Decent iPad RTS games were somewhere between numbers one and four for on the Giz staff's various wishlists, and Command & Conquer: Red Alert is one of the all-time greats of the genre.
It's tough to imagine a better type of device for playing RTSes than a flat slab of multitouch glass. Scrolling across massive terrains by pushing your mouse cursor always felt laboured, and navigating with a gamepad takes quite a bit of practice. In the iPad version of C&C, moving around your map is perfectly intuitive, with 1:1 dragging, or faster movement by way of a draggable map reticule. You select a unit by tapping, and command it to move or attack with another. Zooming in and out on the terrain? Pinch, zoom.
Some of the intuitiveness you gain with touch navigation, though, you lose for more complicated manoeuvres. Selecting multiple units requires you to tap an extra button, which turns on a selection tool. Commanding units to do more than run or attack, or to move in groups, requires increasingly complicated series of taps, which makes for a somewhat steep learning curve and causes your first few skirmishes to seem oppressively difficult. Hence:
The graphics are sharp, colourful and far more impressive than the C&C: RA you remember from PC, but many of the models feel a bit large, which can make the screen seem cramped. (And you'll find yourself wanting to zoom out more than the game allows you to, which worsens the claustrophobia.) For a first stab at a genre that could define iPad gaming, it's pretty great. The $US13 price tag is worth it for fans and probably for giddy early adopters, but the most exciting thing about this app is that it shows that an RTS can work, and well.
What I'm getting at is, if I don't have Starcraft for iPad in my hands in three months, I'm burning Blizzard to the ground. WHO'S WITH ME?