PC Game Review: Wargame: European Escalation
The hypothetical question of what would happen if NATO and the Warsaw Pact decided to take their words to the battlefield could possibly be answered in Wargame: European Escalation.
What if the Cold War had erupted into a conventional war resulting with the democracies of the west fighting the Soviet Bloc of the east? This was a concern by both sides during the Cold War era, but the general consensus was that such a war would end up with nuclear fallout because both the USA and USSR harvested nuclear weapons. Wargame: European Escalation creates a hypothetical scenario in which conventional fighting breaks out on the border of East and West Germany in 1975. The game uses conventional weapons instead of nuclear weapons, otherwise its whole concept would be pointless and battles would only last seconds. Wargame wants to present such a hypothetical situation to the PC wargamer, so we’ll see how it does.
Although it’s lacking nuclear weapons, the arsenal for Wargame: European Escalation is quite impressive. From attack helicopters and mobile artillery, to tanks and supply trucks. Each unit has its own unique characteristics and abilities. There isn’t just one arsenal either, each nation has its own arsenal and Wargame boasts eight powerful nations in two factions, NATO and Warsaw Pact. The nations are USA, France, United Kingdom, West Germany, Soviet Union, Communist Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. Each arsenal is unique and has its own unique units. What makes the Cold War weapons special is that you can be attacked from many different directions. From air assault to long-range missile fire, Wargame is a fresh look at warfare in a genre that is overcrowded by World War II games.
Wargame does not offer a proper tutorial, unless you call a few pop-ups a tutorial. These pop-ups occur in the first few missions of the first campaign but they only suggest what you might do, they don’t explain how things work. The game offers singleplayer “Solo” and multiplayer “Multi” play. There are four singleplayer campaigns offered which start at different dates, situations, and geographic areas. Each campaign is actually stemmed from historical events. “1975 - Brüder gegen Brüder” is the first campaign offered. This campaign must be completed before the next campaign can be unlocked, and so on. This scenario is based on the fight between East and West Germany and the player is playing on the side of NATO. “1981 – Dabrowski’s Mazurka” is played on the side of the Warsaw Pact fighting against a Polish uprising. “1983 – ABLE ARCHER” is the second NATO campaign putting the USA against the USSR. The last campaign is the second Warsaw Pact one and is called “1984 – Wasteland”. It is set in the aftermath of nuclear fallout.
One interesting aspect of the game is that units are not built, and neither are bases. The game really has no micromanaging. Units can be bought with points that are accrued from the progress you see on the battlefield. In essence, the more success you have, the larger your army. But planning and building up forces for an attack is virtually impossible. Unit commands are simplified too, vague really. But this may be good when one is commanding this many units on the battlefield. Where to aim your fire, what ammunition type to use, to regroup units or load/unload troops from transport vehicles, use roads when possible, and altitude adjustments for helicopters are pretty much all the commands you can give. So if you’re content with that then read on.
The game is structured in a complex manner as far as modifiers and logistics are concerned. Terrain effects unit mobility and firepower effectiveness. Certain units perform better in certain terrain which makes bridges and roads vital objectives to secure, in order to assist your advance. Dense undergrowth or forests obviously hinder the movement of any vehicles. Logistics is quite sophisticated, but thankfully realistic. Supply trucks are necessary in keeping the frontline forces moving forward at a decent pace, but the supply trucks need to keep moving. The supply trucks relay supplies (ammunition and fuel) from the forward operating bases to the frontline.
Units have very specific stats. Values that are recorded and measured in-game include morale, optics, fuel, ammunition, armor and much more. The armor statistics of vehicles is impressive: front, rear, side, and top armor are recorded. The damage model of vehicles is quite complex as well. A tank can have an axle fail within a given period of time, which will limit its mobility—it will still be able to fire however. Firepower is dynamic as well. Some units have multiple types of ammunition which vary in effectiveness according to the target. This opens up a large array of possibilities of how one can go about attacking enemy units.
Graphically, this game is amazing. In menus, however, it may seem a bit complex. The interface takes some getting used to. The battle map looks fantastic, though. The terrain is marvelous and creates the perfect atmosphere for waging war around rivers, bridges, hedges, fields, and buildings. The units are even more sophisticated and it is easy to see that much attention has been directed towards detailing them. Although, not every unit is unique per se—the same model is used for units of the same type. The best aspect of Wargame: European Escalation has to be its view. The view commands are convenient and it’s possible to get the camera in or near any nook and cranny you want. Missiles and explosions are great to look at and they add to the atmosphere of the battle scenes, but they do need some work. Their effect graphics are repetitive and their textures are in unrealistic colors. Overall though, battlefield scenes excite the imagination of the gamer. Sound effects aid the impact of explosions and units under control respond to your commands with responses in their native language.
Wargame’s multiplayer is played through the EugenNet service network, which is integrated in-game. It’s quite a simple concept really, just register and login. After that, all games are listed in the interface. The interface allows chat and some options for hosting games.
Wargame: European Escalation is unique in many ways. Its Cold War perspective in the RTS genre is groundbreaking, especially since it’s accompanied by that volatile camera. The graphics are beautiful and the effects aren’t too shabby either. The unit detail is fantastic and the terrain creates the perfect atmosphere for these fast-paced battle scenes. The damage mechanics and unit statistics are impressive but the commands seem a little bit limited. Micro-management isn’t the name of this game, but this is a bonus for the type of warfare that it portrays. Being that it’s a real-time strategy in the modern era, warfare is experienced at an accelerated rate. Although, I did see the need for some texture fixes, these are just small blemishes. It also lacks a tutorial that extends beyond a few pop-ups in the first couple missions. Overall the game is exciting for those that enjoy a hypothetical situation and limited control of your forces.
The Good: Four singleplayer campaigns (2 NATO and 2 Warsaw Pact), unique units for each faction, unit statistics and damage mechanics are complex, unit detail is impressive, terrain detail compliments the units and battle scenes just right, units speak in their native languages, simple in-game multipayer interface, in-game “armory” that contains all units and stats, battles can be recorded.
The So-So: Isn’t a micro-managing game, hypothetical situations.
The Bad: Isn’t a military building game, commands are limited, menu interface is a bit complicated for novices, lacks a tutorial.
Does the game have a permanent spot on Curtis’ hard drive? Not quite sure yet, to be honest. I’m willing to give Wargame some more time. To tell the truth, I’m not really a fan of hypothetical scenarios but there’s just something about this one. It’s exciting and I love the Hollywood effects and the Apache helicopters. The terrain is also fantastic to look at, and it’s just a blast using it to my advantage when I conduct attacks or hold defensive lines. I get urges with this game to take key objectives like crossroads, buildings, or bridges because I know they are strategically important. But the one thing that does pinch my nerve about this game is its mainstream “slide”. It lacks micromanagement and is focused on a FPS type feel in the RTS genre. I prefer more detailed command structures, more commands, and the ability to prepare for battle by building up forces. I’m also quite confused why I shouldn’t just be allowed to drop a nuke on the whole map and end it in one go. Because war is war, right?
Review written by: Curtis Szmania, Staff Writer
- AMD Phenom II 955 BE Quad-Core Processor Overclocked @ 3.7Ghz
- 8GB of DDR3 RAM Overclocked @ 1666 MHz
- ATI HD 6850 1GB Overclocked @ 1030 MHz GPU and 1175 MHz Memory
- Windows 7 Ultimate x64