Codename: Panzers Phase Two
Panzers Has Cot to be the worst codename ever. Codenames are supposed to be smokescreens to ensure secrecy for your mission, not to tell your enemy exactly what the hell is going on. This is a WWII RTS specialising in tank-on-tank action, so if you're going to give it a codename, make it 'buttercup', or 'peckerneck' for god's sake . But that's Codename Panzers: Phase 2 all over - there's little surprising, covert or unexpected about it. Like its younger brother released last year, it parades its tried-and-tested RTS conventions like the Soviet Army showing out at Red Square. As soon as you've left-clicked a tank and right-clicked something for it to blow up, you feel like a seasoned vet. This is WWII-themed strategy made as easy and fun as jumping into a sandpit and bashing two Tonka toys together.
It's Just A Phase
For Phase II. developer Stormregion hasn't modified its plan of attack vastly from Phase I. This time, the three single-player campaigns let you command Italian, UK/US or, interestingly, Yugoslav-partisan forces. A cartwheeling plot for each campaign is propelled by crude cut-scenes, which are frankly entirely superfluous in this kind of game. Who needs tales of loyalty and betrayal when there's a war to be won?
From these stories spring Panzers 'hero' figures, who are supposed to add RPG spice to the missions, but instead do little other than give you something else to worry about: if your hero dies, it's game over.
With its old-skool isometric view (which can be panned and zoomed to a degree), Panzers is not overly ambitious visually. Flaming explosions, toppling trees and swooping dive bombers all look the part, as do the intricate troop animations, but no new visual territory is conquered. The sound however, is something else, with hilariously stereotyped voice-acting -'how's-yer-faaava' cockneys and 'mamma-mia!' Italians - adding a sense of fun, even if it does border on the racially offensive.
As before, missions are rammed with tasks: just when you thought you'd reached your goal, a new objective is introduced. Secret and optional missions also appear, with Prestige awards points on offer for each. This Prestige can be spent between missions on beefing up your troops for the next round.
Achieving these goals is a case of force management With no resources to collect or units to build, you're left to mollycoddle your existing forces like an overbearing matron, constantly repairing and rearing them between each skirmish. This pattern of 'he who repairs wins' ironically has led to just as big an RTS cliche as the resource-gathering it sought to replace.
In addition, new features introduced here are not easy to spot - you could play Phase I and Phase II and not notice the difference. A mission editor should please if you've got time on your hands, though other than a few new unit types and minor touches, the song remains the same.
So in the end. Panzers Phase 2 is to Phase 1 what the Nazi invasion of France was to the Nazi invasion of Poland: effective, but relying on pretty much the same troops and tactics. And if you've crisscrossed Europe in countless campaigns from Sudden Strike io Blitzkrieg, battle fatigue could easily set in.
Download Codename: Panzers Phase Two
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It's Human nature to have preconceptions, especially when you're a games reviewer who specialises in -among other things - World War II strategy games. When you're presented with a game that appears to be achingly similar to every other like-minded select-and-direct-a-thon, it's sometimes very tempting to dismiss it before it's even been installed, as happened last year when I reviewed Codename: Panzers.
Back then, I tried to recall what it was that set Codename: Panzers apart from the likes of Blitzkrieg and Soldiers, and, with pictures of 3D rendered carnage floating around my head, none of which were specific to any particular game, I found myself politely declining the offer. More fool me, for despite lacking the epic battles of Sudden Strike and appearing derivative and only slightly inferior next to the then-recent Soldiers: Heroes Of WWII, Panzers also happened to be one of the most out-and-out fun strategy games of the year. No rash predictions this time. Yes please! was my coquettish reply to playtest the near-complete code.
Panzer's appeal isn't immediately apparent. Looking at the screenshots, you can see it's a decent-looking game powered by a 3D engine that should be a source of great pride to the mothers of its developers: waterfalls cascade into glimmering streams as birds circle in the sky above - very lovely it all looks. However, should you be more interested in the human misery that's portrayed, that looks good too. Panzers is blessed with all manner of wartime vehicles, buildings and infantry, faithfully recreated in all their polygonal finery and eager to blow each other into oblivion should you find yourself taking control of them.
There are some wonderful touches, such as the way that when asked to change stance from a stealthy crouch to a full-pelt run, soldiers will clasp their weapon in one hand so as to be able to use their arms to pump up a bit of speed. While in itself this is hardly a reason to go out and buy the game, it's indicative of the love this developer has for the series.
Similarly, you might find it difficult to work up yourself into a froth over the features that may be adorning the back of the packaging. For example, the campaigns are entirely linear at a time when most people demand and expect at least a basic grand strategy map. Resource management is off the menu and although units earn experience (Prestige Points) by surviving battles -which can be cashed in for new units,
in terms of the 100 or so new and revised planes, tanks and foot soldier - only an obscure handful are truly unique to the game. All of which means that they're only of interest to a sad select few -like me.
So why should you consider buying Codename: Panzers - Phase Two on its release? The answer is simple; because, like the original, it's fun, fast, simple and well-crafted. The fixed angle camera ensures that you only fight ' the enemy, the often cheesy story serves up a variety of missions, both in their objectives and the way forces are doled out, and, best of all, the interface remains a joy to interface rer use throughout.
Despite being a simple game to get to grips with, don't mistake Panzers for being a simplistic game. Sure, it favours stimulation over simulation, and liberties have been taken with historical accuracy - El Alamein being reduced to a hilltop skirmish - but as such sacrifices have been made in the name of gameplay, even the most hardcore military buff would be cruel indeed to dismiss the game. Part of the appeal is that instead of trying to squeeze in features that are unique to the detriment of basic functionality, Stormregion has made it the company's aim to make everything work well - the fact that it appears to do so is a unique enough feature in itself.
A Little Bit More
Of course, Panzers isn't the finished article quite yet - there are some bugs to iron out, and it would have been nice to have tried out the multiplayer game. However, on the strength of the present version there seems no reason that Panzers - Phase Two won't at least equal the success of the first game. Rest assured that if I get the call to arms for the full review next month, I'll be sure to sign up.
Three's A... Trilogy
Phase Three has already been announced and rather unsurprisingly, nobody is saying anything about what will be in store for fear of taking precious column inches away from the coverage of Phase Two. However, our spies have been out and we have it good authority that the final part in the Panzers trilogy will follow in about 12 months time and is set to feature an updated (rather than a completely new) 3D engine. Aircraft tactics will also be receiving an overhaul and with a setting that will include South East Asia, we can assume that naval units will be making a guest appearance in some form or another.