reviews\ Nov 12, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Combat Mission 2: Barbarossa to Berlin - PC - Review

Reviewer’s Note: There are certain games that require a gamer to really look deep into a game to appreciate its unique brilliance and I’m afraid that I failed to do this in my previous review of this game. You don’t really have to look deep to know that Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin is a great strategy game worthy of a strategy fan’s attention.  I apologize to the makers of this game but especially to the devoted site visitors and game fans everywhere.


Scattered throughout the fertile green lands of Europe, Allied soldiers silently and nervously await the orders from the one that could lead them to glorious victory or crushing defeat by the hands of the Axis side.  In Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin, it is you who call all the shots and it is your job to come up with strategic decisions that could lead your men to their deaths or on to history.  If you want to see if you have what it takes to be a great military leader of the likes of General Patton, then, soldier, fall in and listen up.


Combat Mission is a World War II tactical combat simulator set in Easter Europe immediately after the German invasion of Russia in 1941 (the operation was famously known as Operation Barbarossa) through 1945 when the Russian forces made their way into Berlin, Germany.  The game just happens to take gamers through dozens of famous battles and giving them a chance to rewrite history.


There are three ways of playing this game: single player, two-player and online.  The single player option takes you through sixty combat scenarios while two-player has you playing with a friend in a take-you-turn kind of deal. Online play is done either through email or LAN.  There’s even a Scenario Editor that allows you to design your own battle scenarios.


The name of the game, of course, is strategy.  You choose a battle scenario complete with specifics (location, weather patterns, Allied nationality and unit size), choose a side (Allied forces or Axis forces) and start the campaign.  Set in a 3D environment, the battlefield can be easily surveyed by moving the mouse across the terrain, however, you won’t catch a glimpse of the enemy until you make your first move.  And, as a turn based game, you must carefully consider every move before making a decision.


Make sure you look through the instruction manual to figure out the navigation buttons that give players a look at your unit’s stats.  Clicking the right mouse on a unit you would like to manipulate brings up a short menu of orders to issue such as advance or sneak.  All you have to do is click on them, decide a course of action and them position them by clicking on the area you would like them to move to.


When finished deciding where to move your troops, the Go button brings them all to life.  There is nothing much you can do but watch your men follow your orders through.  You can’t even manipulate them in any way while they move so you’re stuck looking over the action.  And when the actions are carried out, the computer-controlled opponent then makes its move.  Think of it as a stylized game of chess where you move your army and then wait patiently as the other side moves theirs.


One of the game’s best highlights just happens to be the multiplayer function that allows you to play against a friend (or a complete stranger) any number of ways.  You can play a two-player game with a friend using the same computer or play on the internet or a TCP/IP based LAN or even send your moves through email for those lengthy campaigns (the equivalent of posting chess moves in the classifieds). Either way you play it, this game was truly made for multiplayer clashes. 


The visuals are actually quite decent in places, but the most impressive aspect of the visuals are the massive battle environments that will probably leave gamers just a bit amazed by its size and lushness.  Still, the armies you command can look a bit strange since the men have pumpkin-shaped heads and look way too comical when they move across the field. 


Where the visuals fall short, the sound kind of makes up for it.  The only sweeping music can be found at the main menu option and is absent throughout the rest of the game as well.  In spite of the lack of a running soundtrack, though, the sound effects do a good enough job of drawing the gamer into the battle sequences.  Moving the mouse towards the Allied troops and you could hear them call out in their native language while sneaking a peeking on the Axis side will reward you with their troops calling out in German.  There are also some good gunfire and explosion sounds but they‘re minimal at best.    


Combat Mission is a true tactical strategy game with enough combat scenarios and a great multiplayer feature fans of this genre will like.  Its complexity can sometimes be a bit too much for some gamers, but strategy fans do love the challenge and this game has plenty of challenges.  If you’re a fan of the genre this game is really worth your time for its intense challenges and great online multiplayer option.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.4
The navigational buttons and troop placement icons can be a bit overwhelming so be sure to read the instruction manual or practice a few times in a Quick Battle game to practice.  There are various tactical options to choose from but you do become accustomed to the interface.  You move your troops by clicking on them and selecting orders from a short list of commands--deciding the course of action is entirely up to your own strategy.


Your men also respond realistically to different situations and can even panic--making them impossible to order around--or loose all sense and get themselves killed.  This element of the game does add realism but it can also be frustrating. Thankfully the reinforcements are computer controlled and do help out when you manage to make all the wrong strategic moves.   


Graphics: 7.5
Combat Mission is not the best looking tactical simulator out there with it’s rather odd looking characters but the grandeur of the environments are really something to behold.  Just moving the mouse across the field reveals the environment be it a massive field or towns.  The characters don’t look quite right with their misshapen head (but they do have great facial features) and awkwardly hilarious movements (when they run, you’ll swear you’re watching an episode of South Park).


Sound: 8.1
The sound effects are slightly more detailed than the graphics themselves, although there is no soundtrack that is featured throughout the game.  The sound’s main focus is on the environment itself and it is well done.  You can hear the harsh winds that pass through the snowy locales during the winter or the rainfall that becomes almost soothing until thunder rumbles.


After pressing Go, sweep the mouse over the troops and you’ll hear them barking orders in their language and the thick threads of your tanks noisily following after them.  Suddenly all hell breaks loose and you hear machine gun fire and a tank fire a round.  If your troops panic, you’ll hear them cry out in fear. 


Difficulty: Hard
Playing through the single player mode, you will come to discover that the computer-controlled opponent hardly ever makes a tactical mistake.  In fact, it is near impossible to try to anticipate your opponent’s next move while the computer does a great job of anticipating yours.  Seems unfair?  It is.  However, where’s the fun in making this an easy campaign?  Victories, especially in this game, are a lot more satisfying when you’ve finally come up with a better battle plan.


Concept: 8.0
Fans of tactical simulators will enjoy the full control they have over the strategies and orders you give your armies, then again those who are not use to simply being spectators will find the lack of control during a move to be just a little unnerving.  Also, the fact that you can create your own battle scenario with the Scenario Editor and be as creative as you want (adding a wide variety of different obstacles) when designing your own maps, is a big plus.


Multiplayer: 8.5
Nothing is more fun than playing a game of strategy with a friend or with other players on the net and Combat Mission is definitely the kind of game you play with others.  One of the best features is the Turn Timer option for Internet games, which adds times your moves and forces you to make snap decisions. 


Overall: 8.6
While Combat Mission has enough battle scenarios and juicy extras, this game is still an acquired taste but die hard strategy enthusiasts will definitely enjoy it.   While the difficulty level of the single player mode can be brutal, the game will make you think of different possibilities and change your strategy.  There are also the great online features and the Scenario Editor that are appealing enough to give this game your full attention.


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