Command & Conquer: Red Alert (iPhone app)

The small screen debut of Command & Conquer: Red Alert

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Electronic Arts Australia Command & Conquer: Red Alert
  • Electronic Arts Australia Command & Conquer: Red Alert
  • Electronic Arts Australia Command & Conquer: Red Alert
  • Electronic Arts Australia Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Pros

  • Command & Conquer -- on the iPhone, music

Cons

  • User interface is slow, game takes a long time to load

Bottom Line

Releasing Command & Conquer: Red Alert for the iPhone was a great idea, but it's just too slow to be fully enjoyed

Would you buy this?

Command & Conquer: Red Alert was originally released in 1996 for PCs. Now, however, Electronic Arts has brought it to the small screen, releasing a version of the real time strategy (RTS) game for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Like the other titles in the series, this game is set in the "Red Alert" universe; one in which World War 2 has never happened, and the Allies and Russia are fighting each other for control of Europe.

There are two modes of play: a campaign mode where you follow a storyline and complete a series of missions, and a skirmish mode that allows you to fight one-off battles. In the campaign mode you can play as either the Soviets or the Allies; the start of the Soviet campaign doubles as a tutorial for learning how to play the game.

Missions usually require you to build up a base and units. This is done through a build menu on the right edge of the screen. Above the build menu there is a map that indicates the location of units. Both of those controls can be collapsed if required, giving you more screen real estate to see the action.

Controlling units is quite easy. Tapping a unit once will select it. Tapping a unit twice will select all the units of the same type on the screen. It's also possible to select groups of units by using some of the icons on the bottom left of the screen. There is a drag-select icon that lets you draw a box around units you want to select, and a "select all units on screen" button.

Once a unit or group of units is selected, tapping on an enemy unit will cause it to be attacked. Tapping a blank part of the map will cause selected units to travel there. Units can also be assigned to a group, which you can then call up using the group icons on the top left of the screen. This allows you to bookmark some of your unit selections.

While not perfect, the controls are quite good; it's hard to imagine a better user interface for the iPhone version of the game. Unfortunately, while their placement and logic is good, they seemed to be just a tad slow to react on the iPhone 3G we tested with. This can make the game hard to play. Selecting units by tapping them will sometimes also be too slow, which can make it hard to control some of the larger, somewhat sluggish units. Similarly, trying to select a specific unit in the middle of a larger group can be almost impossible.

You are able to zoom in or out a little by doing a pinch or reverse pinch on the screen. Zooming out and collapsing the controls on the right edge of the screen allows you to have a surprisingly good view of the action considering the size of the phone. Unfortunately the game sometimes has a tendency to mistakenly interpret some actions as a "zoom in" gesture, which can disrupt game play.

This game has surprisingly good music and sound effects. The Russian accents sometimes feel a little over the top, but they don't detract from the overall feel of the game.

Red Alert makes use of the new in-app purchasing abilities Apple has added to the App Store. There is a menu option that allows you to access a store in which you can purchase extra map sets and game extensions. At this stage, only a single map extension map is available, but there's a lot of potential.

One of the biggest issues with this game is that it seems to be very resource hungry. It won't load if your iPhone has been running for too long, often requiring you to reboot the device before you can play. In addition, it takes over half a minute to actually load the game. The impact on system resources also makes it almost impossible to answer a call; by the time the iPhone has sorted it out, a call will have already gone to voice mail.

Playing this game also leaves you with the nagging feeling that some of the balancing act that normally occurs when a new game is released just didn't occur with this title. It's really hard to run out of money, making the usual resource scramble moot. The AI is also surprising easy to beat, leaving you wanting more, especially when playing in skirmish mode.

As it stands, Command & Conquer: Red Alert is a disappointment. It could be salvaged and turned into an enjoyable game if the in-game speed issues are resolved. The AI issues will probably be fixed as more expansion packs are released. Of course, you could always pick up the PC version for free.

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