PC Game Review: World War II: Frontline Command
"The Bitmap Brother’s latest venture, World War II Frontline Command, is another tactical game that has ventured into the increasingly familiar 3D realm."
The move from top-down or isometrically viewed real-time games into the glory of free-floating 3D has been an interesting experiment that I've taken great interest in over the past few years. Sure it makes use of the now-standard 3D graphics cards that provide the grunt in most recent systems but what does it actually achieve in gameplay? Increased situational awareness? Better immersion? Prettier screenshots? … Apart from the fantastic, but highly underrated, Ground Control, I'm still to find a 3D real-time tactical game that really works. GI Combat got lost in the bocage, Platoon is still stuck in the jungle, while Soldiers of Anarchy got tantalisingly close.
Perhaps it is my long love affair with what I consider to be the greatest real-time tactical game of all time, the Close Combat series from Atomic (and increasingly the many mods being released for games) and my ingrained use of a top down view but I still fail to see what a semi-first person sort of view, apart from visualising fields of fire, offers in a strategy style game.
The Bitmap Brother's latest venture, World War II: Frontline Command, is another tactical game that has ventured into the increasingly familiar 3D realm. Free floating camera control and the ability to zoom right into the action coupled with high-class visuals give the game instant marketing appeal… but do great screenshots ultimately result in great gameplay?
Presentation and Plot
World War II: Frontline Command puts a gamer in the shoes of a tactical commander within the US Army fighting on the Western Front during WW2. The game uses a series of missions to replicate the move from Northern France deep into Germany. Each mission is a stand-alone battle fought with a new unit and equipment. Early missions have the player crumping into an airborne LZ to eliminate anti-aircraft batteries before D-Day and then switching to the boats for an assault on Rommel's impregnable Atlantic wall. Later missions see the player commanding combined-arms battle groups carving a line through Holland and into Germany. No two missions are overtly similar but there is a familiarity within the gameplay that allows a player to quickly come to terms with the new units on offer as the game progresses.
The game invoked memories from some of the great World War II movies, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers in particular, and I think it is fair to say the developers have probably borrowed heavily from some of these works.
Installation, Documentation & Technical Issues
World War II: Frontline Command installs from a single CD and occupies 1GB of hard drive space for a full install. It uses an anti-piracy program, StarForce, to check the CD each time the game is started and on a couple of occasions I had this check foul up for no apparent reason. Hitting Retry was enough to get the game launched.
The game also uses a profiler to launch the game up with optimum settings for a player's PC. The profiler allows resolution and graphic details to be set and frame rates to be checked against an in-game rendered sequence. This tool works well for bold adjustments but can be tweaked through the use of finer options within the game itself. I found the World War II: Frontline Command to be a bit of a resource hog and despite achieving very good frame rates in the profiler I was forced to reduce my overall resolution during high-intensity battles such as the Normandy landings even on a PC that significantly exceeded the published specifications.
A 32-page manual is included and covers most of the basics needed to play the game as well as some technical data concerning units and equipment on offer. An in-game tutorial is also offered to prepare new players for the game itself.