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World War II Games: Been There, Done That?

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Posted by: Dan Liebman

By Dan Liebman GameZone.com

Many gamers have a tendency to bundle all World War II games into a single category. This could be understandable given the popularity of the theme, which some would say has been milked to the point of exhaustion. However, a closer look reveals the scope and diversity of the so-called “WWII genre,” which has successfully infiltrated nearly every gameplay format – FPS, RTS, Adventure – with varying levels of success.

One of the rarer and riskier approaches to WWII gaming involves a dedicated, serious approach to the subject matter. The common concern of this design relates to the nature of the game itself. By its own definition, a game should be something played for fun. This may clash with the often gruesome and tragic reality of war. Some games, such as Brothers in Arms, have been ingeniously crafted to humbly portray the horrors of war, while offering a truly engrossing gameplay experience. More often, however, developers take the easy road, building an impersonal and sometimes silly game that uses a World War II setting, without any particular attention to the gravity of the subject matter.

Interestingly, these alternate-reality settings rarely cause much ruckus among media watchdogs. Chances are, you’ve faced a slew of occult monstrosities in a round of Wolfenstein, and can still blast your way through hordes of Nazi zombies in the latest Call of Duty, without feeling cheated. By blatantly detaching itself from the real history, many gamers are cozily ensconced in a realm of absurd fantasy, where one man can take on a legion of enemy soldiers with nary a scratch. Whether these games are a disservice to history can be debated. The main attraction of an enjoyable gameplay experience still overrides any lingering doubt.

Of course, we’ve seen WWII-based stealth in Velvet Assassin, and the slick strategy interfaces of Company of Heroes, but most WWII games today seem to fall into the shooter category. For many, the mere mention of the WWII gaming genre may recall first-person imagery of a Thompson submachine gun and a group of screaming fellows in grey uniform, dabbled across the landscape of a war-torn city. Unfortunately, the shooter-saturated market might be stealing some of the attention from a very important element of historical and modern warefare: the navy.

There have been plenty of WWII titles to offer dogfighting and aerial combat, but the seas tend to be overlooked. It is easy to forget that during any major operation, ground soldiers would often hear vessels shelling targets from afar. More than mere ambience, naval operations were indisputably crucial throughout the war. Sometimes these elements are relegated to the realm of strategy games, which sometimes lack the visceral excitement of an intense naval battle. Throwing players directly into the action would likely remedy this problem, and help introduce a new generation to the intricacies of naval combat. With 505’s upcoming Naval Assault: The Killing Tide, players might just have such an opportunity.

Stepping into the sullied boots of an Allied submariner, players will be able to fight the good fight on a much greater scale. Alternating between underwater and surface-based combat, the developers hope to shake up the WWII naval genre without burdening players with excessively complicated gameplay. Thankfully, the all-important element of stealth is still present, so you’ll need to be a bit crafty to win, not just running around mindlessly with your ol’ machine gun.

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