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PC Preview - 'Codename: Panzers, Phase Two'

by Mark Crump on July 4, 2005 @ 1:38 a.m. PDT

Codename: Panzers, Phase Two will bring armchair generals to the war-torn battlefields of Africa, Southern Europe and the Balkans where they will fight as the Anglo-American Allies, the German-Italian Axis or the Yugoslavian resistance. A complement of heroes, both new and familiar, will be the players' alter egos in dozens of new missions as they attempt to lead their troops to victory.

Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Stormregion
Release Date: July 25, 2005

If I were a very lazy writer, I'd point to my review of Code Name Panzers: Phase One (WP rating 8.4/10) and tell you to add the phrase "ships with a map editor" at the bottom and call it day. Code Name Panzers: Phase Two is definitely a continuation of a theme, instead of a true sequel. Fortunately, I am only a moderately lazy writer, so I will also tell you that the terrain is a tad better.

While I jest, other than the change of battlegrounds, those are the big differences. But that's not a bad thing; the original game was great, and the near-final build I played proved to me that Phase Two looks to be as great as the first.

Phase One showcased the European conflict; Phase Two takes the battle to North Africa and Italy. As in the previous game, you've got a set amount of units to complete the missions with, and they are aided by the usual variety of off-map bombardment units. How well you perform during the missions dictates how many points you get to spend on reinforcements.

Aside: You'll want to keep replying the missions until you get good marks because the extra prestige points will make the next missions a tad easier. One other thing I noticed is that the missions seem a tad harder in Phase Two. In the first game, I could snooze my way through the early missions, but this time I had to actually think. As a result, the missions can get a tad "keep trying repeatedly until you find a plan that works." Either that, or I'm just getting dumber in my old age. Another carry-over is the requirement to keep your hero unit alive through the mission, and some of them require you to keep multiple heroes alive. It's a plot device I continue to tire of; can't we just pretend the hero was one of the units that actually survived and dispense with this BS?

Once again, you can play either the Allied or the Axis campaigns, and after you complete those, you unlock the bonus campaign that allows you to play the Yugoslavian Irregular Forces (maybe if they ate more fiber, they'd be more regular, ba-doom, boom. Thank you, try the veal). The campaign's plot lines are revealed through letters the heroes write home as well as cut scenes.

One knock I had with the original is the voice work was truly horrible, and this time professional actors are used, including Robocop's Peter Weller as the American hero. However, the individual unit voiceovers get annoying quickly. Pet peeve number two: what is it with every single unit having to comment on your instructions, and having such a limited repertoire? And the "Mama mia, they hit us hard" phrase made by the Italian units when they get hit is also equally annoying.

The plot is well written, especially the letters home. The AI seems better as well; this time, I noticed enemy units fleeing when they were being overrun, which probably accounts for the increase in difficulty level.

You'll find the graphics largely unchanged from Phase One. Sure, the terrain is more detailed, but the units and buildings still look the same, and the explosions still look and sound excellent. The controls are very intuitive and it's easy to navigate the map, assign control groups and move units. The same semi-destructible environment is here — tanks run over fences, etc.

Oddly enough, it's how similar Codename Panzers: Phase Two is to the previous title that's its biggest downfall. There's a certain amount of "second verse, same as the first verse…" here; if Phase One didn't float your tank, Phase Two offers nothing to convince you to give it a whirl. So, the real appeal here is either for someone who's finished the original game and is cryin' for more, or the WWII fan who wants to try one of the few war games that don't take place in Europe (or, you've really wanted to play the Yugoslavian Bran-deficient Army). While I enjoyed playing around with the build, it was hard to escape a certain sense of déjà-vu.

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