The most common gripe I hear about Red Alert 3 is that it is not realistic. People make endless posts in forums complaining about the weapons, the looks, and the fact that removing Einstein would not remove the development of the Atomic Bomb. They make lengthy posts, taking great care to explain all the details, and conclude that, because the game is not realistic, the game is bad. This is exactly the wrong way to approach Red Alert 3. True, the game's back story could have been written on a paper napkin, but that napkin did have a lot of smiley's on it. This game does not take itself serious. From Mount Rushmore weapons of Doom to Leningrad Shuttles, from Volcano Fortresses (almost as awesome as our Secret Volcano Base. Almost.) to the EALA complex sporting a pirates flag, from premiers looking to the backside of their secretary to President Hasselhoff, the game is good at taking itself not quite seriously.
I had the most fun with the missions. In an email to Apoc, I already said that "almost all missions had a "O fuck, *big grin*" moment, which makes them really memorable.". The game takes you to a wide variety of locations, and all have unique art for them. From Amsterdam to Tokyo, from Leningrad to New York, all have quite a lot of art. Some art is very well done, especially the Kremlin, while some are a bit disappointing (the Leningrad buildings look weird, and in reality, St Isac Cathedral is just huge), especially Amsterdam. Although it does give a certain satisfaction of blowing your own physical working place sky high, I cannot for my life recognize the station there, nor the feel of the city. The Kirov stations are awesome, and the Tesla statues on Eastern Island are just plain awesome. The storyline, while not of Star Craft caliber, has some fun twists and turns, and the acting in the videos can be quite hilarious at times, especially that of premier Cherdenko.
Does this mean that Red Alert 3 is just pure refined awesomeness, and that everybody who says otherwise is a heathen and should be reeducated? Well, no.
I had the most fun with the missions, and after that, I tried some skirmish games. Where the maps in the missions are rich in detail, full of unique architecture, the maps in Skirmish are symmetrical and plain. A few civilian buildings, and thats it. Dammit, I want to race another player to the Kremlin and setup my second base there! I want to rush my navy through the channels of Amsterdam and kick my opponent out of the red light district! In stead, we get the plain symmetrical maps for perfect symmetrical gameplay, and that is quite honestly, boring.
While the art of the game looks different enough, the units, in their core, are just mirror images from each other. Each faction has an AA-only aircraft, light tank, heavy tank, artillery, etc, and all 3 play quite similar. While the supporting powers are fun (especially the combination of the magnetic satellite with the Orbital Downpour) it really are the secondary powers that differentiate the 3 sides. Without those, the game would have felt like all three sides being copies of each other, recolored to hide the fact. Also, the art of some units is just strange. The carrier, Shogun battleship, V4 and Kirov look puny, while the Mammoth Tank and King Oni Mech look rightly vast. The Tesla statues on Eastern Island look awesome, but on the same map are some very still flags. The reflected details of planes over water looks awesome, but the yellow outlines make the Shogun battleships really pixelated.
The last great downturn is Multiplayer. The last week, I tried a few online games, but despite clicking on Auto-match, and waiting a few minutes, no opponents came. When I tried to do a coop mission, it failed to connect, and with ordinary multiplayer games, the host almost left because there were not enough people who wanted to play a game. I could always blame the time (just a Friday afternoon, or Thursday evening) but I begin to suspect Gamespy, who doesn't exactly have a track record of happy users.
However, don't be mistaken, and claim that the game was rushed. There obviously went a great deal of work into Red Alert 3, but on some points, you really get the impression some people at QA weren't doing their job. A lot of effort went into the game, and some points are really great, but you cannot miss the impression that some elements were not properly used, like they forgot to get the latest version of a file for the final build. This is reinforced by the 19 digit activation codes, and is sadly something that can be spotted in other parts of the game as well. The game is good, but there are some quality goof-ups in it.
As for modding (You are on Derelict Studios) the game has not shipped with a World Builder, but it is promised it is coming soon. The mod SDK is also underway, but it remains to be seen when we can finally welcome it. That is, quite honestly, all we currently know.
So, as final conclusion: Get the game for a good single player experience, and hope for a lively mapping community once the World Builder comes out. Use LAN for multiplayer, and forgive EA some goof ups. And last but not least, don't take the game too seriously. After all, if you are awfully moody about this game, you can still blow up EALA in the Japanese campaign...