Available: March 2004
Demo: available (165 MB)

Desert Rats vs Afrika Korps © Digital Reality / Monte Cristo / Encore
Preview By: Patrick Moore
Posted on: 26 February 2004

With WW2 being one of the most replayed scenarios and times in history, it has become a much favored subject to game developers. Now, Monte Cristo is producing a few games based on different theaters of war during World War 2, and they seem to be turning out very nicely – or at least it's safe to say that for Desert Rats vs Afrika Korps, a late beta of which I got to try out.

As you start up DR vs AK, you're greeted by a menu with the usual choice of Options, Tutorial, Single Player, Multiplayer, Credits, and Exit. Single Player lets you choose three modes of play, Story Mode, Campaign, and Scenario. There's of course a story behind the game, but I will not unearth it here. Story mode is exactly like campaign, but it includes two special mission only available in it specifically. Campaign lets you choose Axis or Allies as your side, but you're warned that Axis will show more of a historical line towards the Allied campaign. Then there is Scenario, in which you can replay any mission you like.

Tutorial greets you as a German general, who you also play as in the Axis campaign. It basically leads you through the basic steps of controlling and using your armies' potential to the fullest. The Tutorial is mostly good if you don't know the common control scheme for strategy games.

Digital Reality is doing an excellent job on the graphics engine. Trees sway and get taken down gracefully by tanks, parts of buildings can be destroyed by tank shells, soldiers fight to the last ounce of strength and determination, and it all looks like an actual war. Other than a few graphical glitches that hopefully will be fixed in the retail version, tanks are so extremely detailed, just like in Blitzkrieg, that you can see tiny markings and metal scratches all over the vehicles. Game graphics are definitely a strong point in DR vs AK.

Sound is detailed down to the ricketing and squeaking of halftracks. Soldiers reply in their native accent, including pilots and vehicle crews. Guns sound so realistic, you'd think you were watching an old WW2 John Wayne movie – which is very impressive detail for a strategy game. Sound is turning out really nicely it seems.

Some really interesting feature not seen in any other game (that I know of), is the ability to man any abandoned vehicle, with different classes of soldiers. Instead of using specific 'engineers' or 'crew' to use the various weaponry, you can use normal infantry, which each bring their own bonuses to it, such as Scouts give better visibility, Machine gunners give better secondary-weapon firing speed (MG's), and Grenadiers give primary weapon reload speed. This is a very interesting feature, as sometimes your units only hurt the vehicle itself, and kill the crew – leaving it to be stolen by some of your own.

Multiplayer lets you choose your name, then logon and create a game/login to a game, and play against people. Although I wasn't able to fully test it, I was able to get a few games going against my co-workers. From what I saw, MP looks almost like SP but without some of its major elements. MP also comes with a wide variety of maps, and game modes too – but I'll leave that for our review of the game.


DR vs AK is coming along very nicely it seems, and it even brings a couple of innovative features to strategy games. RTS gamers like myself should look for this game on the sleves in Q2 of 2004. Thanks Encore for letting me preview such a great RTS.