40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
A lot like WW2, but with a pause button...,
This review is from: Codename: Panzers Phase One (Video Game)
1 cup Blitzkrieg
2 tsp A Bridge Too Far
Mixed statistics and HE shells
Big dollop of history
For anyone who ever wanted to click their way through World War 2, this latest real-time-strategy game from CDV may be just the thing. Players take on the role of German, British, American and Russian commanders, boldy leading platoons of little polygonal troops to death or glory. And it's really rather cool, n'all.
Viewed from above the battlefield, players can rotate, pan and tilt the camera to get the best view of the action, zooming out for a wider look at the field, or zooming in to watch individual soldiers take aim. 'Panzers boast an impressive variety of units, all highly detailed and distinctive, so you'll have no trouble telling them apart once things get frantic. Its quite a thrill to see infantry squads taking cover behind meticulously modeled walls and hedgerows, machine gun crews going prone and setting up their weapon bipods and the grit and decals clearly visible on armored units.
Like CDV's other RTS, Blitzkrieg, players must carefully manage and defend their units, since every squad that survives the mission will be carried forward to the next battle. In addition, battle-hardened troops gain experience that boosts their accuracy and mobility, so it's worth playing smart. To bolster your ranks you can purchase additional troops or vehicles before each mission. The game currency is 'prestige', earned principally by completing missions. It's possible to recieve a prestige bonus by completing a mission with few casualties, inflicting lots of damage on your foes or by finishing in record time, and there is immense replay value in trying to gain maximum points. Naturally, the practical payoff of careful planning will be more units to command next time around. Each completed mission concludes with a report from the battle, grading your performance, and this can be a real help in taking on the next challenge, seeing what you can do better etc.
There are lots of options to play around with on the battlefield; all units can be commanded to alter their behaviour, responding aggressively to threats or remaining passive (great for ambushes). In addition, infantry can be instructed to move crouched, or to crawl, which adds another dimension to your strategy. Infantry units can also occupy buildings and take control of captured vehicles - like Blitzkrieg, it's possible to take out a gun crew, for example, and then make off with the weapon, swelling your combat effectiveness mid-game. It's even possible to gently persuade tank crews to bail out by super-heating their ride with flamethrowers or molotov cocktails! Many units have alternate weapons, including grenades, landmines and rubber boats, so there's almost always more than one way to complete your objective. Battlefield support is often available in the form of bombers, recon planes or artillery. Like in Blitzkrieg, planes can't be directly controlled, rather, given a starting objective, so you need to use them wisely.
Everything in the game is rendered in loving detail, and the maps are no exception. There's an astonishing amount of attention paid to buildings (which can be reduced to shattered shells with sustained fire), and plenty of wonderful ambient details - grass and trees that sway in the wind, birds that flap lazily about, and the water effects are among the best I've ever seen in a strategy title. It's a pleasure to lead your troops through such varied locations, from the hedgerows of France to the frozen streets of Stalingrad. There's even a working weather - (in pouring rain your heavy armor may find itself bogged down) and a functioning day/night cycle that throws up new gameplay possibilities - why not wait until darkness falls to sneak your platoon right down the enemy's throat?
Mid-game cut sequences, using the game engine, occur periodically to highlight objectives or spotlight a particular event. Its a simple but effective way of introducing story elements into the game, and makes the whole sha-bang feel all the more personal. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a game speed button - it's possible to compress time for those long trips, or pause the action. The real boon of the pause function is that you can still rotate the view and issue orders in this mode. Large battles become a lot more manageable as a result, since you can pause the game, rattle off intructions, and then unpause and see how it all plays out. The fog of war, a common RTS element is present and correct, but 'Panzers throws the factor of sound into the mix...visual icons represent when your troops can hear, but not see, enemy troops or vehicles. There's a great sense of tension as you and your men hear the rumble of approaching armor, waiting to see what emerges from the fog...a platoon of tiger tanks anyone?
Any downsides? Well, you'll need a decent computer to get the most from all the graphical effects, although my P.4 handles it smoothly enough at 1280x960. CDV is a German publisher, and its pretty clear that all the English language, spoken and written, was translated from the original - non-sequiters and strange phrasings pop up in the mission briefings, and some of the soldier chatter is rather iffy. Still, there's so much charm on display here that it matters nought. Also, much like the WW2 action game Call Of Duty, it's a rather scripted experience - that is, you'll be facing the same enemy components each time you play a given mission. Still, battles seldom play out the same, and there's lots of room to make your own variety through tactics and troop selection. It's also difficult to recommend this title to anyone who was on the fence about Blitzkrieg. It doesn't offer anything radically different enough to truly seperate it from that title. Indeed, I think it's pretty fair to say that 'Panzers plays much like the plucky younger brother of Blitzkrieg, expanding on many ideas and refining others. Basically, if you liked that game you're gonna love this.
Armchair generals take note...this title represents a new wave of WW2 strategy, and would be a worthy medal to add to your collection.