PC Game Review: Codename: Panzers – Phase One
World War II tactical RTS games multiply like flies. Can Codename: Panzers – Phase One stand out from the rest?
Germany-based CDV apparently wants to corner the market of real-time strategy (RTS) tactical games. The Cossacks series was the first break with the Warcraft paradigm by introducing an element of realism. The Sudden Strike series brought the concept of serious World War II RTS gaming and the Blitzkrieg series continues and improves on this them. With developer Stormeregion’s Codename: Panzers – Phase One, CDV looks at squad-level engagements with a mild role-playing element.
Installation and Documentation
Using the usual install wizard, Codename: Panzers’ three CDs use three GB of hard disk space. This game is very security conscious, requiring a CD in the drive and a key code the first time the game boots. Also, although I could find no hidden system drivers, cleaning the Starforce utility causes the game to install something and reboots the machine. So far I have had no obvious ill effects on my system, but the reboot is suspicious.
The 67-page manual has twenty pages on instructions with the rest being devoted to describing the units in the game. The in-game tutorial does a great job in explaining the simple yet elegant interface and game mechanics. Cursor tool tips complete players’ easy access to the system. Where the manual fails is in detailing how to set up a multiplayer game. For instance, two players alone can’t do a cooperative game together because there are no computer bots.
Graphics and Sound Effects
Codename: Panzers’ graphics is one of its two crown jewels. The 3D images are not only detailed but useful. Forests become perfect places for ambushes unless tanks knock down trees. Cities can have upper story snipers, making street fighting rugged. Vehicles leave tracks in the dust and snow. Units are done in fine detail and men move realistically. Buildings catch fire and show incredibly realistic features and damage. Weather affects not only unit movement but players’ ability to view the situation. Small national emblems mark visible enemy units but do not distract from play. The zoom, rotate and tilt camera controls allow players to check line of sight, building entrances and possible ambush spots. I feel graphics are only truly impressive when they are functional. Codename: Panzers graphics meet this test and are very attractive also. The information screen clearly shows health, experience and weapons for infantry while showing side, front and rear armor status, temperature, and ammunition levels for vehicles.
Combat sound effects are fine, with weapons making the correct noises. Unit chatter is more helpful than with most RTS games. The voice acting is a mixed bag. For example, German units sometimes speak German, sometime English with German accents, and sometimes English with American accents. Such discrepancies don’t detract from play. The cutscenes are well done and sometimes give hints about objectives. Cutscenes that introduce missions can be skipped by hitting ESC.