Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord - PC - Review

Tanks roll across the lush terrain in France, hunters on the prowl. Allied soldiers crawl through the trees to the west, keeping their total numbers hidden from the axis forces that lie just beyond the crossroads. It is vital to control this area if the invasion at Normandy Beach is to succeed.

Suddenly two German tanks burst from the trees, engaging the American tanks. Machine-gun fire snaps from nests snug in the tree line. The ground, once sparkling green, is turned into a pock-marked landscape of violence.

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord is a turn-based strategy game, which takes place in the latter years, 1944-45, of World War II in the European theatre. Presented by Big Time Software, this program is long on strategy, semi-intuitive in controls, and strong on camera angles.

Yes, other games in this genre – in particular, Close Combat: Battle of the Bulge from SSI – are better graphically than Combat Mission. But this game has strengths of its own which place it up there with the aforementioned game.

For example, there are 39 pre-designed scenarios encompassing multiple armies and areas during the final allied effort to win back Europe from the Nazis. If you choose, you can create your own scenario with the scenario editor included in the program. Should your tastes run more to prolonged warfare, there are seven operations with each featuring 3-9 battles.

Graphically, this program features three-dimensional sprites that move in a variety of ways across the battlefield. The animations are fairly good, but the combat effects – tanks on fire, and the firing of weapons in general – are not as sharp.

Difficulty levels are set within the scenario. You select which side you wish to represent in the scenario, then adjust the play balance. For example, you can give the allies (if that is the force you are playing as) a 150% edge.  That basically puts more troops at your disposal beyond the forces configured for that particular engagement.

The program features all the bangs and explosions one would typically find in a war game. There is the yell of soldiers on the field, checking on orders or urging their fellows onward.  Each unit is represented by a face (repetitive images in most cases), and unit status. A unit is not likely to move rapidly forward if advancement is over a tough terrain and has been prolonged through several turns.

Turn play includes making all the moves you wish, then your opponent makes moves and the entire turn is carried out simultaneously.

The game can be played in single person, hotseat, and a chess game via e-mail or over the Internet.

Controls are somewhat intuitive. You can select multiple units by dragging your cursor through all units you wish to include in the movement. Then tap the space bar to bring up movement options. They can include run, crawl, withdraw, hide, or targeting opposing forces. Line of sight plays a big part in the game.

Camera angles really bring this program to life. You can zoon out and view the action from high above, or zoom down to ground level, weave through the trees and brushes to view the battlefield up close. The latter is particularly handy to scout out the opposing forces. These forces won’t always be revealed until you engage them, but then you can pick up individual soldiers who have been separated from their units, but have yet to surrender.

Game progress is measured in terms of morale, and victory percentage. And both can turn rapidly. You can be at 83% victory on one turn, only to see that number drop to 58% on the next.

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord has taken specific incidents in the latter stages of World War II and successfully turned them into a PC chess match that will reward players with lessons in strategy. The program may not be at the top graphically, but it delivers enough other elements to make the session playing it enjoyable.

 

Install: Medium. Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord eats 347 megabytes of hard drive space in a full install. The minimum will only consume 83 megs, and normal takes up 143 megs. There is nothing spectacular about the install program.

Gameplay: 7. This is a turn-based strategy game, which means all game play is planned, then executed simultaneously. While slow, it does require strategic planning and adaptability .

Graphics: 7.5. The three-dimensional graphics are quite well rendered. The camera controls allow the player to view the program from either god-mode (above) or ground level.

Sound: 7. Battle sounds are quite well done, and the music is typical of war games – featuring lots of drums. Vocal characterizations are limited to radio chatter, on-field yells during charges and command acceptance. The latter category is somewhat typical of the genre, but still adequately done.

Difficulty: 8. Even if you stack the odds in your favor, this is still a challenging outing.

Concept: 7. The program has the same basic feel as others in the genre, and does not add a lot of new technology to this style of gaming. However, the variety of missions make it a solid product.

Overall: 7.5. For fans of the war genre, this program will provide hours of game play. The mission package, and options of playing for either side, makes it a solid performer in the strategy field. The graphical elements may not be quite as good as some games, but still provide a solid feel.
 

Good

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