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Review by: Jim Richmond
Published: July 6, 2004
World War II Germany didn’t churn out many leaders who are remembered kindly in the annals of history. Militarily, however, some of those men who led the fight for their fatherland are still considered skilled tacticians, even if they took their orders from a genocidal madman. Field Marshal Edwin Rommel, one of the better known German commanders, was a major contributing force to Germany’s success in its assault on Africa. Recently, developer Nival Interactive released a standalone add-on for its real-time strategy game Blitzkrieg, called Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon, that gives you a Rommel’s-eye view of World War II Africa and lets you experience the other side of the fight.
In Burning Horizon, you lead Rommel’s famed Armored 7th Panzer Division through 18 historical battles like Ardennes, Tripolis, El Alamein and Normandy. Each scenario begins with a mission briefing and historical background; then hands over control of tanks, snipers, air power, artillery and ground troops. Missions include a wide variety of objectives such as airborne assaults, evacuations, covert ops, defense, counter-attacks and assassination.
Burning Horizon sets itself apart from the rest of the real-time strategy crowd by focusing on realistic elements of combat during World War II. One aspect of this is that every unit has both armor and armor piercing ratings. Where in the Command and Conquer series a group of ground troops with rifles stood a chance of taking out a contingent of tanks, in Burning Horizon all ground troops can do if assaulted by rolling armor is run the other way. If soldiers can get close enough they can sabotage the tracks, freezing the metal beast in place, but they can’t destroy it. Even some smaller tanks prove ineffectual against their larger counterparts because they don’t pack enough punch. Armor ratings are determined by historical information about units including armor thickness, weight, and the angle at which armor was placed on vehicles.
Likewise, Burning Horizon stays true to the feel of war by eliminating resource collection. Instead of base-building and coordinated excavation of minerals, you are given a contingent of units and you must win or lose the battle with what you’re provided. Of course you’re not totally isolated from a refresh of mortar shells or rifle clips. Stockpiles are scattered around the map and can be used by sappers and engineers to restock their stores after repairing vehicles and bridges. Additionally, sappers and engineers act as supply lines, delivering additional ammunition to resupply your combat units. Stockpiles are owned by one side of the conflict or the other though, so in many cases, if you want to use a depot, you have to first take it by force.
Heading up a Panzer division, one would expect tanks to be the most useful units on the battlefield. While tanks are a major force in deciding who wins and who goes home with a Purple Heart, the timely deployment of other weapons and vehicles also plays an unshakably large part in determining advancement or retreat. Arial support comes in five flavors including reconnaissance, bombers, fighters, air-to-ground, and troop planes that drop squads of paratroopers. Ground troops can be entrenched to hold a line and they can also man commandeered enemy equipment that can then be turned on your foe. Artillery also works magic in softening up the opposition for an assault or to reduce their numbers before they attack your position.
Arguably one of the most versatile and dangerous troops under your command is the sniper. The sniper can move almost invisibly across terrain, getting up close and personal with enemy positions. He can also pick off the soldiers manning enemy artillery to give your troops some relief from bombardment without damaging the guns so you can use them for your own purposes. Additionally, your sniper can use his scope to sight enemy positions and relay the information to your artillery groups, effectively marking them so that your mortar batteries are more accurate when hitting their targets.
At the end of each mission, you are rated on several criteria and given rank advancement and medals if your performance warrants it. Ratings are given in Tactics (the amount of damage inflicted on your enemy compared to your own losses), Logistics (your ability to effectively resupply your troops), Caution (destroying enemy occupied buildings while keeping your losses low), Training (judged on how many units advanced in rank under your command), Art of War (how quickly you finish the mission with as few loaded save games as possible), and Sense of Duty (rated by how many mission objectives were accomplished). Troops also gain ranks in battles and can follow you around through different campaigns so long as they survive. Units with higher rank are faster, have a higher rate of fire, quicker targeting and better aim than green recruits.
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