This article will consist of two sections. Part 1 (this part) is based upon the day at Westwood, what was seen and the reaction with which it was met, whilst the second part of the article will, I'm sure, prove to be most interesting to those hard-core strategists out there. In the article I will discuss the changes that Yuri's Revenge will bring to multiplayer gameplay, in terms of what units and structures will be more important. How the tank rush is effected for example.
Around 9 AM on a warm Las Vegas morning a group of C&C community webmasters were joined with webmasters from various communites including Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires as well as reporters from professional game sites. We met in the doughnut-laden Westwood Canteen. We could see all of the computers set up on a network ready for some serious gameplay - anticipation buzzed in the air. But before we were given the chance to jump upon the machines we were treated to a tour around Westwood Studios, Las Vegas. Delphi (a.k.a. Chris Rubyor) showed us around a few offices and introduced us to a few Westwood employees. We were also shown the render farm (where the Westwood Concept artists make their concept art). It was about 9:15 so quite a lot of the employees hadn't checked in yet. One such employee being Frank Klepacki. But as Chris Rubyor said.. "It doesn't matter what time you come in when you make such good music". Anyway, the brief but interesting tour was now over, we were sheperded back to the canteen, eager to start playing Yuri's Revenge as soon as possible. Once back in the canteen we were given a little Yuri's Revenge Power-Point presentation by Westwood's Mike Shelling. He explained to us how the game is more than a bog-standard expansion pack, even claiming that it could have been sold on it's own as a stand-alone product, but that the decision to make it an expansion pack would allow fans to purchase it for a cheaper price. The presentation also explained the varying theologies behind each side. For example, Yuri's theology is one based upon 'philosophy'. Mike also gave us some facts on the expansion set such as the fact that there are 10 brand-spanking new co-op missions (much superior to those seen in Red Alert 2) as well as 14 new missions and 20 plus new skirmish maps! After the presentation was over it was time for the fun and games to begin - everyone picked a computer and loaded up Yuri's Revenge.
Upon loading the game most people either popped into a quick skirmish battle or straight into the missions. I personally went for the former, picking Yuri as my side. If I remember correctly, the map upon which I played was Amerika, Anytown. I built up my base making sure I had all the structures whilst fending off some weak attacks from the Soviet Computer opponent (set on easy whilst I was testing the game). I teched up quickly and built at least one of every unit, experimenting with their power and skills. I was immediately impressed with the mastermind tank, which stopped an enemy attack dead in its tracks. I then sent the mind-controlled rhinos into my Grinder and instantly received a large boost of cash. By now most of the vehicles I had built had had a chance to prove themself, and my Genetic Mutator superweapon was ready. I looked around the enemy base and saw a large group of infantry. With a click of the mouse and a fancy animation the enemy infantry units all turned into brutes under my control. After mucking about with flying UFOs and other Yuri units a few of us decided to jump into battle on the network.
My opponents were Xynon and Maniac. We decided to play a three player free-for-all game on one of the new Westwood Multiplayer maps. I quickly secured the middle of the map and the oil derricks it brought with it. Any I didn't capture I just destroyed. Maniac, playing as Yuri, built a mixture of gattling tanks and lasher tanks, as well as a few chaos drones. My rhino tanks made for an easy fight as I had a decent number of them. New units for the Soviet faction didn't really feature in this game. I built a few siege choppers but never really used them; I had little need to. My tanks crushed Xynon and Maniac's bases respectively, however Maniac would later gain his revenge (not before a few more whoopings though). After this game everybody took part in some more FFA's. One being on the Street of Gold Map (note: all maps from the map packs are included in Yuri's Revenge). This was a particularly enjoyable game. 6 players took part and I got the opportunity to wipe out all of them including Devinoch (A.k.a Cliff Hicks, Emperor/Renegade Community Manager). However Devinoch, like Maniac, would later gain his revenge!
After a couple of hours of playing Yuri's Revenge it was time for a "Vid Con" (Video Conversation) with the guys from Westwood, Irvine. A lot of interesting questions and answers were asked, such as the opinions on 3D-strategy games and the various aspects of Yuri's Revenge. One question which came up that I heard frequently throughout the day was "Why no Yuri campaign?". A few interesting 'side-winder' answers were given but the basic reason is because of time constraints. I personally agree with getting the game out sooner as opposed to waiting a few more months for 7 more missions. It's not as of 14 missions isn't enough, not even mentioning the 10 co-op missions. After about 15 minutes the 'Vid Con' finished and a few of the Irvine guys agreed to meet us on WOL to play Yuri's. We went back into the canteen and then a few of us (namely Maniac, Warrior (Gamespy) and myself) jumped onto the machines hooked up to the net. A lot of the group were too worried about getting their asses kicked to play. Anyway, we made a 4 player game. We had two teams; Maniac and Josh (Westwood Artist) as well as myself and Warrior of Gamespy. We played two multiplayer games. The first one was a massive victory for myself and Warrior, whilst the second was won by Maniac and Josh after a shaky start on their parts. After that, most people seemed to get fed up of the online play. There were only Josh and myself left. We had a quick 1 v 1 on SP which resulted in total Soviet domination. However, Josh pulled off a Seal/IFV rush.. an interesting tactic. More on that in Part 2 of the article.
During the afternoon Chris took a few groups to go and see some C&C Renegade. We were taken to the office of Renegade's Executive Producer. He had just received the latest build of Renegade that morning. He then proceeded to tell us what was missing from this version and would be in the completed game, such as unit voices etc. He then played level 1 of the game to give us a brief show of what the game was made of. And the game was made of very good stuff. The visual detail and all round graphics were excellent, as was the gameplay by the look of it. You have the option to get into various vehicles as well as using a multitude of weapons. We were also informed of how Renegade's multiplayer system would work. Unfortunately we weren't given an example but it did sound extremely promising. This game is going to be big if that short taste was anything to go by - very impressive indeed. The estimated released date was "Winter" according to Devinoch.
After seeing Renegade it was time for a little tournament. 6 or 7 players entered, me included. I was (ironically) drawn against Maniac in the first round. After a long, hard struggle seeing Maniac get my MCV and then me taking his base and tanks, he won by building up some mirages in a corner of the map that I hadn't scouted. His small mirage army made short work of my remaining tanks. Maniac then went on to win the whole Tournament beating Tiberius in a close fought final. He then received several DVD movies as a prize (see the photo).
After the tournament it was time to wrap things up. We all got the limo/bus type vehicle back to the Luxor Hotel and then we went for dinner at the very nice Rumjungle restaurant in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. After the meal was over we went to see the "Blue Man" show which was a good laugh. All in all, it was a great day. The game was great and it was nice to meet fellow webmasters and Westwood Staff. The game is fun and is certainly worth your money. The new units and structures will take everyone a while to get used to (including the fact that the tank rush is much less effective - as will be discussed in Part 2 of the article) but they are fun and add new dimensions to the game. The new maps that I played on were all excellent, the new WOL interface is greatly improved and there are plenty of other features that make this expansion pack great - buy it!
Note: Yuri's Revenge is due to be released from the 25th September to the 28th September, estimated retail price of $24-29, £16-20.