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Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: September 5, 2001
Can you imagine what it must have been like fighting in World War II? Picture the nervous anxiety of being a common soldier involved in intense, large-scale battles. What about being a vigilant tank commander in control of a massive, tracked steel beast on the blasted plains of France? Or better yet, how exhilarating and terrifying must it have been to fly a propeller-driven fighter through deadly 350 MPH dogfights? Now, in what would have been considered impossible just a few years ago, gamers and war enthusiasts alike can have a chance to reenact the battles of the Second World War with thousands of others players simultaneously from their personal computers. Using the power of the Internet to literally link worlds together, Cornered Rat Software and Strategy First present one of the most ambitious wargaming titles to date: WWII Online – Blitzkrieg.
WWII Online takes place in 1940, during the height of Germany’s Blitzkrieg, or “Lightning War” resulting in their takeover of the Low Countries and France. Players can choose to fight for Britain or France on the side of the Allies, or as a German for the Axis. The goal of the game is to rewrite history and win the war through a mixture of strategy, force, and teamwork. In a step beyond the typical war simulation, you can actually play several different roles from a first-person perspective, including infantry, artillery, transport, and mechanized and aerial support. It’s actually possible in one sitting to personally destroy a French-held village with a German Junkers dive bomber, mop up resistance in a heavy Panzer, and then capture the Allied base as a soldier. All the while, players have realistically modeled weapons at their disposal, and must contend with a damage system that, like in real life, can be bitterly unforgiving.
Cornered Rat’s aim was to achieve ultimate realism, and they attempt this by offering one of the largest combat arenas in online warfare to date: over 1.5 million square kilometers of virtual Europe from England to Germany. Many of the major locations of France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg are depicted here, from farms and small cottages, to bombed-out towns and cities. Landscapes have also been simulated in great detail, with realistic rivers, forests, and roads. Common soldiers may find themselves marching along huge stretches of plain before reaching their target, and pilots must fly over kilometers of territory in real time. The overall war is fought by real-life players all over the world, and with so many strategic locations depicted in the game, one side’s total victory may take several months.
When I first heard about the concept over a year ago, I was cautiously optimistic. How could a massively multiplayer online experience like EverQuest work successfully with World War II as a backdrop? Yet the developers have done all they can to support such a difficult endeavor. From the onset, Cornered Rat considered WWII Online to be a “living application,” and as such, they have been continually patching and updating their product to make it closer to what the public demands. Indeed, several months after this title’s release, there are numerous features available that were not present out of the box. The game was originally intended to run as a monthly subscription service, but as a service to players, this has been postponed while developers address certain online stability issues.
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