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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Real-time Strategy

 

Publisher

Codemasters

 

Developer

Best Way

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q3 2004

 

 

- Beautiful graphics and effects

- Fast action gameplay

- Excellent music and sound effects

 

 

- Micro management of inventory

- So-so AI

- Camera can be restrictive

- How to complete objectives can be vague

- Some minor stability issues

 

 

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Soldiers: Heroes of World War II

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

This game caught me completely by surprise. When my package arrived from Omni, I looked at the discs and thought, “Great some more tripe from Codemasters.” I could not have been more wrong. Generally, I tend to shy away from any games having to do with either World War I or World War II. Sure, I enjoy my doses of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, but the strategy games for either of the Great Wars, have been difficult for me to get a handle on. The rich historical aspect of some wargames seems to be a bit much for me. Soldiers: Heroes of World War II tends not to dwell on the exact tank movements of a certain battle in hopes of achieving one hundred percent accuracy. Instead, it focuses its gameplay on real life events albeit with some artistic flair.

 

soldiers review          soldiers review

 

The game plays basically as a regular real time strategy game, but without any building, resource gathering or the ability to obtain more units. Instead, the gamer controls a small collection of men and is forced to surmount next to impossible odds. For instance, with just a collection of two ground troops and one Russian tank, you must take out an entire fortified German controlled village complete with antitank gun emplacements, and its own legions of troops and armor units. Of course, as most hardcore RTS gamers will attest to, it is always better to control directly than to let your AI take care of the job.

 

The developers of Soldiers took this a step further, and in the game, you can and will directly control your units. From a traditional RTS camera that can be rotated and tilted, you can tell your men to go and where to shoot etc. However, a far more effective way in controlling your units, is to take direct control over them. This is accomplished by pressing a modifier on the keyboard (preset to Ctrl), and voila; the arrow keys control the direction that the unit moves and the mouse controls the targeting reticule of the unit. The importance of controlling your units directly is quickly evident as sitting back and commanding your units usually gets them blasted to bits. By directly controlling your units, taking down an enter Panzer Division, no longer becomes impossible; it is merely a challenge.

 

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A large part of the game is the many vehicles, gun emplacements, and weapons that your units can use and pick up. There are many tanks, motorcycles, armored cars, trucks, and gun emplacements that your men can jump right in and use. Some vehicles will operate better with more than one operator. For instance a tank takes four people to operate, however, in a bid for less reality but faster paced action, one unit can use a tank, but it will operate less efficiently. With only 

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one operator, because the driver must drive, and be the gunner, the tank must be stationary to fire. However, with the full crew, your tank will be the bane of all infantry units.

 

In most missions, you will be up against overwhelming odds. As such, the vehicles that you can disable, repair and commandeer will be a key strategic component to your objectives. Also, you will likely find yourself running out of ammo quite often. Luckily, you will be able to pick up and use weapons and ammunition from the scores of dead enemies that you will leave in your wake. Most weapons have specific ammunition types, and you will find designating each unit to a certain weapon type most efficient. In addition, you will have a variety of grenades and items that you can pick up and use.  

 

The inventory does require some micromanagement and this can be irritating. Each unit’s inventory is represented by a box with a number of slots. Most anything will fit into that box, but each item takes up a different number of slots. The sensible design decision would be to have the inventory manage itself every time your soldier picked something new up. However, this is not the case, and I found myself having to manually manage the inventory of my soldiers so that each could carry more. Of course, carrying more does make your soldiers slower and does decrease their stamina. Every soldier has a stamina bar that decreases as the solder moves. It is only recovered if the solder is operating a vehicle or if they are not moving. When the stamina gauge is run down, the movement of the soldier slows to a crawl.

