PC Review - 'GI Combat'

by Justin on March 17, 2003 @ 1:04 a.m. PST

G.I. Combat is a 3D, Tactical Strategy game that engulfs you in the dynamic conflicts of World War II. Storm the beaches of Omaha in a historically detailed campaign set in Normandy, June 1944. The fully three-dimensional environment provides unsurpassed detail for terrain, armor penetration, vehicle movement, morale, and combat resolution! Immerse yourself in the agonizing struggle to hold back enemy offensives, lead an assault to capture key objectives, and charge into the fray with gritty, determined grunts!

Genre : Strategy
Developer : Freedom Games
Publisher : Strategy First
Release Date : 05-Nov-2002

After initially starting up G.I. Combat, the latest from Freedom Games, I was shown a pretty cool intro with some old black-and-white footage of soldiers, fighting, tanks, and basically, things that happen in a war. It had me interested. After I stepped into the game, though, I was let down by the ugly graphics, clunky menus, terrible camera, weak sound, and generally bad gameplay. What could have been an awesome 3D army game with loads of strategy isn't really exciting or interesting. Allow me to explain.

The game takes place during the second world war, with areas like Normandy to fight at. The idea is to give the player a group of soldiers, and have him devise a plan to defeat the opposing side. You get to choose which side you want to be a part of, and then pick out individual units to use. From points you earn, you can pick new ones, as well as gear they carry – you can have them carry rifles, pistols, med kits, or whatever other nifty items the game offers. You can even carry the same team over throughout the game, making up a top-notch squad of soldiers. There are a few training missions to settle you in, and then there are a number of different battles you can participate in. After selecting one, we’re shown a boring, useless briefing, before being deployed onto the battleground.

Generally, you start missions by selecting a team of soldiers. Then you're thrown into a map with your squad, and the objective to usually dispose of the enemy troops and take over their bases. Areas are generally full of foliage, plants, and lots of paths. You can control your troops in a variety of ways - simply marching, guarding, or running in for an assault, guns blazing. You have a few other means of attack too, such as the plane that flies by and drops a bomb on your target. Basically, though, that's the gist of it all. There could be a lot of room for strategy - imagine having a group of soldiers start to march towards Base A, but before they get there, have another group invade Base B, also belonging to the enemies. The bad guys would naturally call for help, and the units positioned at Base A would head over to Base B. While they're on their way, we could set up a bomb-drop to stop them in their footsteps. Then one squad marches in and captures Base A, while the fighting at Base B finishes up and is captured. Things like that would have been cool, and entirely possible.

Alas, you won't see much of anything like that going on in G.I. Combat. There are so many problems plaguing the game that it becomes absurd, at times. For starters, you can't select individual units, or even split up squads. That means your whole group of men travel together, and you can't give orders to certain people. Not to mention the fact that they tend not to listen to you anyway - their own AI often combats your commands, and the soldiers end up getting themselves killed quickly. It sometimes takes a long time for them to register commands - they'll be marching one way, but if I tell them to go another way, it takes them a few seconds to turn around. And even then, some of them continue walking in the same direction, as if they're mindless zombies. And man, do they walk slow! You would expect them to move like their lives depend on it. The only way to get around is by selecting Assault as your method of movement, even though you risk the chance of shooting you shouldn’t. But the other methods of movement are unreasonable.

The camera is also immeasurably bad. It's one of the few things you actually feel like you're in control of, but that's not saying much. The camera stays at a set height - one that can only be changed on the game's main options screen. This means you're constantly stuck in tree leaves, struggling to see just where your units are. You can't even make the camera look up or down. Imagine setting a camcorder on a table, flat. You can only move the camera from side to side, forward, or spin it around. That's basically how limited the camera is in G.I. Combat, and it makes for an annoying experience. Not only do you lose your troops, it's hard to spot things like flags - they're basically the same height as the average tree, and there's nothing pointing them out on the pitiful onscreen map. Expect to be frustrated.

I hate to say it, but the graphical quality of G.I. Combat compliments the quality of the camera rather nicely. The only things looking remotely good are the art design on the units, or some buildings and tanks. Even then, they're not stunning. But throw in terrible, jerky, slow animation on all of the units, and you get something really ugly. Watch as all of their limbs move erratically. It looks like all of your men are having seizures as they walk slowly, half-drunk. Sometimes a unit will even disappear and show up a few feet to the side. Not to mention the foliage. Since your camera is constantly stuck at it's height, they could have at least done a better job on it. Instead, we get pixelated, hardly transparent leaves - or should I say, blotches of green color. It's just not pretty.

Sound isn't that great, either. Despite the voiceover during the opening cinema, the rest of the game lacks good sound. There's not much background music to speak of. The sound effects are merely okay - guns sound fine enough, as do birds chirping and such. Explosions aren't all that menacing. Your soldier's cries of anguish can become terribly annoying as they shout and whimper the same lines over and over. I recommend muting the game and turning on some music if you plan on playing.

Despite my high hopes, G.I. Combat turned out to be pretty bad. What could have been a cool strategy game with weak graphics and sound is, unfortunately, a weak game with weak graphics and sound, lacking much strategy, intuitive controls, and, most importantly, fun. I advise you to skip this one, no matter how big of a war fan you are. Just as the real wars probably do, G.I. Combat gives you the feeling of wishing you were somewhere else.

Score: 3.5 / 10

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