the most ambitious expansion pack the developer has ever made. That statement certainly rings true. Yuri's Revenge does more than add some new missions to Red Alert 2--it adds a third faction into the fray and expands the arsenals of the original two sides. The expansion is the end result of ideas that Westwood designers wanted to implement in Red Alert 2 but didn't have the time to, as well as feedback from fans of the original game. In fact, Westwood recently invited a number of fan site editors to get some hands-on time with the gold version of Yuri's Revenge at the company's Las Vegas offices. It's a testament to how seriously Westwood takes the suggestions and criticism of its players.

A lasher tank sneaks up on an enemy base.
A lasher tank sneaks up on an enemy base.

Yuri's Revenge takes place immediately after Red Alert 2. Romanov is in prison, and the Allies think that peace will finally preview. That is, until Yuri resurfaces. Psychic dominators constructed during the war are being activated around the globe. These devices have the ability to control the minds of the world's population. The Allied forces in San Francisco were able to knock out the power of the psychic dominator on Alcatraz, but time is running out. Fortunately, they have a plan: Einstein has invented a time machine that the Allies can use to destroy the psychic dominators before they can become operational. Don't count out the defeated Soviets, though--the wounds from their recent defeat and their fury over Yuri's betrayal have left them thirsty for vengeance. Their campaign requires you to capture the time machine and return to the past to not only stop Yuri, but also to change the outcome of the war to achieve Soviet victory.

Yuri's Revenge will offer 14 new campaign missions, seven for the Allies and seven for the Soviets. There isn't a campaign for Yuri, because Westwood wanted him to be the common hated enemy. Besides, it'd be hard to craft a campaign for his side since it's on the brink of victory in the present and it didn't exist in the past. The expansion also adds 10 cooperative missions that you can go through with a buddy.

New missions are nice and all, but most fans are interested in the changes made to the multiplayer mode and unit balancing. The first thing fans will notice is the changes made to Westwood Online. A quick co-op button was added, but the biggest change is the ability to create a game with up to six players. Next, when setting up a game, you'll not only see the starting positions of players on the map, but you can also choose where to start yourself. Other than the ability to head straight for a your opponent(s) early on, this feature really doesn't change the gameplay at all, since you'll still need to scout the map to remove the shroud. Besides, the game's units are now balanced in a way designed to counter early rushing.

Soviet and Allied Changes

An Allied base defends against attackers.
An Allied base defends against attackers.

The Allied side seems to have the most well-rounded additions. The guardian GI is a fantastic infantry unit that is capable of hitting both land and air units with its rocket launcher. It can be deployed like the regular GI, but it has an uncrushable concrete barrier instead of relatively weak sandbags. While it's not terribly practical to use against air units, the guardian GI shines against tanks, making this unit your best new defense when facing Soviet apocalypse tanks. The Navy SEAL is capable of swimming and planting C4 charges like Tanya. The robot control center allows you to build robot tanks, which are impervious to Yuri's mind control devices and they can even hover over water. However, if you lose your base's power in middle of an assault, they'll suddenly shut down. The Allied battle fortress is an interesting unit too. It's a huge vehicle that can crush just about anything on the battlefield, even tanks. You can place five infantry units inside, so along with its primary gun, it's like a mobile garrisoned building. Players are sure to come up with devious tactics with this unit by mixing up different types of units.

Allied Harriers attack a Yuri grinder.
Allied Harriers attack a Yuri grinder.

The Soviet forces were shortchanged by Yuri's defection--they lost the few technologies they had, like cloning vats and mind control units. Even the psychic radar is gone, leaving the Soviets to rely solely on brute force. Luckily, they'll be able to achieve superiority in numbers with the industrial plant. This building allows you to build vehicles at a cheaper price and faster rate. The battle bunker allows you to garrison five infantry units for protection until you need them in action. The Soviet offensive units are led by the spy plane, which exposes part of the shroud when charged up. Boris is the Soviet counterpart of Tanya. He can take out infantry rapidly, but he doesn't have C4 charges. Instead, he paints a laser target on a building to call in a MiG air strike. You'll want to make sure he's protected, though, because it takes a while for the planes to come. Lastly, the siege chopper can strafe ground units. Even better, it can land on the ground and deploy into a long-range cannon. When placed on an otherwise unreachable plateau, these units can be hard to take out.