 

For the most part, the AI path finding of your units is fairly good. However, at times, they would split up and take different routes, where a single route would have been more safe and efficient. The enemy AI is also not too bad in that they will move around you and try to flank your position. Also, picking off an enemy unit will cause surrounding units to scramble for cover and return fire. There were some times when picking off enemy units in vehicles yielded no response from the other units in the vehicle. For instance, sniping a gunner of a stationary armored vehicle y will msimply caused the driver to take the gunner’s place with no reaction. Then, by sniping the driver taking the gunner’s place, I was able to take over a vehicle that I may have had to destroy initially. Jumping into vehicles also causes enemy units to somehow know your position, no matter how well hidden you were initially. You can place your soldier right next to the vehicle in plain view at a fair distance, and the enemy will not fire. However, as soon as you step into the vehicle, they somehow know that your vehicle is unfriendly.

 

soldiers review          soldiers review

 

The single player portion is spread over a series of missions leading to a greater objective for each country including the US, Germany, Russia, and the UK. Each is based on actual events, and for me, the stories generated a new appreciation and interest in finding out what really happened in each case. Each mission has set objectives and some new ones that arise when completing the set ones. The only problem with how the objectives manifest themselves is that at times, you will not know what to do, and the objectives are too vague in letting you know how to complete them.

 

In the allied campaign involving SAS commandos, you are required to destroy a lighthouse and two enemy mortars. The objective says that you must destroy the lighthouse, and when you click the objective guide, it will take you to the lighthouse and show it to you so you know what to destroy. Well, I had destroyed the lighthouse but had failed to destroy one of the mortars and it took me forever to find out what I was supposed to do to complete the level, as I had already taken out all of the German forces on the map. Another example of this is during the Russian campaign, you are required to steal a train and exit through a specific exit. If you do not switch the railroad tracks to the correct setting, you will automatically fail the mission as soon as the train hits starts going down the incorrect fork. With no clear directive showing you what to do, completing some of the campaigns can be frustrating.

 

Technically, the game has some unbelievable graphics. The engine is a bit slow, so scrolling through the terrain can cause some low frame rates, however, anyone with a Radeon 9500 Pro equivalent or better shouldn’t have too many problems. The cool thing about the engine though is that absolutely everything can be destroyed. Enemy soldiers in houses will break the glass before firing upon your squad. If you throw a grenade into a house, German soldiers may fly out of the windows with explosion; may, only because every act of destruction is different depending on the position and circumstances of the explosion. Throw a grenade at a tank and if it explodes near the top, you may take out the machine gun, but the tank will still be able to move and fire its main cannon. However, if you throw the grenade under the tank it can cause the tank to flip over or simply explode five feet in the air. Driving through the countryside in a tank can is perhaps the greatest showcase of what the engine is capable of. Each act of destruction is paired with an accurate sound effect as well.

 

In addition to the single player portion, there is a multiplayer option that features co-op play. Also, there is already a burgeoning mod community developing for the game. At last glance one of the more interesting mods I came across was a camera mod that would unlock how low the camera could zoom in. Generally, the camera can only be tilted so far down before it locks. This can be a problem in some of the levels when trying to take down units that are on higher terrain or when aiming at units in houses. The mod in question allows players to zoom right in to the action and allows for a much more free experience.

 

The most serious drawback I found, if you can call it a drawback these days, is that the game has some minor stability issues right out of the box. Although, I was able to play the game without too many interruptions, there were some hard crashes where I had to reset my computer. In addition, there is already a 38 megabyte patch out for the game. After installing the patch, my copy failed to run, and searching the Codemasters forum, I found this to be the case for some other users as well. So if you decide to get the game, skip the patch initially and wait for a newer patch to fix the problems with the old patch.

 

Aside from that, Soldiers is well worth the investment as the game has a lot of pluses. The campaigns are wholly involving and I found myself deprived of sleep for a quite few nights when reviewing this game. The graphics are gorgeous and the game engine has some excellent physics. With the excellent sound effects and music, the game drew me right into the atmosphere, and these days, all gamers should be demanding no less.

 

- Mark Leung

(July 15, 2004)

 

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