December 26, 2011

Command & Conquer: Red Alert– an iOS Game Done Right.

Hard­core games are not hard to find on any smart­phone plat­form, Apple’s iOS includ­ed. With most of these titles, the hard­core gamer demo­graph­ic gen­er­al­ly has a uni­ver­sal com­plaint: con­trols. Shoot­ers, plat­form­ers, action games and RPGs all prove to be sub­stan­tial­ly more chal­leng­ing and off-putting because of the lack of tac­tile feed­back from a touch­screen inter­face. One game genre, how­ev­er, does­n’t have this hangup: Real Time Strat­e­gy. As a mat­ter of fact, RTS games seem tai­lor-made for a touch­screen inter­face. That being said, I was skep­ti­cal when I first saw an offi­cial Com­mand and Con­quer fran­chise port to iOS– and got even more ner­vous when it turned out to be an exten­sion of one of my favorite C&C series: Red Alert. Thank God I gave it a shot.

Not often will I pay for an app of any kind, but after try­ing the free demo, I bought the full ver­sion of Red Alert the very same day, and then lat­er bought it for a friend so we could play togeth­er. I not only bought this game, I bought it twice, and it was worth every pen­ny. The fact of the mat­ter is that RTS is per­haps the only style of hard­core game that will ever be per­fect­ly exe­cut­ed on a touch­screen, which is an insane bar­gain for its $.99 price tag.

The first con­cern for many gamers when look­ing at a hard­core mobile game is con­trols. Rest assured, the con­trols for this game, while they have a small learn­ing curve, are com­plete­ly sen­si­ble. Even with group­ing dif­fer­ent units togeth­er for an attack force, the onscreen con­trols are fast and intu­itive. One draw back, how­ev­er, is that you only get 3 hotkey slots for these groups. As seen on the right, the Apoc­a­lypse Tanks are back. In this screen­shot, they are col­lec­tive­ly fol­low­ing attack orders as group 1– hence the top group slot being high­light­ed in red. While at first the idea of only 3 unit groups is off-putting, it real­ly does­n’t present much of a tac­ti­cal issue. This sort of scal­ing back is fair­ly com­mon through­out all aspects of the game, but sort of makes sense for the small­er nature of the iOS plat­form. One would hope, though, that the game would have a much larg­er unit cap with bet­ter hard­ware on lat­er iDe­vices. Per­haps if there is a sub­se­quent Com­mand & Con­quer title for iOS, we could even hope to see larg­er mul­ti­play­er func­tion­al­i­ty. In a per­fect world, this would include sup­port for more than two par­tic­i­pants in any giv­en skir­mish or mul­ti­play­er match, and sup­port for online play. Though all in all, it’s hard to com­plain too loud­ly about the first attempt at an offi­cial iOS C&C.

Now, the game is good as is when you down­load it from the App Store, and well worth a buck. I will say, how­ev­er, that I also bought both avail­able expan­sions, which were also worth every last pen­ny (twice). The first is the map pack. Even if you’re con­tent with only two fac­tions, two stock skir­mish maps is a lit­tle hard­er to defend. For an addi­tion­al dol­lar, you get all the maps seen on the right in addi­tion to the two the game comes with. This is a mas­sive improve­ment for only cost­ing a buck. And if you real­ly wan­na make the game seem big­ger, The Empire of the Ris­ing Sun expan­sion adds a com­plete third playable fac­tion, and its own cam­paign– all for $2.99. While the com­pound­ed cost may scare away a few play­ers, this is a lot of game for your mon­ey, and one with a near­ly inde­struc­tible replay val­ue. Besides, all that said, and you’re still only in it for $3.98. That’s a ridicu­lous­ly low price for a qual­i­ty game. Don’t believe me? Try the free demo. If you’re a fel­low C&C fan, you’ll prob­a­bly buy it just like I did.

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