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Posted on Jul 10, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Rush for Berlin – Game Review (PC)

By Jim Cobb

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With the exception of Panther Games, developers seem to have given up on making serious RTS World War II tactical games. They opt instead for role-playing games in a World War II setting. Nothing is innately wrong in that. CDV’s Codename: Panzer series is great fun and not outrageously off the historical mark. As long as they don’t hold themselves out as historically accurate, these games can have a valid place in the industry. However, distancing themselves from complete accuracy doesn’t absolve the developers from refraining from fantasy. Paradox Interactive, Storm Region, and Deep Silver have teamed up with Rush for Berlin, a tactical game within this genre. As one can expect, the game has quirks like all other “set-in” type games. Too many quirks can make something laughable instead of enjoyable. How does Rush for Berlin strike a balance between history and play?

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Gameplay 

Rush for Berlin ‘s framework is the end of Nazi Germany as portrayed by four missions. The introduction implies a race between the Russians and Western Allies but no such competition exists as both campaigns’ final mission is in Berlin. The "rush” comes in each of the seven missions where an early victory means a better score, more medals and better units in the next mission. After both Allied missions have been completed, the German campaign of seven missions is unlocked. Germany victory doesn’t change the end of the war but does unlock the four-mission “bonus” French campaign.

Missions tend to be either specialized commando “Find the secret weapon” exercises or small unit actions as in take the bridge. Not even the Germans go on the defensive. The nature of the mission is clear from the briefing screen. Players start with their core units along with a few new units but the missions have limited number of slots so players must choose the units best fit to accomplish the task at hand. Decisions don’t stop there because mission slots are divided into green and red slots. Players can add extra troops using red slots but only at the cost of shortening the time available to win a scenario. Therefore, players must start thinking tactically immediately. Decisions on force composition are made easier by another innovation: a streaming video in the mission screen showing good routes to both the main and optional objectives. The video can be paused and re-run using VCR-like controls. Players have at least some idea what forces may be required. Secret objectives are not shown so some uncertainty remains.

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The mission briefing screens brings information as well as options.

Units are infantry squads, individual vehicles and individual specialists such as medics, sappers and many kinds of officers. Each unit has ratings for strength, morale, health and ammunition shown either through numbers or symbols. Additionally, each unit has a special ability which can be used with a certain range. These abilities vary from anti-tank grenades for standard infantry to anti-tank satchel dogs for Russian shock troops. Snipers can almost teleport to different locations. Some vehicles also have special abilities; scout vehicles can call in both tactical and strategic artillery and air strikes. Supply and repair trucks bring units back to strength in reasonable time. The Americans have cheap decoy vehicles that can fool the enemy into a useless action.

However, the champions of special abilities are officers. Here, these abilities are called “skills” with more skills added with experience. Some skills are quite realistic; officers raise morale and efficiency. Other skills have a fantastic whiff to them such as the one allowing a German officer to blow all enemy aircraft out of the sky with ME 262’s or an American officer deploying pinpoint paradrops at his leisure. A nice restraining factor is that all special abilities take time to recharge before they can be used again. More realistic functions are that vehicles and artillery pieces must be crewed and gradual losses to the crew explicitly reduces capabilities, e.g. losing a crew member reduces the number of secondary weapons available.

Inclusion of these special skills as well as barracks and factories to create units during play rule Rush for Berlin out as a truly serious wargame. However, the game’s mission structure and interface come together to make play an enjoyable experience with a period tint. All the mainstays of RTS interfaces are in the game: left click to select a unit, right click to order it, Storm Region’s assault move “a”, group with a lasso and name groups with CRTL+#. These venerable conventions pale before this product’s “order dial.” This large circle in the lower right of the screens not only shows the attributes of a selected unit but also allows use of special abilities, changes from standing to crawling stances and toggles through aggressive, defensive and passive behaviors. When a group is selected, icons for each unit appear on the outside rim of the dial. Clicking on an icon allows orders to be quickly given. Officers’ skills can be accessed to another group of icons in the upper right while the mini-map is ringed with small icons used in multi-play and for calling in officers not already on the board. In the heat of battle, CRTL+A brings icons for all units to the dial so that damage to units can be monitored by a slow red wash over their icon.

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American units take on two Pzkw Mark IVs. The order dial in the lower left shows all available American troops.

Missions can be intriguing mixtures of realism and imagination, presenting the player with conundrums. Because speed is of the essence, accomplishing only the main objective may be attractive to players in a hurry. However, the locations of secondary objectives are known and are often on the way to the main goals. Securing secondary objectives usually yields additional resources of information so accomplishing them may well speed the way to final victory. Secret objectives are a different matter. Players can either stumble on to them or pause the game to run the mouse over the map, hoping the tooltip will indicate a secret goal by turning blue. Such objectives may yield useful things or may be like the one in the American Bulge mission where the player helps out a Telly Savalas character regain his loot. Secret objectives may cost more time than the points they yield warrant. However, returning to complete these objectives may make replay worthwhile.

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