Genre : Strategy
Developer : Walkon Games
Publisher : GMX [UK]
Release Date : March 23, 2004
Combined Arms Gaming
One of the great things about PC gaming is the cult followings certain games develop. There are so many different markets and niches out there that have game worthy computers that for almost every type of geek there is a game tailor made for him (I suppose it could be a as well, but get real). One of these cult classics is the German born CDV Sudden Strike series which has spawned a healthy internet community which has developed many mods, even the commercially marketed Sudden Stroke series of expansion discs. Sudden Strike’s success stemmed out of a methodical style of gameplay not yet seen in real time strategy games. There were classics such as Homeworld that required a thought out strategy and judicious employment of units and resources, but Sudden Strike called for a much more realistic approach due to limited force structures and specialized units crucial to completing objectives. It was this style of command and control that bought Sudden Strike credit with the grognards and probably lost its mainstream appeal as well, which is sad but the nature of the industry.
Fast forward two years. GMX Studios, famous for its ultra-realistic expansions to the Microsoft Combat Flight Sim series (look for my review of GMX’s D-Day expansion disc for CFS3 soon), has entered the market with this rendering of the Sudden Strike engine in modern terms. Cold War Conflict: Days in the Field 1950-1973 uses the same Sudden Strike engine, albeit modified and updated, to convey modern battlefields from famous conflicts in the latter half of the 20th Century. The Arab Israeli conflict has been left largely untapped by the war-game genre with some exceptions, but CWC attempts to address some of the more famous actions of the ongoing struggle. There is the ubiquitous American campaign which takes place in the second stage of the Korean War, the Breakout of the Pusan Pocket, but most surprisingly is that CWC tackles the Korean War from the North Korean perspective. These daring and intriguing campaigns already make for a compelling game, especially if you are familiar with the Sudden Strike series.
Gameplay is deceptively simple. You can point and click a-la Starcraft but will soon find yourself out maneuvered and outgunned and your little pixel troopers left as bloody smears across your monitor. AS with Sudden Strike, Cold War Conflict makes liberal use of hotkeys. You’ll find yourself playing an RTS game almost as if it were a first person shooter. These keys are crucial as many of your units special abilities are inaccessible through mouse clicks. Some may lament that fact, but in the end it makes sense as the time it would take to navigate through menus by clicking would take too long anyway. So in short, don’t be lazy and learn the hotkeys.
CWC’s graphics are based on an isometric view of a 2D battlefield painted by pixels. The terrain looks nicely detailed and at higher resolutions you are able to see a vast amount of terrain which is crucial to your success. Unfortunately this vast viewing space on the game’s highest resolution setting (1024X768) results in really small units. This would not have been a problem if selecting units wasn’t such a precise art. I found myself leaving men behind often because they blended so well into the terrain. It is not that their camouflage is so good; it is that they are so small. A simple work around is to organize your men into platoons and squads before you set off however this is an annoying work around at best. Truly, this game should incorporate two features that would make it so much more playable and enjoyable. Had there been a menu before each mission where you can look at your force’s TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment) then you could organize the right mix of units with each other right there and then set off. That is how the real Army does it. Then once downrange each unit should have some sort of unit tag or base so you can easily distinguish where your men are.
Music is simple and during the game it is nonexistent. Sound effects are solid. Submachine guns sound puny next to heavy machine guns and mortars have the right sort of “thunk” when firing. Artillery strikes sound appropriately deafening and fixed gun emplacements rip off barrages in a means that adds depth to the battlefield. When it comes to sound one of the most impressive, however obstructing, detail I encountered was language. Each army speaks the right language. Egyptians speak Arabic, Israelis speak Hebrew, Koreans speak Korean and Americans holler. The only problem is that it is tough to understand if what they are saying is positive or negative and any sort of situation report is totally lost on your ears unless you’re fluent. I speak a limited amount of Korean and I had no idea what the Koreans were saying. I suppose it would have made things easier if everyone spoke English with an accent, but the native tongues employed certainly adds character.
All in all, CWC is a competent game. It won’t set the world on fire, but those interested in military history will find a great deal of appeal in these new perspectives on old conflicts and totally new theaters of battle to play around in. The campaigns are structured around each other with success and failure in mind. If you fail your objectives in one stage of the campaign, later stages are affected which is nice. It would have been easy to make objectives and requirement of progression, this way there is some tangible incentive to getting the job done right the first time. The only major criticism I have for CWC is the unit selection and employment of the units at the outset. You are not provided with most in-depth briefing and the time it takes to organize your forces at the beginning of each mission can be really tedious and lead to errors in judgment based out of boredom. I would say that CWC will definitely satisfy current Sudden Strike junkies for some time and maybe even grab a few new followers to the series. Although in the end this game isn’t going to revolutionize digital battlefield.
Score : 7.0/10
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