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Soldiers: Heroes of World War II Review
developer: 1C Maddox Games
PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jun 29, 04 (released)
|» All About Soldiers: Heroes of World War II on ActionTrip|
I am just about sick to death of games set during World War II. It was nice about 4 years ago, when it was still an untapped time period, but today, you can't swing a German Sheppard in a software store without knocking over dozens of expansions for The Sims. Err no wait, I mean World War II titles. The really sad part is, most of the titles are not that bad. It is just a bit like eating steak every night. Unless you do something new with it, it gets old.
It looks harmless enough to cross...
Back at the boot camp...
Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, is Codemasters' latest offering and was produced by Best Way, a company from the Ukraine. The game at first glance seems similar to Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps, which we reviewed last month. Both games are Real Time Strategies set in World War II but with a twist. Instead of building a base and cranking out an army, you start each mission with a small number of men, tanks or both. Using the precious few units provided, you then must accomplish the primary and if you so choose, the secondary goals in order to advance to the next mission. You know the drill.
However similar Soldiers and Desert Rats appear at first glance, as you play Soldiers, you realize there is much more here than meets the eye.
First, the graphics are far superior to Desert Rats. Units, structures and terrain are rendered in 3D that rivals (and in some cases surpasses) Command and Conquer Generals. Items on the map can be used for cover, knocked over, blown up or set on fire depending on your tactics. All the trees, buildings, infantry and mechanized units are finely detailed. When a tank blows up, it showers the landscape with flaming wreckage. Infantry litter the ground when cut down by machine gun fire or explode with arms and legs flying from a blood red cloud of mist when struck by high explosive rounds.
Next, game play has much more depth than Desert Rats Vs, Afrika Korps. Infantry is much more effective due to the increased role of weapons and equipment. Individual soldiers are used for more than just tank drivers in this game. Due to multiple personal weapons, anti tank mines and grenades, a small group of soldiers making use of cover, can disable or destroy a tank. As you make your way through each mission, your soldiers can strip weapons and equipment off corpses to replenish ammo supplies or trade up to more effective weaponry.
Your men are also necessary, as they are the only ones who can repair damage done to vehicles or refuel them when the tank runs dry. Combat takes full advantage of cover and realistic armor values on tanks. Therefore, your infantry can gain a protective advantage by ducking behind a low wall and you stand a much better chance of disabling or destroying a tank if you attack its side or flank, due to weaker armor values.
In one of the first missions I had to try to take back a small village with only a tank, an APC and two infantry units. As I advanced, too recklessly as I soon found out, two artillery pieces began pounding away at my tank while men in trenches in front of the guns started peppering my two troops with sub machine gun fire. My tank suffered a shot to the right tread and I was stranded in the open. While I had a repair kit inside the tank, having one of my men move to repair the tank would have gotten him killed right away. I moved my two men from tree to tree up to the trenches and began tossing grenades at men inside. Soon the enemy soldiers lay dead but I was out of grenades and I still had the artillery to deal with. I ordered my two men to belly crawl into the trenches where they stripped the fallen Germans of their submachine guns and the grenades they carried. It was short run to the edge of the trench where I was able to toss a grenade and disable the artillery. After that threat was removed, I ran my men back to the tank and repaired the tread. Soon my crew was rumbling forward into the village. I was on a roll!! I felt good for about three more minutes until a German Panzer that was hidden in some trees behind a house turned my happy little troop into Hamburger Helper.
Finally, your men are needed to commandeer vehicles or as in one of the missions near the end of the Soviet campaign; I had to throw a series of railway switches so I could use a train to escape. It is nice to see the game not forget its own namesake and concentrate on the soldier in combat.
The missions themselves do a good job of advancing the story for each faction while not having to rely on pivotal points in WWII in order to dramatize the situation. Each mission will require you to set aside your typical RTS tactics and actually think and plan in order to accomplish your goal. It is also a good idea to go through the tutorials to control your forces to the fullest. While the AI is good, nothing can take the place of directly controlling your units and deciding which type of shell to load and which enemy to attack.
Often the most obvious path to victory is not the easiest route. This means that on some maps, I had to try several strategies before successfully finishing the mission. The system does allow you to save your progress during missions in case you make the wrong decision (as in my case, nearly ALL the time). And if the last save does not help you out, there are four levels of difficulty that you can choose each time you attempt a level.
8.5 Very Good
Great graphics, fun and challenging game play, nice change from typical RTS titles, co-op and head to head multiplayer support;
Some mission objectives are not quite clear enough, background music in game gets old, longish load time for some levels.