Preview by Dennis Sloutsky
So many WW2 Real Time Strategy games have been made by now, that one would think that "The Secret To Making Good WW2 RTS Games(TM)" was already found and licensed, and making new games based on the same war theatre would be pointless. Yet, this meatheaded statement made by yours truly remains just what it is --a meatheaded statement-- , due to a wide number of reasons. While such gems as Blitzkrieg and Sudden Strike do exist, unfortunately this level of quality can be rarely achieved, and while most recent WW2 RTS games managed to squeeze themselves into the 'average or better' category, for every Blitzkrieg there's always a few War Times floating around. But an even more important factor might lay within the fact that even the so called "classics" of WW2 RTS games by now have started showing their age, and can no longer keep the fans of the genre, or at least most of them, satisfied. Thankfully we've got Blitzkrieg 2 and Soldiers: Heroes of WWII somewhere on the horizon; both of the games look good from what we've seen so far, but since they didn't quite make their way to stores just yet, let me introduce you "Codename: Panzers" (just Panzers from now on).
Panzers was announced by CDV back in Fall 2002, and while it was originally scheduled for end of 2003, it was delayed a number of times. Teaming up to make the game fun are Hungarian veteran game developers Stormregion (familiar to most of us for the funny RTS game S.W.I.N.E., where rabbits were facing pigs in an all-out war, which was their last project), and one of CDV's top producers, Achim Heidelauf (who was responsible for producing the blockbuster RTS game Earth 2150, among others) - just by combining these two names together, a spark of curiosity regarding their final product is inevitable. Thankfully I was able to obtain a beta version of the game, featuring 2 levels playable on the German side, as well as the tutorial (note: the missions played by me were precluding to the "Warsaw" mission that was recently released in the playable demo of the game).
At start, Panzers looks like yet another 'classic' 3D RTS game, complete with mouse-controlled camera controls, numerous troop types, three campaigns (German, Allied, Russian), and missions with primary and secondary objectives. However that's where the differences between it and most other RTS games out there start. In reality, Panzers lets you pause the game at any given moment, and issue new commands to your forces. This gives me grounds to call Panzers a quasi-real-time strategy game, for all the obvious reasons. Another reason why Panzers is so different from most other WW2 games, is due to the quality of the graphics used in game. The upgraded SWINE engine can do miracles, and motion capture used for soldiers' movements does wonders. All in all, the battles are an eye candy to look at, if you have sufficient hardware to do so, of course. Speaking of the soldiers, there are many types of infantry and vehicle units available in the game, and vehicle units will even be available for overtaking (say, if you're using a flamethrower...).
Already released in Germany (and receiving fine review scores there), Panzers is a game that will appeal to both fans of tactical, as well as direct combat (although in the latter case your chances to win won't look too good). Every mission has a few approaches one could use to finish it, and while engaged in fierce firefights, one will have to keep a healthy combination of troops; that will make sure that you'll be able to take on all obstacles placed in front of you.
While multiplayer was not included in the beta played by yours truly, considering the quality of the single player game mode, it surely must be a blast. I'll be eagerly awaiting Codename: Panzers when it ships to stores across North America and Europe at the end of this summer, and I'd suggest you to do the same, if you're even remotely interested by good RTS games - you will not be disappointed.