Yuri's army is more difficult to master, but everything in his inventory is quite powerful, except for the initiates, which are Yuri's basic infantry. These foot soldiers are good for creating a large standing army, and for powering a bio reactor, but that's about it. Bio reactors are Yuri's power source, and the interesting thing about them is that you can place infantry inside of them to increase your base's power output. Yuri doesn't use dogs, so checking for spies requires more maintenance on the player's part. Incoming spies will show up on the psychic radar, however, so periodic checking will prevent them from getting too close. Viruses can kill any infantry with one or two shots of a dart that is tipped with a toxin, which causes the infected unit to explode in a green cloud that hurts anyone close to it. Brutes are the backbone of Yuri's army. They're slow, and thus make for easy targets by machine guns, but if a swarm of them gets close to you, then they can cause some serious damage. Brutes are especially useful against tanks and buildings. The Yuri clone is identical to the unit from the Soviet side in Red Alert 2, while Yuri's resource harvester and refinery are rolled up into one unit: the slave miner. It can move to a resource field and deploy five slaves, who will actually join your side if you manage to destroy one of those moving refineries. Since the slave miner is considered a vehicle as well as a structure, you can build one at the construction yard and one at the war factory.

Playing as Yuri

Three brutes go after a war factory.
Three brutes go after a war factory.

Rounding out the ground forces, Yuri has a basic tank unit called the lasher tank. Joining the lasher is the chaos drone. This unit emits a hallucinogenic gas that causes enemy units to fire upon each other before attacking you. The magnetron causes enemy vehicles to float in the air and pulls them close to you. That way, it'll be easy to mind-control them. The gattling tank has two guns and serves as your antiair unit. Both this tank and the gattling towers have a unique spinning feature: The longer they fire, the faster they fire. This results in increased damage, so slow-moving air units like the kirov will need to watch out for them. Lastly, the mastermind can mind-control enemy units. The trick to this is that it can only safely control three units at a time, so if it's controlling more, it will slowly absorb damage until it's destroyed. This flaw obviously doesn't make the mastermind a very good front-line unit, but it may be useful to keep in your base to defend against things like pesky engineer raids.

A time machine sits in the middle of an Allied base.
A time machine sits in the middle of an Allied base.

The next three units are particularly nasty when used correctly. The boomer submarine is a stealth sub that is equipped with torpedoes to itself defend in the water and ballistic missiles to devastate buildings on land. While playing games at the Westwood offices, many matches were lost due to the boomer sub. You should get an idea of how the floating disc looks by its name, but it's not as harmless as it may sound. It's equipped with a laser and is fairly tough to take down. It has some special abilities--place one over a certain type of building and you'll see some really devious results. If they're over power buildings, you'll shut down the enemy base. If they're over defensive structures, the structures will cease to function. The most underhanded way to use them is to place them over refineries. You'll slowly siphon money away from the enemy. The best thing about this is that the enemy can't sell the building while you're over it, so they can only hope to destroy the discs. The hero unit is Yuri himself. Standing on a floating platform, he is able to mind-control every unit on the field (except hero units) within a certain range. This means he can take over enemy defensive turrets and fire on Allied buildings. He can also take over a building, sell it for cash, and get an initiate in some cases. And since you can essentially get two heroes for the price of one from the cloning vat, it's clear that Yuri is a force to be reckoned with.

Yuri's super weapons are about as brutal as you'd imagine them to be. The psychic dominator releases a blast of pure psychic energy in a radius about the size of the nuclear warhead's. The screen turns red and a floating Yuri head pops up to mock the player you've just annihilated. To make matters worse, units within the blast zone that survive are permanently converted to Yuri's cause. Yuri's other super weapon is the genetic mutator, which is quite fun to use. When charged up, you can fire it on an unsuspecting crowd of infantry and convert them into brutes who fight for you. It'll even work on a group of civilians, so you may want to dispose of them early on in a game against Yuri, before they become a group of angry brutes.

Ultimately, fans of Red Alert 2 will find that Yuri's Revenge will likely turn an already quality game into something even better by adding more units and levels and a brand-new playable faction. It's rare to find an RTS game where all three sides are drastically different from each other, and fans of the series should enjoy these changes and be able to pick up on the new strategies quickly. The game should be out on store shelves no later than the September 25, so be sure to come back then for our review. In the meantime, enjoy the barrage of screenshots and movies.

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