Developer: TimeGate Studios
Release Date: November 2, 2004
Pre-order 'AXIS & ALLIES': PC
Ever wanted to lead the D-Day invasion of Normandy? How about leading the American forces in the assault on Iwo Jima? Or maybe you'd prefer to lead the German army in the battle for Stalingrad? Well then, Timegate's Axis and Allies could be just the game you've been looking for. Lead Rommel's Afrika Korp through battles on the North African coast, or use your skill and cunning to block the German advance through the forest of Ardennes.
Axis and Allies features several modes of play. The tutorial is adequate, if a little slow, and gives you all the mechanics of game play. There are two single player campaigns, one for the Allies, and one for the Axis powers. These consist of some of the classic confrontations of World War II, including; the D-Day invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, the Ardennes offensive, and the battle of Iwo Jima. When you're done with them, there is a custom battle option that lets you set up your own game against multiple computer opponents. Then there's my favorite part…
… World War II. You play one of four generals from one of the five powers of the time; America, Russia, England, Germany, or Japan ("Where is France?" you ask. I'm assuming the designers had more important things to do than creating combat units that surrender as soon as they're attacked). This part of the game is turn-based, and play is sort of like "Risk." When you attack another country, or when you get attacked, you have the option to resolve the combat immediately, or go into a real time battle. Your objective is to capture two opposing capitals and thus ensure world domination. As I said, this is my favorite part of the single player games; I have really enjoyed conquering the world playing as the Japanese, sort of rewriting history, as it were.
I also enjoyed the astute attention to detail, which make the units strikingly realistic. The little things mean so much, such as a tank rocking as it fires its cannon or an infantry squad flying through the air as a result of mortar fire (that might be a little morbid, but I'm a bloodthirsty kind of guy). When I said that the units were realistic looking, I wasn't joking. Not only does a tank look like a tank, but it's easy to distinguish between a German Panzer and an American Sherman at a quick glance. They also put some time in on the sound effects as well; each type of gun and rifle in the game has its own distinct sound. The screams of dying troops can be almost musical, like some demented chorus from hell, and the explosions are loud and… well, they're loud. The musical score is good, but sometimes oddly timed. Nothing like hearing a cheerful victory march while your troops are being decimated.
As so often seems to be the case these days, online play is done through Game Spy, so you know reliability isn't really an issue. Many enjoyable hours can be spent crushing opponents from all over the world.
Each general has his own list of special abilities, such as Rommel's Blitzkreig, which grants a group of tanks increased speed, attack strength, and defensive strength for a short period of time. Everything from American nuclear weapons to German V-2 rocket attacks can be had, depending on the general that you choose (or that is chosen for you in the case of the campaign missions). There are also a large number of technological upgrades available to make your army more lethal and better able to defend itself. Units also gain experience, becoming battle-hardened and getting bonuses to attack and defense strength, as well as a boost to morale.
You are limited to twenty buildings, so planning out your strategy begins with planning your base. There are three resources: money, ammunition, and oil. All are produced by your buildings, and occasionally by towns that you've captured. Balancing your resource production and usage can be extremely tricky, especially early in your tenure as a player. You will spend a lot of time selling buildings to build other ones until you figure out how to make your resource production fit with your particular style of combat.
The AI is brutally efficient, and can blind-side you easily if your attention wanders. It is also well balanced, building decent defenses while constantly pressing the attack. The action can get fast and furious, and the battles can become monstrous at times. Add in air strikes and occasional naval bombardments, hard-core ground combat, and the ever-popular amphibious landing, shake well, and you've got a really good immersive experience, suitable for countless hours of wholesale slaughter on a worldwide scale.
All in all, I'd have to say that Axis and Allies is pretty much the total package as far a real-time game goes. It has huge replay value, and as far as I'm concerned, is probably one of the best I've played in a long time. My one and only complaint is there is nowhere near enough naval attention. The naval warfare had a large part in determining the outcome of the war, and to see that aspect more or less glanced over kind of rankled a bit, but I also think that the plusses in this case well outweigh that one minus.