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Blitzkrieg Review

GAME INFO
publisher: CDV Software Entertainment
developer: Nival Interactive
genre: Strategy

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PII 366, 64MB RAM, 2.4GB HDD, 8MB video card
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.cdv-blitzkrieg.de/

release date: May 12, 03
» All About Blitzkrieg on ActionTrip


No matter what your favorite RTS game is these days (C&C: Generals, Warcraft III, Age of Mythology), many gamers spend a considerable amount of time re-playing the single player campaigns over and over again, hoping to see a sequel released in due time. There's nothing quite like the sensation of getting immersed in an RTS world, and then to see its worthy successor follow in its footsteps. As one of our recent polls indicated, World War II has become the most preferable setting for a video game premise; be it strategy, like Panzer General, Sudden Strike, or FPS, such as Return To Castle Wolfenstein, Battlefield:1942, etc. Over the years CDV Entertainment has delivered top-notch WW II based RTS's and each one of them turned out to be a big crowd-pleaser. This time they were aided by the Russian-based development team at Nival Interactive, to produce a strategy game that once more touches on the historic and epic battles of World War II, from 1939 all the way to 1945.

In Blitzkrieg you first select the side you wish to fight for (German, Allied, and Soviet) and begin your march to glory. All three campaigns feature a wide variety of missions, some of which you don't have to play in order to proceed. The ones that are crucial to your progress are called Historical missions, but before you try them out it is advisable that you play a few standard scenarios so you can reinforce your army with special bonuses. These bonuses often grant the player vehicle and unit upgrades, which are highly recommended if you decide to engage in missions that are classified as "Hard" or "Historical." Throughout each of the three campaigns players are given a series of instructions and orders to carry out during their struggle against the enemy. Since most of your objectives are scattered across the map, you're obliged to use any means necessary in order to gain tactical advantage. For example, summoning an air raid won't do you any good unless you've taken out all of the enemy fighter planes and AA emplacements in the area. Once you've learned how to synchronize your land and air attacks, Blitzkrieg will become a piece of cake. Of course, learning how to do so is no easy task. Regardless of the side you're playing on, the enemy will appear well-armed and well-prepared to fend off any offensive.

The enemy AI in Blitzkrieg is very good and will often fully exploit the strategic advantages of the map and terrain. Players may have a hard time defeating opposing soldiers if they are concealed within the confines of trenches or bunkers - even if you have heavy artillery at your disposal, it may take quite a long time to smoke 'em all out. So, as you may have gathered, AI-controlled units can fight off almost any attack and can stall you long enough until they are reinforced. A rather good job by the programming team there. Unfortunately, there are some AI issues that could've been bypassed if the developers took more time in tweaking the game. Friendly units can sometimes wander off in the wrong direction or jam in each other's path before they reach the desired destination. This poses a few problems if you're in a hurry to get to a certain location on time (if your unit needs repair or if you wish to send in reinforcements or something). Aside from these few extremely minor issues, the rest of the AI behavior appears to work just fine, both for friendly as well as enemy units. Throughout the game, your foes will take every opportunity they have to issue out recon planes and air strikes. Therefore, look to the skies and keep track of any movement on your radar screen.

Blitzkrieg features three quite lengthy campaigns, so it may take you quite a while to go through them all. Also, the missions were well thought out, allowing you to fully utilize each and every one of your land and air units. A most crucial bit of the gameplay is sending reconnaissance troops to survey the area before you organize your attack. This way you can know what your enemy has in store for you and it gives you a chance to come up with an appropriate battle strategy. Next to the scout, some missions will allow you to exercise the skills of a sniper unit. Although very vulnerable and weak in close-combat situations, the sniper helps you clear out sentries and can distract enemy forces from a long way away.

Additionally, you are required to make the use out of your artillery such as the 4.5 Inch Heavy Gun and the QF 25 pr Light Howitzer, both of which provide excellent protection against enemy tanks and troop rushes. Of course we shouldn't forget the added help of your AA fire (the Bofors 40 mm AA Light Gun is a good choice for that - it can take out any aircraft that comes your way). A most essential addition to your army's might is the Matador Heavy Truck, which has several rather convenient functions. Its main purpose is to refurbish your tanks and artillery with new ammo supply and it can also place additional troops onto your AT and AA guns. What's more, many of your soldiers and artillery units are slow and heavy and cannot travel far without wheels - enter the Matador Heavy Truck once again; it allows you to pick up troops and deliver them anywhere you want on the map. As you can see, there's a great number of unique units, all which can be effectively utilized in action. For those of you who are after some of those sweet RPG flavors, you should be happy to know that some of your units can advance their ranks. After surviving through three battles or so, your tanks and armored vehicles become more accurate and more resilient to enemy fire.

Each map in Blitzkrieg conveys a bona fide World War II atmosphere. You can witness a whole bunch of historical battle plans and execute them on the fly. Numerous enemy formations were spread out all over the map to hinder and sway you from the main objective. Luckily, every map offers you various alternative routes to your goals, which are usually not that hard to discover.

The standard isometric view helps you keep a clear perspective of the situation on the battlefield. Granted I realize some of you may object to the generally outdated engine, but believe me this is one of those games where 3D graphics is not compulsory to ensure good gameplay. As it was mentioned earlier in the review, the lads at Nival Interactive went through a lot of trouble to design those cute, but extremely realistic, vehicles, planes, tanks, and soldiers. The diversity of objects and units is amazing and they all have a distinct authenticity that's worthy of their World War II equivalents. The team at Nival Interactive skillfully worked on over 150 types of genuine vehicles, 40 different types of infantry units on each side, and just about 250 types of various buildings and objects. No detail was left out. Bombs will obliterate anything on the ground, which demonstrates a rather enjoyable display of particle effects caused by massive explosions; huge dust clouds will immerge and tiny leaves may sometimes fall off the trees. In addition to that, your tanks leave tracks on the ground as they pass and raise dirt and smoke as they rush into battle. To make things even more interesting, in some missions players may encounter bad weather such as desert winds, snowstorms, and heavy rain. As in real life, bad weather presents certain difficulties for air support, which is exactly why you have to wait every time it rains or snows until you receive reinforcements from the sky.

The overall quality of the sound in Blitzkrieg is perfectly acceptable. All units (and there's quite a lot of them) respond in a different tone and with a unique attitude, which comes as a great plus to the atmosphere. Furthermore, the music fits well into the background and will sometimes raise your adrenaline when the action changes on screen. Other sound effects such as explosions, rifle fire, AA fire, and tank fire, are very authentic giving you a rather clear and complete picture of how it all sounded on the battlefield back in the 40's.

Experiencing Blitzkrieg was a challenge and it was fun in almost every aspect. Skirmishes, single missions, and the campaigns are all well-balanced and lengthy, so you can be sure they will take up a lot of your time. The game also includes a multiplayer mode with LAN and Internet support (tried out a few missions and I ended up kicking Zveki's and 2lions' arses; on the whole, it was great fun). Occasional AI snags can be frustrating, but otherwise you can expect your foes to act intelligently and swiftly to any offense you might devise.

On an overall note, I recommend this game to all RTS aficionados as well as those of you who want to take a breather from your FPS's a la Unreal and Halo and your third person sneakers a la Splinter Cell. To put it simply, Blitzkrieg stands as one of Nival's greatest RTS endeavors and it should be up there with all the top RTS labels.

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HIGHS
Addictive, challenging, and truthful to WW II. A vast assortment of vehicles weapons and air units. Lengthy campaigns and well-structured missions. Decent graphics for an isometric RTS;

LOWS
The AI has its bad moments. The units can block each other before they get to their destinations.

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