As a human being, I am decidedly imperfect. In fact, I am a bundle of flaws: physical, intellectual, emotional--you name the aspect of existence, and I'll show you a glaring fault. As a result, I am sometimes intimidated by perfection. Have I read that great American novel? Maybe I'm not worthy. Seen that Oscar-winning film? Nah, it would just be over my head.
So it can be with games, too. There are games that are obviously so great, so polished, or so deep that I'm not sure I deserve to be playing them. As a result, I sometimes have the best time with games that, like me, are a bit flawed. Games like Digital Reality/CDV's War Front: Turning Point. It's a very good game, but maybe not a great one, and we can have a good time together without all that heavy baggage of perfection. Yeah, I'm not best, but neither are you.
Story and Gameplay
There are a mountain of WW2 RTS games that attempt some degree of historical realism, but War Front takes a decidedly unreal and refreshingly different approach to the conflict, positing an alternative history that begins with the defeat of Britain in 1940 and moves on to the creation of high-tech superweapons on all sides of the war. This is, of course, the game's main hook, the premise that sets it apart from the pack. Nazis with jet packs! Ice-throwing tanks! Mechs! Mechs? The game tosses in at least a dozen futuristic weapons (in addition to the more historically based units) and these are just plausible enough to fit the story.
Beyond the close-up trees of the fractured history and cool new weapons, the forest of the game is a decidedly familiar RTS game, with the standards of the genre comfortably intact: resource gathering, base building, production facilities, and the creation of persistent Hero units. Weapons and units are balanced according to the time-honored rock-paper-scissors formulae.
There are 11 missions from both the Allied and Axis viewpoint, and while these all generally end with the destruction of the enemy base, they are fast-paced and engaging, though you've played these kinds of battles many times before. There are familiar single player and multiplayer skirmish modes, plus Conquest, and an honest-to-God new multiplayer mode called Secret Orders, where each player has their own, unique win conditions.
Back to our premise of being comfortable with imperfection: sometimes our flaws can be re-tooled as loveable quirks, but sometimes they are simply annoyances. Into the latter category must go War Front's unit pathfinding AI, which necessitates a lot of player intervention. Also of dubious value is a first-person viewpoint feature, allowing the player to jump into the role of infantryman, commander, or armor driver. I tried it but never found it remotely useful.
Graphics and Sound
War Front: Turning Point looks very good, although some issues with jaggies, building scale, and overall color palette bring down the score a bit. As long as you don't look too closely or too critically, the art and unit design, environments, and weapons look pretty impressive, and explosions and destruction animations are extremely fun to watch and weather effects are top-notch.
Sound-wise, Turning Point is a little too flawed to love, with flaccid sound effects, limp voice acting and a few too many looped phrases. It's a shame that the impressive explosions aren't matched with equally bone-rattling sounds. Was there a musical score? I never noticed it.
Kudos to Digital Reality/CDV for a refreshing and mostly successful take on a genre that has seen far too many cookie-cutter iterations. The game blends historical reality and sci-fi elements really well, and while its gameplay is perhaps too comfortably familiar, the inclusion of high-tech future weapons makes the experience diverting. You won't be intimidated by War Front's greatness, but you won't be too put-off by its flaws, either.