Preface: This is the second part of my Westwood Visit Article. It deals with all the strategical changes that I think will be seen in Yuri's Revenge. After playing the game for several hours I am able to make quite a few assumptions about how the game will differ, in terms of pace, build orders and diversity. Yuri's Army adds a whole new dimension of strategies to the game. The new units and structures that have been introduced also mean that other units are less or more effective. And then, of course, there is the topic of the tank rush - is it really dead? Read on to find out.
Yuri's Revenge really is going to bring a whole new cauldron of strategies to Red Alert 2. The third side is a very, very interesting addition - and a very good one in my opinion. Whilst there have been countless arguments about who is better between the Allies and the Soviets (there is no real difference at the end of the day), this third side will make for many debates. The slave miner in particular is the most interesting unit/structure (it can be built as either). You have the ability to move the slave miner wherever you want, whenever you want. You can then just deploy it and let the slaves get mining - which means players can easily go for the gems on a map first. They won't have to bother building massive base stretches, or building down cliffs or moving their MCV - they can just move the slave miners. Another big advantage of this unit is the fact that the money comes in constantly, rather than all at once. This is going to be particularly useful for people who have problems balancing their economy and production at the start of a game. You won't have to consider bringing in a half full miner in order to keep production moving; the slaves all come in at different times, hence the income comes in constantly. As for its weakness, the slaves are very vulnerable - if war miners or any other heavy vehicles attack them then they will be quickly destroyed. However, they are regenerated in the slave miner. That's the slave miner which can be repaired whilst under attack! (Providing it is deployed). Slave miners have guns mounted on them, so terror drones won't be able to sneak in. This is possibly the best unit on Yuri's side in my opinion, it will allow for many, many interesting strategies.
As for the basic tank versus tank competition, the rhino tank still reigns supreme. The lasher tank is pretty ordinary to put it bluntly, just another run of the mill grunt tank, which are beaten easily be equal numbers of grizzly tanks or rhinos. One massive disadvantage for Yuri's side, in my opinion, is the fact that they have no dogs! Not only are dogs excellent for scouting, but they are very important in tank versus tank wars when you mix them in with your tank force to detract fire. Having said that, Yuri does have the excellent anti-tank unit that is the brute - but terror drones will make short work of them (brutes are immune to dogs!). They also have the same weakness as terror drones and tesla troopers, when they approach your group of tanks just drive off in the opposite direction.. they will then get pelted by your tanks whilst chasing you. The brute is a very interesting unit and may possibly be used in some sort of rush, yet there is one unit which will definitely make short work of it, as well as the Guardian GI - this unit is the desolator. If I play Soviets in Yuri's Revenge then I will play as Iraq - for the desolator is going to be even more useful in Yuri's Revenge. The Guardian GI is an excellent unit - especially when used in conjunction with other units. A deadly combination that I witnessed at the Westwood Event was that of the mirage tank and Guardian GI. A group of mirage tanks and Guardian GI's is an excellent combination as the GGI's can fire at both air and ground units, hence protecting the mirage tanks from air-attack. At the same time the mirages can protect the GGI's from dogs (the GGI's main weakness). However, one desolator can cure all these problems. Desolators can be used to destroy brutes, slaves, guardian GI's and just about any land-walking infantry unit apart from the sniper.
As for the Allies, if playing them my team of choice would be Great Britain. Many people have argued that Great Britain are the most useless side in Red Alert 2. I would personally protest that Cuba are; but I will not touch that topic in detail as that is not what this article is about. Great Britain will be even more effective in YR. The sniper will be extremely useful for picking off slaves, brutes, Guardian GIs and other infantry units. The sniper is certainly going to be far more useful. The fact that YR is more so infantry based than Red Alert 2 will see, in my opinion, the sniper become a far more popular choice. I also expect to see even more players using Iraq. The allies will be able to combat Yuri's Army most effectively in my opinion. Their good all-round mix of units should prove very useful. Tet there is one place that they will not be anywhere near as useful in - and that is the water. Boomer subs are very strong. The fact that they can fire water to air missiles makes them even more useful. They are more than capable of making short work of Dolphins. The boomer is a very effective unit that will, in my opinion, make Yuri's Army the most popular choice in navals game. Having said that they do lack in certain areas of naval strengths; they have no equivalent to the Soviet Sea Scorpion or the Allies Aegis Cruiser; these units are very useful as most players will know. Whether the lack of these units will seriously hamper Yuri's side in battles involving naval action remains to be seen.
