The unending quest to create the definitive World War II videogame shows no sign of abating, and why not? Despite what could be perceived as a breathtaking lack of imagination, developers are evidently raising their game and producing consistently excellent titles if the likes of Call Of Duty, Secret Weapons Over Normandy and Hidden & Dangerous II are anything to go by. And it's the latter title that bears the greatest similarity to Codemasters' latest signing from Russian publisher 1C Company, titled Soldiers: Heroes Of World War II, a "fast-paced tactical strategy game" that "plays out like a blockbuster war movie" and is due out exclusively on the PC in the summer.
Developed by Ukrainian team Best Way, a trailer movie was released on the game's official website yesterday, revealing it to be another Eastern European title worth keeping an eye on, and shares more than a few gameplay principles with Illusion Softwork's flawed classic. Much like H&D2, Soldiers promises to combine the "thrills of a 3D shooter with the depth of a real-time strategy game" but promises to "take the keyboard-smashing frustration out of strategy gaming" where the "save key is everything". So it's not just us then? We'd rather not have to shell out for new keyboards every week if at all possible, so welcome, Soldiers. Sit down, put your feet up. Cigar?
Heroes and Villains
Each of the 25 "realistic yet explosive combat scenarios" has you in charge of a team of highly trained Special Forces "heroes" tasked with duking it out with the enemy in whatever way you see fit. Apparently Soldiers offers the player the option of playing in many different ways, be that with patient tiptoeing stealth, or with gun toting machismo. With Call Of Duty it was arguably too much of the latter with a quick fire sprint to the finish, while H&D was a painstaking example of the former, and not everyone's idea of a fun experience - we hope Best Way can find a satisfying middle ground and unite both camps.
As you'd expect, these scenarios centre around the war torn battlegrounds of Europe at the height of the conflict, and interestingly allow you to play from all sides of the war; the Brits, US, German or even the Russian forces - although whether that's from the start or at predetermined points as with Call Of Duty remains uncertain. In keeping with the authenticity we demand these days, there's the promise of accurately modelled weapons, vehicles, units and ammo, with (gulp) "totally realistic penetration physics". Better still, you can also commandeer enemy ordinance, unlike many war games we could mention.
Another promising feature is the "fully-destructible environment" which accounts for not only the buildings but other miscellaneous objects as well, and the trailer amply demonstrates how this feature works in practise with a group of terrified soldiers fleeing as the building they're camped in gets shelled to rubble and a gaping hole appears. Previous WW2 games have had plenty of destroyed buildings to roam around, but adding a dynamic element promises a whole layer of gameplay possibilities - although previous Geo-mod claims have been limited to say the least, so we'll wait with interest to see how this feature turns out.
The best of both worlds
A slick control system is also promised which will apparently combine the "best of RTS and 3D-action gaming" with Team Mode providing the ability to plot an entire unit's actions or Direct Control which zooms the game into a traditional third person action game view to allow you to play the game in a totally different way. Hidden & Dangerous II went some way to blending these two gameplay styles, but in truth it still wasn't the most intuitive or necessary way of playing the game. We'll maintain an intrigued level of scepticism until we get our grubby paws on this one.
As you'd expect, Codies is also bigging up the capabilities of the engine, which it (obviously) describes as "visually stunning", and claims that it's capable of a high level of detail that enables gamers to "pinpoint specific targets" (well, you'd hope), including the ubiquitous 'shoot the enemy's helmet off'. Sadly the short and somewhat fuzzy trailer doesn't deliver enough evidence of anything truly spectacular, but as a basic guide it looks easily on a par with Illusion's engine.
There's also the promise of online multiplayer gaming, so there's every chance that Soldiers could be a popular entrant to the wargaming arena when it arrives in the "summer". Until then, we look forward to a hands-on to see if it really does "play out like a blockbuster war movie"...