Command & Conquer: Red Alert Micro-Review: Palm-Size Power TripS

EA brings its over-the-top real-time strategy series to the iPhone, allowing on-the-go gamers to wage war wherever they please.

Despite being streamlined and stripped-down for portable play, Command & Conquer: Red Alert for the iPhone still manages to pack in much of the series' signature style and addictive strategy-driven gameplay.

Loved
Style to Spare: From its live action cutscenes to its crazy-ass battle units, the C&C series is famed for its intentionally cheesy excess. And while the silly cinematics didn't make it into the iPhone version, the title still retains much of the franchise's wacky trademark charm. Screen-swallowing Russian zeppelins rain death from the skies, armored war bears charge enemy strongholds, and the sexy-accented Natasha quips "You like my scope?" and "The pleasure's all mine." while laying waste to never-had-a-chance infantry. Impressive explosions also engulf the tiny display, and all units, despite their shrunken presentation, are drenched in eye-pleasing detail. Furthermore, a crunchy guitar score keeps the action-and your adrenaline-appropriately amped.

Tactile Warfare: While the RTS genre still struggles to find its sweet spot in terms of control schemes that match traditional mouse-and-keyboard set-ups, there's no question the iPhone's touch screen is a good fit. Like a general positioning pawns on a war map, you'll delight in the tactile satisfaction of fighting with your fingertips; simply touch units, then their target or destination, and watch them go to work. You can also draw a small box around multiple units to move them together, and save specific groups to tabs to easily access them again. Additionally, a swipe of your finger on a mini-map swings the camera to any desired location. Everything, from commanding and training units, to constructing buildings and navigating the map, is a simple intuitive touch away.

Hated
Minus the Multi-player: Given the platform's limitations we can totally forgive the omission of some units and even the Empire of the Rising Sun faction (only Russians and Allies are available.) However, the absence of multi-player is sorely missed considering the competitive nature of the genre. I generally think of any RTS's solo campaign as a warm-up to the online action, so, while C&C's handful of solo play chapters and two skirmish maps are a blast, they only feel like half the total package. Thankfully, EA is reporting that a future download will remedy this, adding the much-missed multi-player mode.

Despite the shrunken presentation, Command and Conquer: Red Alert retains much of the series signature style and charm. Additionally, the touch controls make for a satisfying tactile RTS experience. Give us some multi-player, and we'll happily jump back into this fight.

Command and Conquer: Red Alert was developed and published by EA Mobile for iPhone on November 1. Retails for $9.99. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed the game's campaign and played skirmish modes.

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