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Posted on Aug 16, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Combat Mission Shock Force Review

By Larry Levandowski

Passed Inspection: Adrenaline pumping depiction of tactical combat using the latest combined arms weapons and tactics. Turn-based or real-time game play. Immersive graphics and sound.

Failed Basic: Occasional bizarre path-finding. Tactical AI problems. Questionable line of sight through walls.

Sixty-four years ago, the German Panther was arguably the best medium tank on the battlefield. The reason for this was a synergy of armor, power-plant, and weapon technologies. But the Panther, if put on today’s battlefield, against today’s weapon systems, would be as effective as that proverbial snowball in Hades. Likewise, Battlefront’s venerable World War II-based Combat Mission series was ground-breaking when first released 2000. But to meet the demands of today’s gamers, as well as depict today’s complicated weapon systems, the Combat Mission game engine just could not keep up. The result is Combat Mission Shock Force, a complete rework of the game engine built around modern weapon systems. The game has a few issues, but those are mostly forgotten once the bullets start to fly. For those with an interest in modern ground tactical combat, this game is a must have.

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Shock Force is a wargame of tactical ground combat using the latest weapon systems. The game covers a hypothetical 2008 US invasion of Syria, with US Army medium and heavy forces, opposed to Syrian regular and irregular units. The setting is Syria, but the setting could just as well be Iraq. Battles are fought between platoon and company sized elements, but the game engine can handle up to battalion level combat. Each man and vehicle is depicted graphically and in terms of firepower and effectiveness. Squads and vehicle crew are rated for training and morale factors. Weapon systems range from AK-47s, to M1 Abrams main battle tanks, off-board artillery and air support. Players have the option of selecting pre-built or randomly generated battles. They can also choose to play as either the Syrians or the US. Campaign games are also supported, where a single player takes a core of units through several connected pre-built battles. At release, there are two campaigns; a tutorial and a US invasion of Syria campaign. Full multi-player support is also available for network or PBEM play. Scenarios are mostly well constructed and give players many hours of great game play.

Shock Force is immersive and even the most grizzled grognard will find their adrenaline starting to pump when their troops are in the middle of an intense fire-fight. The graphics and sound are excellent. Armored vehicles are highly detailed and move around the field with believable physics. The ground even shakes a bit as a tank rumbles by the camera. Tracers light up a beautifully rendered evening sky, and ricochet against armored vehicles with an unnerving metal on metal sound. Doors and hatches open and smoke pops as infantry fighting vehicles dismount their crew. If the player zooms the camera, they can even see detailed vehicle interiors. The ground troops look great as well, and they move almost like real humans. The graphics are not the best ever seen on the computer screen, but for a wargame, they are fantastic. The game engine does have some graphical quirks, like a tank running through an infantry man with no ill effects, or a soldier with his hand sticking through a wall. According to the manual, these are sacrifices to performance, and frankly they really detract very little from the game.

Despite the intense action, game play is not a twitch-fest. Combat Mission uses the WEGO turn system pioneered in earlier Combat Mission games. WEGO allows both sides to first give orders, and then simultaneously resolves them. The advantage of this system is that the order execution movie can be replayed over and over, so that the gamer can see what is going on from several perspectives on the battlefield. Also, instead of WEGO, the player has the option of choosing a real-time system, with player controlled pauses to give orders.

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1 Comment

  1. Just went back in the last few days and started playing this series of games again. Thanks for the great review (a little belated but still).

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