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PC Review - 'Blitzkrieg II'

by Justin on Feb. 23, 2006 @ 12:33 a.m. PST

Blitzkrieg II is created with a new focus on fast-paced gameplay, a strategic layer and new tactical opportunities. A completely new engine takes WWII into full 3D where players can command famous aces and units, strategically plan battles in multiple theatres, choose their reinforcements and use a wide range of new unit types such as aircraft and ships.

Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: CDV Interactive
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: September 26, 2005

Buy 'BLITZKRIEG II': PC

Blitzkrieg 2 is a new real-time strategy title from the fine fellows at Nival Interactive. Yes, it's (another) World War II strategy game, but at least it's not another first-person shooter, huh? Actually, Blitzkrieg 2 is a relatively refreshing take on the World War II theme: you take control of either the United States, Great Britain, or the Soviet Union in nearly 70 intense missions. While you might not alter history, it's a fun ride, and cool full-motion videos interspersed throughout help keep the missions flowing smoothly and feeling more effective than a purely text-based presentation.

The original Blitzkrieg was well received in 2003, due to its sharp, fast-paced gameplay. While it was sort of based on World War II as well, sporting very accurate units and some vague storytelling, it felt detached. It also looked a little dated; 2D graphics are fine and dandy, but there was little style to speak of. It was straightforward, and the interface could have used a lot of work, but many found a compelling new strategy title in its complex (yet fun) gameplay.

Blitzkrieg 2 tosses away the tired 2D visuals in favor of an eye-pleasing 3D system. Users can manipulate the camera to a degree to make sure all of the action is squarely under your control. The interface has been largely cleaned up, instead focusing on much more context-sensitive information, a useful mini-map, and the button panel feels well crafted and makes sense. All of this helps present information that can help you in your war, such as ratings of the front, side, and rear armor on tanks (which also happen to be historically accurate!). You'll also find a boatload of random facts tucked away here and there for your enjoyment.

One huge difference in Blitzkrieg 2 from most strategy games is the total lack of resource gathering. Instead, you call in reinforcements, hopefully without exhausting a resource that you'll require later for an equally important goal. The game mainly draws your attention to the most action-packed situations; there are missions during which you capture or rescue small towns, escort certain units, seize the enemy's bases, assault strategic points, and defend your own territory at all costs.

After successfully completing a mission, you will be awarded a number of points, which can be spent on upgrading units, gaining the ability to cover new kinds of terrain, or earning new weapons, like grenades. You can also assign a commanding officer to your units who don't really do much commanding but help the units learn to use and maximize their specialties. All in all, there are well over 250 different kinds of units, including tanks, aircraft, infantry, and more.

You have control over all of your units at any time and can select them in groups or command them individually, but the AI still tries to assist you in the struggle for victory. This is a good thing, most of the time. There's usually no problem with your tanks and infantry getting the job done, but they aren't without their flaws; troops often take entirely inappropriate routes to reach their destination or run straight into something that common sense would say to go around, or, at the very least, wait for further instructions. Occasionally, too, your soldiers will go chasing after a single enemy unit that runs away from the flock. While it isn't a big deal with soldiers, it is when it's a tank that's lumbering after a single little guy. In the heat of the battle, you don't want to find that one of your most essential tools is 100 yards away in the forest standing over one dead body. It's rare that stuff like this happens, but it is very annoying when it does, sometimes costing you the mission.

The questionable-at-times AI does play to your advantage, too. It's especially evident in the enemy's attack formations. There's absolutely no rhyme or reason to the oncoming warriors – infantry, tanks, and engineer trucks are all jumbled together in a huge moving mass that can't adequately protect itself. These "convoys" also tend to get stuck on bridges, making for easy destruction. It's almost like some kind of trap that only catches rabbits and lets the hunter go and shoot his dinner sadistically. Blitzkrieg 2 also offers eight-player LAN matches and internet play.

Make no mistake, the developers did not skimp on the visual presentation with this game. It looks quite good at all times, even when zoomed in as far as possible (which, admittedly, isn't as far as some games allow, but do you really need to be able to see your characters' faces in a game like this, anyway?). Infantry moves realistically, tanks trudge across the ground as one would expect, aircrafts drop surprise bombs at any time, setting off some rather impressive explosions – it's all very nice. I refrain from saying it's pretty, though, with tanks toppling over trees, slamming through houses, bloodied carcasses laying every which way, and burning things everywhere ... well, "impressive" would be a better descriptor. Sadly, all of this can take a toll on the game's framerate, even on computers that exceed the recommended specifications.

All of the sound work in Blitzkrieg 2 seems very professional and well thought-out. Guns fire relentlessly, tanks' engines roar in the heat of battle, airplanes whiz overhead and leave presents that really go boom. The musical score is decent enough, as well; it certainly wouldn't win any awards, but it fits the game well enough. One thing that I wish the developers would eschew, as they did with resource gathering, are those terribly annoying order confirmations from units. You know the sort – phrases like "Roger that," and " “I'm on it," which are repeated to no end until you don't even hear them anymore. They're relatively harmless, though.

With its snappy sense of speed and super-detailed gameplay, Blitzkrieg 2 is an extremely solid strategy title. Whether you're looking to recreate a battle just as it happened or simply command some sweet-looking tanks and aircraft from the '40s, the game should fit your bill. Blitzkrieg 2 isn't quite the caliber of Starcraft or Warcraft, and it's not going to blow the real-time strategy genre out of the water, but for fans of WWII or RTS titles, it's definitely worth a purchase. Blitzkrieg 2 should keep you busy for a long time, with a number of missions and constantly changing units, and you can always join in on some warfare with some good buddies with the multiplayer mode. Check it out.

Score: 8.3/10

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