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Strategy First



Freedom Games



T (Teen)



Q4 2002


- Excellent Graphic Styling

- Many campaigns and missions

- Great ambience

- Excellent ambient sounds

- Good customizability



- Steep learning curve

- Not non-wargamer friendly

- Poor tutorials

- Awkward camera control



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GI Combat Episode 1:

Battle of Normandy

Score: 7.0 / 10


Hot on the heels of the Canadian showing of the HBO series Band of Brothers, I was quickly gripped by the intensity of the combat in ummmm, GI Combat: Episode 1 - Battle of Normandy.  Although I am by no means a fan of wargames, I know a well crafted game when I see one (or so I like to think).  That being said, GI Combat is not without its flaws.  However this is a case where the good definitely outweighs the bad.  


gi-combat-battle-normandy-1.jpg (30977 bytes)          gi-combat-battle-normandy-2.jpg (43964 bytes)


The number one reason I am not a fan of wargames is that I find them intimidating.  The whole historical aspect, the detail that is put into the units and their abilities and the strategy in playing them has all scared me away in the past.  So it was with trepidation that I gingerly double clicked on the desktop icon.


I quickly selected to go through a tutorial as I knew I would be completely lost having no previous experience with wargames.  Unfortunately the lack of any comprehensive instruction in the tutorials rendered them fairly useless as they basically consisted of an open scenario where you were just supposed to practice what the title of the tutorial was.





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With the tutorials out of the way, and armed with an newfound affirmed ignorance in the basic mechanics of the game, I found that there were many ways for me to get my tail kicked by the computer.  There are a lot of campaigns and missions to choose from, all of which I presume are based on real battles and scenarios.  Luckily for me, there were quite a few options in how to reduce the realism and improve my chances in outfoxing the enemy.



Unfortunately, the strategy in wargames is something I am completely unfamiliar with and the regular full frontal assault used in other real time strategy games didn't work.  The strategic difficulty was also compounded by the awkward camera control.  In theory an excellent idea, it is possible to move the camera any which way you desire and it is also possible to zoom out completely to have a bird's eye view of the ongoing chaos.  In practice, the interface design is not the most intuitive and took me a long time to become accustomed to.


The actual gameplay also was quite awkward.  Issuing commands and moving your troops is not as intuitive as it should be and executing a competent strategy can be frustrating in getting all of your troops to do what they are supposed to.  Perhaps that was the design intent, but nevertheless, it does provide for a challenging experience, in a non-complimentary way.  


gi-combat-battle-normandy-3.jpg (24849 bytes)          gi-combat-battle-normandy-4.jpg (42028 bytes)


On the positive side, the graphics and sounds, and overall presentation is absolutely fabulous.  I really got a feeling of the overall visceral action of trying to execute mission parameters in a chaotic situation.  Your troops and the enemy scream in pain when blown to bits by mortar shells, and downed troops slump over their rifles.  Not a pretty sight, but I'm sure, fairly accurate in what the designers wanted to portray.


As for me, I found the presentation technically impeccable, but was not able to sufficiently overcome the difficulty in issuing orders and controlling the camera to derive a lot of enjoyment from the game.  I guess in my heart of hearts, I'm just not a wargamer.


- Mark Leung

(February 5, 2003)


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