Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2
There's nothing we like better here at than discovering an unknown gem of a game before anyone else has a sniff. Soldiers: Heroes Of World War II is such a title - an extremely impressive fully 3D strategyshooter hybrid developed by Best Way, one of a new wave of Ukranian companies currently creating a frontline of innovative PC games.
Snapped up by UK developer-publisher Codemasters, Soldiers: Heroes of WWII (previously Out Front) features more than 30 missions in various European locations. In it, you can play as German, Russian, American or British forces.
Shoot To Kill
"You could describe the game simplistically as 'Commandos without the frustration', but Soldiers offers so much more," says Carl Johnson, external development games designer at Codemasters. "You can complete your missions in different ways - you could decide to go in stealthily or guns-ablazing, taking direct mouse and keyboard control of troops and vehicles like a first-person shooter."
The thing that hits you like a sniper's bullet when you see Soldiers in action is the incredible amount of period detail Best Way has crammed into the game. The development team has pored over dozens of dusty WWII tomes researching vehicles (over 100 including tanks, jeeps and torpedo boats), weapons, gadgets, buildings and uniforms. Animation is smooth and accurate, so troops move and fire realistically, reloading every weapon in the correct way. Plus, the physics modelling of their individual limbs means that a well-aimed mortar can leave a gruesome mess on the battlefield.
You begin by assembling a crack team of individuals to complete missions that include objectives such as search and destroy, sabotage and assassination. One example is a mission where you have to kill a German officer, and this can be achieved by different tactics such as laying mines in the road to destroy his vehicle, capturing and using an enemy tank or by sniping from distance. The detail is such that you can even aim your shots at the car tyres, sending the vehicle off the road and throwing out those inside, leaving you able to repair it and drive off.
Realism is also heightened by the physics system that can have air strikes blasting holes in buildings or reducing them to rubble, trees that sway in the explosions and unfortunate souls caught in the blasts and thrown against walls. Chain reactions can be set off too, so that an incendiary bomb can blow up a motorbike, which can set fire to a car, which will then explode with the debris, killing some nearby soldiers. The resulting detritus of battle - half-destroyed vehicles, burnt-out buildings - can also be used as dynamic cover by your troops or enemy Al.
Multiplayer is also being taken seriously, with a plethora of deathmatch and co-op modes over LANs and online. These use unique maps and scenarios such as Snipe Attack, where you have to hold out as long as possible. "We'll also be including a full level editor for single and multiplayer, because we want Soldiers to really take off with the gaming community," concludes Johnson. We'll bring you more details soon.
Download Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
like some nerd version of My Fair Lady, my re-education in the way of the RTS continues; and Soldiers: Heroes Of World War II is the Henry Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle. Some time after the original Command & Conquer was released I missed the ship that sailed towards the higher grounds of military gaming - leaving me playing aesthetic no-brainers and wallowing in my own filth. Now, however, I'm being reeled back in by a game that's dedicated to no-holds-barred destruction and against-all-odds bravery: and all without a single resource management option or technology tree in sight.
Where Pixels Dare
Take the Commandos series, remove the puzzle aspect of it and cross-pollinate it with the balls-out action of retro-classic Cannon Fodder and you have the template for Soldiers: Heroes Of World War II. A Kelly's Heroes for the digital generation. There are four campaigns: a Russian sortie into German territory, two Allied campaigns and a German offensive - each containing six or seven missions. In each one, you take control of varying numbers of crack soldiers -sometimes one chirpy brute, sometimes eight of 'em - and steer them safely through maps brimming with enemies and their mighty war engines.
This isn't the simple C&C lasso the grunts and point them in the right direction' model; in this game you're fully involved - down and dirty in the thick of it. En masse you control your men in the age-old style of RTS troop movement - putting them on Return Fire, Hold Fire or Fire At Will settings, and sending them into battlezones where their Al will have them ducking, diving, taking cover and stealing enemy vehicles with gay abandon.
One quick click of the mouse, however, will have you waving your soldier's gun, driving tanks with the cursor keys, actively stealing ammo from bullet -ndden corpses and personally laying waste to French bistros and town squares. "You're right there in tire action - it isn't played from a God perspective," explains Dan Gower, the game's development manager. "Because you're taking direct control you're actually part of tire action, not overseeing it."
What's more, the way in which fully 3D graphics allow you to rotate, zoom and fiddle with the camera view moans that it fast trecomes apparent that real tactics are needed. Rather than simply adhere to the group 'em up and send 'em in' mentality of war-gaming, you begin to realise the importance of line of sight, taking cover and creating ambushes as your war efforts progress.
Ten minutes pass and two of my men become deceased alarmingly quickly -one meeting his maker in a swamp and the other foolishly thinking he was hidden behind a small assortment of shrubs. It's all down to one man to prove his worth. Around the downed rocket there are eight enemy bodies, one friendly body behind the bushes, a few patrolling guards and two tanks - one a smouldering wreck and the other damaged but very much on the prowl. I put my private into prone mode and start sneaking. I click on a rock, instructing my soldier (who I'm affectionately calling Ivan) to take cover behind it. I then equip a grenade and lob it over the rock towards the patrolling tank; it misses and the Germans start converging on my position. I lean around the corner, frantically clicking on the approaching Nazis and managing to down all three.
So I'm safe, but unfortunately all out of ammo and with a Panzer fully aware of where I'm hiding and locked onto my next move like a hawk. The tension is reaching its height when I make a daylight run to one of the Nazi bodies where I can grab a stick grenade and lob it at the war machine that has just launched a shell at my former hiding place. I do so and get a lucky stnke - the tank erupts and Germans pour out of it their bodies aflame. All that's left to do is open up the wrecked tank's inventory, remove a massive machine gun and mow down the soldiers that've been attracted by the uproar.
Victory is mine. Soldiers looks like being the first game to actually replicate the wargames I used to play with my collection of dog-chewed green army soldiers as a kid - but now, by the miracle of technology, I no longer need to use an ounce of my own imagination. The tension brewed from three Panzers sitting on a road with the distant rumble of a US tank convoy, and the miniature mayhem that ensues, suggests that (as long as the campaign stories bear up and there's enough variety in the game's environments) this game could really be rather special.
Soldiers: Heroes Of World War II is clearly chasing an audience beyond the normal RTS crowd, and as such it's bending over backwards to placate strangers to the top-down viewpoint. Any game that manages to instill a nascent interest in AirFix models, and indeed military artillery physics, while simultaneously managing to attract casual gamers deserves all the plaudits we can give. At ease soldier.
If You're still wondering why we're slavering over Soldiers: Heroes Of WWII, check out the stonking movies on our cover discs. Developed by Ukrainian developer Best Way. this single-player and multiplayer title takes the Commando blueprint and blows it apart, with the ability to directly control single units such as tanks and soldiers, using FPS-style controls to pull off headshots and stealth kills.
As either Allied, Russian or German forces, you can plan and complete missions any way you want, storming in with mortars-a-blazing, or sneakily taking out unsuspecting enemies under cover of darkness, using the real-time lighting feature to shoot out street lamps.
Soldiers: Heroes Of WWII has a staggering amount of period detail for authentic vehicles, buildings, weapons and uniforms, but it's the physics and particle effects that makes the game such a visceral assault on the senses. Witness grenades blasting out windows and sending shards of glass into the street, and tanks firing shells that obliterate buildings and throw bloodied bodies screaming into the air - nope, this is no run-of-the-mill RTS. Check out our exclusive hands-on war report next issue.