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Review by: Nick Stewart
Published: April 14, 2001
Say what you will about the potential horrors and effects of war, but there’s no denying that some of man’s greatest conflicts have provided some of our most enduring and stirring stories. Countless tales of bravery, of camaraderie, and of teamwork have emerged from the dangerous fields of battle, creating heroes for generations to come. World War II in particular has proven to be a noteworthy phenomenon, not only for the sheer breadth and scope of its involvement, but also for the level of interest that it’s generated even now, some 60 years after its conclusion. Books and film have reminded everyone of the terrible Nazi threat that emerged in that period, which in turn made the victors and veterans that much more heroic, a fact not lost on the realm of computer gaming. Strategy titles have long allowed fans to relive key battles, giving them the chance to see if they could perhaps bring about the same successes, or to see victory where others met defeat. First-person shooters have been slow to realize this same digital reality, and while golden oldies like Wolfenstein 3D brought the war’s primary aggressors — the Nazis — to the fictitious fray, few have ventured to bring players to the virtual battlefields. Hoping to put a slightly more realistic spin to the genre is the value-priced WWII: Normandy, which sets you deep in the heart of occupied territory.
In many respects, the Allied invasion of Normandy was a crucial point within World War II. It marked a series of offensives carried out against the Axis, which in turn bred many encounters and battles that have been considered classic examples of their kind ever since. Of course, this invasion required a great deal of preparation, with extensive planning and excursions having to be worked out ahead of time. One stage of this historical landing was the need to prepare the lands for the various troops that would eventually make their way through, as Normandy was thick with Nazis and their reinforcements. As a result, a task force would have to be inserted in order to clear out key areas to ensure the safety of the incoming men. On the morning of June 6th, 1944, this particular stage was implemented as Canadian, British, and American paratroops were dropped behind German lines. The U.S. forces that were to be inserted included members of the 101st “Screaming Eagles” and 82nd Airborne units, and they were to work with their Allied counterparts to establish relatively safe passage through the country for the full-fledged invasion force that was to arrive at dawn.
WWII: Normandy carries you back to that fateful drop, setting you in the combat boots of a stalwart soldier who so happens to be a proud member of the Screaming Eagles. Unfortunately, the drop didn’t go as smoothly as planned, and, to your horror, many of the aircraft that carried you to the field were destroyed shortly after your jump. By the time you hit the ground, you realize that you’ve been separated from the rest of your company; it doesn’t take much longer to find yourself surrounded by Nazis. With the odds against you and your company scattered to the winds, you’re left with but a single option: to bust your way out, guns blazing. After reloading and collecting a few supplies, it’s time to do the job you were sent out to do — alone.
After making your jarring arrival into the green fields of Normandy, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of a constant stream of mission updates. Your superiors aren’t about to let a setback keep you from pressing forward, and so you’re to be repeatedly called upon to perform various functions as you make your way from one Nazi-infested corner of the country to the next. For instance, you’re first tasked with clearing the flooded field in which you’ve landed so that later Allied troops won’t have to worry about being assaulted as they land. Similar requests will follow you as you blaze your way across Europe: one minute you’ll need to liberate a small church, and the next you’ll be freeing up a crucial pathway. Wartime will also have you taking some heavier objectives as well: A group of German tanks is guarding a causeway where two U.S. Army corps are supposed to meet after pounding through Omaha Beach, and it’s up to you to secure the area. Humanitarian missions also come into play, as you’ll discover once you approach the small French village of Les Droueries, where members of the local resistance have been imprisoned and tortured by the Germans for supplying the Allies with information needed for the impending invasion. Naturally, it’s up to you to seek them out and free them, though you’ll have to kill their captors first. Throughout the game’s ten missions, you’ll face many such objectives, though you’d be well advised to keep a close eye out for Nazis: you are in the heart of occupied territory, after all.
As a highly trained soldier, it’s up to you to make proper use of the various weapons that you come across in your trek across Normandy. You begin the game with but a handful of weapons, one of which is your trusty Colt M1911, a standard-issue pistol. Its stopping power is moderate, though you’ll want to keep an eye on its ammo usage, as its six-shot capacity may force you to reload in the middle of a firefight. The other weapon that you have at your disposal is the M1 Garand, a high-powered rifle. Its long-range abilities often make it ideal for taking out faraway guards or sentries, though its slower firing and reload rates will leave you vulnerable to any nearby enemies who may happen upon your location. Should you exhaust your ammo, you can always make use of your ever-present machete, and although it does a decent amount of damage, the dangerously close distance required to use it will ensure that it’s only going to be used as a last resort.
Wandering about Nazi-infested terrain, you’ll likely stumble upon additional weapons with which to exterminate your Axis foes with extreme prejudice. For instance, there’s the M3 Grease Gun, a machine gun capable of spewing bullets at an incredible rate, making it ideal for eliminating several enemies in close combat situations. Of course, there’s no forgetting the bazooka, a crucial tool in defusing the threat posed by the Nazis’ multiple tanks. Should none of these tools suit your purposes, you can always call upon a hand grenade or two, or even a couple of landmines. There’s certainly no shortage of arms to draw from in your ongoing quest to purge the land of the Nazi threat, and you’ll need to use almost every bullet and projectile that you come across should you hope to survive.
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