One of the main weaknesses of Yuri's Army is the fact that it has no proper transport unit. The Soviet flak trak and IFV can both hold infantry, yet the gattling tank cannot. The only unit that Yuri may use for infantry transport is the Amphibious Transport (requires naval yard). Which is not really much use in my opinion. So this would have to be one of the main weaknesses of Yuri's Army, as it means that Yuri's Army cannot engineer rush or move any infantry units around the map quickly and easily. The full effect of this seemingly strange decision to not give Yuri a ground transport unit is another one that remains to be seen.
Now onto the touchy topic of the tank rush. Many fellow top players have worriedly being asking me if it is as bad as all the previews say? Is it really dead? My short answer: no. Whilst there are a whole new bunch of units and structures designed to stop the tank rush I do not believe they will be effective. The basic tank rush will have to be modified however. The units introduced to stop the tank rush are the brute and the Guardian GI, with the Soviets already having the tesla trooper for anti-tank protection. Each of those aforementioned units have lots of weaknesses - their main one obviously being the desolator or the British/Virus Sniper. Whilst the brute does have the added advantage of being invulnerable to dogs, it is more than vulnerable to terror drones. These units will easily make short work of brutes, and as I previously mentioned, to combat brutes just drive your tanks in the opposite direction. A unit that will play an even bigger part in Yuri's Revenge is the dog. Normal players acknowledge its usefulness when scouting, good players also acknowledge its usefulness when in a tank battle. Dogs are now going to be needed in even greater numbers to combat the guardian GI and Yuri's psychic units (dogs being psychic immune). Another unit introduced to combat tanks is the chaos drone. I found that this unit wasn't as good as I expected it be, it has simple weaknesses. Firstly, has to be deployed like the desolator, secondly it has little armour and finally is very vulnerable to the drive by shooting. The anti-tank rush structures are certainly useful, but ultimately very expensive. The simple tactic is to drive past them and ignore them. If, for example, a Soviet player builds a battle bunker and then fills it with conscripts, he will have spent a large sum of money which you could otherwise have spent on extra tanks. The Yuri tank bunker also means that the unit inside it is basically out of the battle if you avoid it. I think these structures will have a limited effect on maps without pinch point entrances, maps where they will prove useful are ones such as Isle of War and Mount Olympus. Tanks take longer to build in YR, but that means enemy tanks take loner to build as well. Sure your opponent could build up a sizable infantry army by the time your tanks are ready to attack, but providing you use the right anti-infantry units, you will face no major problem. So to sum it up, the tank rush still works - providing you adapt it to the new anti-tank units and structures in the game. Rushers, rejoice!
On the subject of infantry, I would venture that one unit that will be less useful (in allies V allies games) is the rocketeer. The Guardian GI is an effective anti-air unit and is considerably cheaper than the rocketeer. The introduction of the hero unit system is an interesting one, yet I don't think they will be any more useful than in Red Alert 2. Tanya may be uncrushable by tanks, she may also be able to plant C4 charges on them - but there can be only one of her. Killing one unit is not a hard task. Boris is less effective in my opinion, having to wait for MIGs is a disadvantage. Sure it may look good, but being able to blow buildings up instantly is far more useful. Yuri Prime is back as strong as ever - any of you who have used him in Red Alert 2 will be aware of his awesome range when mind-controlling units. The fact that he can now mind control buildings from the same range is also very interesting. You will certainly have to be on your guard if your enemy builds one. One of the new (albeit old in reality) units that I was most impressed with was the SEAL. The ability to mow down infantry and detonate buildings is certainly useful. A nasty tactic that I was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of (it was executed by Josh Taylor of Westwood), was an IFV/SEAL rush. A simple but deadly tactic. Whilst an engineer/IFV rush can only take over one building, the SEAL has the ability to destroy a whole base if not countered quickly.
So, to sum it up, the game will be different in many ways - but also the same in many ways. There will be new tactics, and there will be old tactics. The tank rush will take more skill and thought. Infantry will play a larger role yet are still vulnerable. There are also a lot of new maps. Hopefully lots of them will be introduced into Quick match. New maps mean new tactics, new units mean new tactics, new structures also mean new tactics and Yuri's Revenge means a whole new game.
Note: I played on the game for maybe four to five hours. This is nowhere near long enough to carry out a very detailed analysis (even though this is rather detailed). Basically, parts of the above article may turn out to be totally wrong, or totally right! Only time will tell. Five hours is not enough to learn a game inside out - yet I look forward to this game's release; it will make Red Alert 2 even more enjoyable than it already is.