Sometimes it's good to get a reader review of a lesser known game, just to raise awareness and to get a viewpoint on a game you may otherwise have ignored. So we'd like to thank Chad Lennerts for taking the time to write about Combat Mission Battle for Normandy.
And the best reader review each month wins a Blu-ray pack courtesy of Madman.
Take it away Chad!
Not another WW2 game... but hold up this one is a little different. It's a strategy game with no base building, no spawning of units and no tech trees. The Combat Mission series has always unashamedly catered to a niche group of gamers – the military and history buffs. If Starcraft was really Call of Duty, Combat Mission would be ARMA II. Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy (hereafter CM:BN) is a return to developer/publisher Battlefront's late war western front roots after a foray into modern combat with their last outing, Combat Mission Shock Force. Armed with their new engine, they've managed to create a richly detailed strategy game with surprising depth, replay value and a robust scenario/campaign tools.
Loved Would you like your strategy served Real Time or Turn Based? – CM:BN is unique in that it can be played either as an RTS (with the ability to pause and issue orders as the player wishes) or turn based. The turn based system is known as WeGo, where the player inputs commands for all his units before pressing 'the big red button' for the turn to process. What follows is 60 seconds of uninterrupted video that can be viewed from any angle. This mode also comes in handy for playing multiplayer games via email, perfect for those gamers that are time poor.
Realism – The game can be completely unforgiving. Just like it was in 1944, artillery strikes may stray off the intended target. Tanks can get bogged just out of line of sight of the enemy while troop morale can plummet at just the wrong moment. The focus of the game has clearly gone into creating a simulation rather than a sporting RTS like Starcraft. The damage models for vehicles are mind boggling complex, where individual components of the vehicle can be damaged and tank commanders can be sniped. Every soldier is modelled on a 1:1 ratio with every bullet and grenade that squad carries being recorded. A number of scenarios are also based on actual engagements. Yes the skirmish from the D-Day episode of Band of Brothers is in there.
Modding and Community – The series has always had a dedicated community of modders and scenario designers who have provided alternative textures, sounds, music and interface to Combat Mission games over the years and they are already hard at work judging by the forums. The game is easy for users to apply mods, with the developers openly supporting this from the start.
Map Editor – A robust map editor, allows you to create detailed maps, scenarios and campaigns of linked battles. Mission objectives are more than simply take that hill/church/tree. Other objectives can include conserve forces, ammo, or targeting specific enemy units. No battle feels the same as a result.
Hated Let's party like it's 1999 – Battlefront is a small studio with a handful of employees that doesn't try to compete with your big publishers. Don't expect a big budget presentation or the most up to date graphics. Though this negative is helped by the active modding community it would have been nice to see the P-51 fly across the map dropping bombs rather than a shadow and a couple of bombs falling out of no where. It's a minor gripe but there are spots where the 'oh wow' factor simply isn't there compared to your more mainstream games. On the plus side you don't need a powerful computer to run it!
Balance – The game is meant to be more of a simulation than a balanced RTS. You'll come to hate MG42's, mortars and Panther tanks for good reason. Scenarios need to be well designed to get the most out of the game and can be effectively over quickly if you have a run of bad luck.
CM:BN isn't a game for everyone but if you fall into the military/history buff category then it's definitely worth a look. What has just been released is the base game which includes US (inc Airborne) and German Army forces. Upcoming modules will introduce Commonwealth forces, Waffen SS and extend the theatre to cover Operation Market Garden. You can try a demo and purchase the game directly via the developer's website.