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The graphics in Panzer General II are nothing short of superb. It is obvious that a lot of care and precision went into creating the maps used in the game, and such attention to detail is something I am unaccustomed to seeing in a wargame. The near-isometric map view will probably be something that is copied by other companies in the near future. The different facings of each unit provide for a greater feel of movement on the battlefield, but the in-battle animations could be improved just a little. On my new system (PII/233 with Hercules Stingray card), I experienced some graphical “noise” on virtually every screen. When I passed the mouse over the screen, pixels of random color would appear across the battlefield. However, I also tested the title on my old system (P166 with Diamond Stealth 3D 2000) and I did not experience the same problem. Therefore, I am not prepared to say that I experienced graphical anomalies since I could only reproduce the situation on a brand new system, but those of you who are running with a Stingray video card have been warned.
The interface is clean and very easy to use. The screen layout fits in nicely with the subject material, and continually reminds the player of the hardened steel associated with war. All the buttons have popup help associated with them, and information is relayed to the top of the screen for every hex on the battlefield. Installation was a snap, and everything was configured automatically. The game automatically switches the player’s PC into the appropriate graphics mode.
There is a tremendous amount of depth to the gameplay in Panzer General II. Dozens of scenarios, which can be played from either the Allied or the Axis point of view, and an editor that allows for the alteration of existing, maps will provide literally hundreds of hours of diverse gameplay from different angles. Once these options are exhausted, the player can still investigate the various multiplayer options that are available. The manual is very useful and informative, with lots of detail on each of the specific unit types that are available for every country.
There are multitudes of sound effects in Panzer General II, and all are presented in stereo. From the marching of the soldiers to the roar of tanks and trucks, from the launching of artillery rounds to the strafing of the aircraft, there is a large amount of diversity in the sound effects. There is some speech in the title, but it is mainly used to provide a vocal setup of the scenarios. As in just about every wargame that I can think of, Panzer General II did not play any sporadic sound effects, as every sound is tied to some specific action that is happening on-screen. I also did not notice any different effects based upon weather conditions, which would have added an additional dimension to the realism of the title had such a thing been implemented.
The title falls a little where music is concerned, as the selection played during any one scenario tends to get quite repetitive in a very short span of time. The music is appropriate for the title and different scenarios will produce different tunes, but they wore upon me after a time. Unfortunately, there was some evidence of sound anomalies with respect to the music on both of my PCs, and they were much more pronounced on my PII. I was amazed to see that, when I passed the cursor over an interface button, the sound of the music slowed to nearly half-speed and it distorted quite dramatically. I cannot recall ever encountering such an occurrence in any game that I have ever played before. On my P166, the music slowed for a fraction of a second when the mouse cursor passed over a button, but then it resumed as normal. Since this event happened on two different machines, I have a hard time believing that it was a problem unique to my PCs.
Intelligence & Difficulty:
SSI did a great job in creating a difficult title. However, instead of changing the AI, “levels” of difficulty are achieved through the adjustment of the prestige allotment percentage. If the player finds the AI too difficult, he can lower the amount of prestige that is awarded to the computer when it successfully captures an objective. Instead of playing at a different level, this sort of adjustment simply provides the computer with fewer options to pursue when calling for replacements or when purchasing new units. Although the AI should perform in an identical manner given identical circumstances, an adjustment of the prestige percentage will help to prevent the same circumstances from arising a second time. There is also a lot to learn with respect to the numbers of different units and all their attributes, so the sheer volume of data with which the player must be familiar makes the title a difficult one. Experienced wargamers will be in Heaven when playing this title, and inexperienced ones may be a little overwhelmed, but the manual goes a long way to assist the player in the task of learning about the units. In addition, the characteristics of any unit are just one right-click away, if the player prefers not to consult a manual every few minutes.
Panzer General II is an excellent title with a tremendous amount of gameplay options. This is the most graphically rich wargame on the market today, and it could vie with any other as being the most challenging, too. One look at Panzer General II convinces me that the true marriage of a turn-based wargame and a real-time strategy game with a wartime theme is not far away. What more could an aspiring general want?
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