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Review by: Keith Durocher
Published: July 14, 2003
The Bitmap Brothers have crafted a game that lets you test your skills as a commander of special operations during the Second World War, the 3D real-time strategy offering, WW2 Frontline Command. With the Axis versus the Allies genre blitzing its way into more and more releases, can this title force detente on its contemporaries?
WW2 Frontline Command takes place in 1944, and plays through the pre-invasion raids designed to weaken Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, the invasion of Normandy and into the Allied advance through France and Germany. As a high ranking commander of an elite paratrooper brigade, you’re tasked with many surgical strikes designed to foster the success of Operation Overlord. Radar towers, airfields and bridges that cover the many rivers flowing through Europe all constitute areas that could mean the difference between success or failure for the Allies if they’re not neutralized or seized with great skill. Recognizing when to sneak or when to storm is the crux of this title.
The game opens with archival footage, grainy black-and-white scenes that mesh with the voiceover explaining the rise of the Reich, Hitler’s expansion throughout Europe and the allied plan for an invasion of the coast. From the introductory history lesson, the game proceeds to the load-in screen where such things as options, multiplayer setup, single-player setup, tutorial missions and high scores can be accessed. The entire affair is army olive drab, superimposed over a map of Europe. Utilitarian, as one would expect from the military. Jumping straight into the single-player component gives the future C.O. the choice of Recruit or Veteran paths. The Recruit arc is a 12-mission campaign with no limits to ammunition, significantly more troops per mission, and a much wider array of vehicles. The Veteran path is a non-linear 25 mission campaign with fewer troops, ammunition that needs to be managed and vehicle damage that must be repaired. Degrees of success alter the flow of the Veteran campaign, making it a bit of an imposing prospect for new players, but perfect for hardcore fans.
A run through the tutorials teaches you the basics of play, and even though many of the standard commands of an RTS are present, the title has its own quirks. Essentials include: troop movement; commands like walking, running and crawling; how to set up ambushes in buildings; and how to utilize alternate weapon modes (like the grenades of rifle infantry, dynamite charges of engineers and my personal favorite, the binoculars of the commander units).
The tutorials also give a taste of the different vehicles used in the game, and there are many. Successful commanders will master the use of the jeeps, halftracks, tanks, field artillery, and medical and troop transports made available to them, as foot soldiers need all the help they can muster. The final stage of tutorials runs through camera management: Right-click-and-hold while scrolling accelerates the camera movement for the commander-in-a-hurry, while holding down both mouse buttons allows the map to be spun around. F9 through F12 instantly switch the angle to North, East, South and West, as needed. The thorough implementation of viewing controls helps lend a feeling of freedom needed in a game like this.
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