War Front: Turning Point Review
publisher: CDV Software Entertainment
developer: Digital Reality
PIV 2000, 512MB RAM, 3.5GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Feb 23, 07 (released)
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The WWII FPS maybe the reigning king of Been Done to Death Gaming on the PC but its annoying little brother, the WWII RTS, is close on its heels, filling gamers' hearts with dread whenever a new title in the genre is released. So you can understand when a copy of War-Front Turning Point (from developer Digital Reality and publisher CDV) showed up on my door step, I was hesitant to even open the box. However the cover art, which includes a German mech wading into a throng of fleeing Allied troops and the question "What if World War II happened this way?" peaked my interest. The real question is: does the introduction of unique technology to a WWII era game provide enough of a twist to make War-Front Turning Point (WFTP) worth your time?
So how do you take the standard RTS formula of base building, resource gathering, tech research and unit production (vehicle and infantry) set in the WWII time frame and give it a fun new twist? While the game generally plays it safe in the RTS mechanics department (gather resources, research technologies, resurrect able hero units with special attacks and abilities that boost your other unit's effectiveness etc. etc) Digital Reality's answer is to set WFTP in an alternate historical timeline that mixes in a healthy dose of Sci-Fi technology for the player to research and does so with a game engine that holds its own against almost all of RTS games currently on the market. Don't get me wrong. Change for change's sake is not necessarily a good thing. I am just issuing a fair warning to those expecting a wealth of innovation. WFTP does not try to reinvent the RTS wheel here, rather they try to offer up the cleverest and most polished RTS wheel they can.
As the game campaign begins, we learn that Germany was successful in its bid to invade and occupy England, dealing a seriously blow to the Allied war effort. A cocky Yank hero arrives on the scene to help drive the Germans off the island and to turn the tide of the war, more or less single-handedly. The Yank is the first of several heroes you will use along side your normal units as you fight the good fight. These heroes are also used to drive the plot forward through the campaigns and help reveal the twists and turns of the complex plot through cut scenes before and in many cases, during the mission. The cut scenes are at times campy and cheesy but not to the point where they are unbearable. Each mission can be played from the Allied or German viewpoint, each with their own mission goals, which brings the total number of single player missions to 22. With that many players, an enjoyable multiplayer experience can turn into some truly epic combat.
Typical to the RTS format as the missions play out, you will be introduced to more and more of the tech tree and the new units research (or outright theft in the campaign) provides. Tanks, fighters and infantry are expected for a WWII game but as the game unfolds you will gain access to special units and attacks that add a special flair to the whole premise. Sure you can send a B-17 to pepper you enemy's base with conventional bombs but it's much more fun to send in a screen-shaking Earthquake bomb or if you get the chance, drop a nuke. While these attacks are fun in the single-player campaign, in multiplayer they can make all the difference in a close game of up to 10 players.
Graphically, the game looks very good. Units are well animated, although it is difficult at times in the heat of battle to easily tell your motorized units apart. Environmental details like swaying trees that fall over as tanks run into them, flags flutter in the breeze and flocks of swans paddle around in the rivers as tanks rumble across the charming stone bridges. Day changes to night as battle progresses and units will turn on head lights as they rumble around the map. A zoom feature is included which allows you get up and close to the combat and includes the option to follow right behind any of your wheeled vehicles or jump into any base defense turrets and man them from a first person perspective. Not sure why you would want to do this but it's kind of cool.
Audio is also done well. The sound track is a good fit for the time period and is just the type of stirring background for a war epic you would expect. In a backhanded compliment, it is unobtrusive enough that I have not yet turned it off while playing. Combat noise is apt for all gunfire, be it small arms or the *THUNK* of large shells. The rewarding boom from artillery, V2 rockets and large bombs coupled with a shaking screen and concussion blast are also a nice touch.
The complaints I do have with the game are few: armored units tend to look too much alike and in the thick of combat I find myself searching for the correct unit losing valuable time and troops. Combat itself is sometimes a little too much like rock paper scissors. I agree that some units should have more of an effect on others but sometimes I get frustrated by a couple specific units of the enemy waltzing through my base, blowing everything to Hell because I failed to build enough of a specific type of infantry. Perhaps this is more of a shortcoming of mine, being used to other games, but it seems to me slight balancing would fix this. Or perhaps I need to vary my build style and stop crying like a little girl. Nah that can't be it.
All in all, if you enjoy a good RTS and are looking for a unique take on the tired WWII genre, War-Front Turning Point is worth the purchase price and your valuable time. The multiplayer portion of the game alone should provide hours of fun long after you have finished the single-player campaigns. However, if the thought of one more WWII RTS is enough to send you in the street buck naked and singing show tunes, then you had better hope spring has come early and it's warm outside. (Real men sing Aretha then. - Ed)
8.0 Very Good
Cool units, good graphics, good multiplayer;
Units tend to get confused in the heat of battle, Paper-rock-scissors unit balancing is a bit off.
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