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

December 26, 2011

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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