John Constantine over at MTV has written a piece today on alternative locations for WW2 games, which I am going to add to, as this is something that’s been grinding my gears for some time now as well.
I mean, how many times do we need to storm the beaches of Normandy? Or scour the ruins of Berlin? It’s no wonder people say they’re sick of playing WW2 games when they play the same people fighting the same enemy in the same locations over and over and over.
The Second World War was fought across Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, North Atlantic, Indian sub-continent, South East Asia, the South Pacific, even Australasia, so it’s time games started mixing things up and representing some of these theatres. Who knows, it may even breathe a little life into a “genre” the industry has finally decided has had its day.
John listed five (one of which, Egypt, has actually been well represented in both Call of Duty and strategy titles), so I’m going to list five more, involving theatres and nations that go a little beyond your standard Allies vs Nazis fare.
The Malayan Campaign – While Japan’s attacks on Pearl Harbour have been well-covered, their initial attacks on the British Empire have not. The Malayan campaign saw the Japanese army completely overrun an ill-prepared force of British, Australian, Indian and local forces, and would end with the fall of Singapore, the single largest surrender in the history of the British armed forces.
East Africa – One of the forgotten theatres of the war, the East African campaign saw a motley collection of “British” troops – from Britain, South Africa, India, African colonies and even some Belgian and Palestinian forces – take on the Italians in what is now modern day Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Sudan. Hardly the most epic confrontations of the war, but the terrain, locals and forces involved are more than unique enough to make up for it.
Korea – Another forgotten theatre, Korea saw action in the closing days of the war when the Soviet Union, free to focus on the Pacific theatre with the Germans defeated, declared war on Japan and invaded Mongolia and Korea. The weary Japanese forces were completely overrun, with the speed and brutality of the Soviet offensive doing much to contribute to Japan’s surrender, a fact often overlooked by Western historians.
New Guinea – In 1942, the island of New Guinea – at the time governed by Australia – was invaded by the Japanese. Throughout the next year the Japanese and Australian armies would fight bitterly along the “Kokoda Track”, a campaign now famous for the fact it for the first time blunted the Japanese land advance in the South Pacific.
Finland – Finland’s participation in the Second World War is both fascinating and tragic, as the Scandinavian state actually fought three separate conflicts between 1939 and 1945. The first, the Winter War, was when the Soviet Union – as part of the same deal that saw the Soviets and Nazis divide Poland between them – invaded. Against the odds, the Finns defeated the Russians. The second conflict came when the Finns sided with the Nazis and invaded the USSR, hoping to reclaim some territory lost in the Winter War. By 1944, however, the Finns had turned on the Germans, and fought a series of battles in Lapland, driving them back into German-held Norway.
Those are just five to get us started. There are plenty more worth investigating – Japan’s advance on India, the Chinese Communist Party’s guerilla war and Operation Pastorius (German subs landing spies on the US mainland) – and that’s just a few. Hopefully in the years to come some of these unheralded (yet extraordinary) tales can be brought to life in a game, showing that it’s not necessarily the war that’s grown stale, it’s just certain parts of it.