Empire describe Campaign as being "the most comprehensive simulation of warfare in World War II" and judging by the amount of detail and complexity in this release then they may just be right. I've heard Campaign described as a cross between U.M.S. and M1 Tank Platoon so you know what you're in for before you start to play.mThis might lead you to think that one area of this concept will be sacrificed in favour of the other, however this is most certainly not the cose. The game contains a bucketful of strategy to keep experienced wargamers happy, while there is enough of an arcade element incorporated to keep the itchy trigger-finger brigade happy.
The strategy element of the game has you controlling your forces in an attempt to win battles that last a minimum of one day but can last up to a year! Before you start to panic, that's one year in game time. In all, there's 26 theatres of battle ranging from the simplest battle to controlling every single tank and aircraft that was involved in the Normandy landings on the fateful D-Day.
Each group of tanks under your control can be set to manual, meaning that you control all of their actions, or alternatively select automatic mode in which the computer takes control of each particular groups' actions. This gives you the option to have as much or as little control over the games direction as you like. Campaign comes with one of the most comprehensive manuals yet seen in a computer game. Split into two parts, one of which is a comprehensive list of facts and figures about every tank and aircraft in the game, the manual tells you everything you could possibly wish to know.
Fortunately, with this being such a detailed and realistic simulation, the manual is fairly readable and easy to understand. For instance one of the first things you learn is that clicking on any port of the screen with your right mouse button will give you a brief description of what that particular area of the screen is used for. It also contains an exceptionally useful tutorial to guide you through the first campaign.
Surprisingly, Campaign is not that difficult to get into. Usually with this type of game it takes about four and a half days to even learn how to drive your tank, but Campaign is different as it is possible to make a good attempt at, and even complete the first few campaign maps within the first few hours gameplay. This is not to say that it's easy to win at Campaign because once you get on to some of the later maps, such as the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 or the Pripet marshes in 1941, you will be tested to the limit no matter how experienced you are.
Out on a strike
Progressing into the game, more features are constantly becoming available to you, making the game vastly more complex than it was originally. Later in the game your airfields will provide you with automatic and manual air strikes, your ships will patrol the seas, production centres provide you with a means of producing more vehicles as well as precious fuel and ammunition, and convoys are sent to join your battle groups at the front line.
All of this can get pretty hectic with so much to do, but before you start to worry too much, a speed controller has been included to slow things down to a more leisurely pace. Thankfully a good job has been mode of the strategy section of the game. It is all too easy to let that side of a game pass without much attention being paid to it, as long as there is a good arcade section. So it should be said that this particular element of the game is as engrossing as the truly excellent 3-D section.
Of course, if you are not particularly keen on the idea of driving a tank around the landscape shooting at other tanks then you can let the computer take control of any battles and just concentrate on your tactics for success. If this is the way you want to play the game then each time a battle situation arises, the computer will ask you if you want that battle to be manually or automatically controlled. If you don't want any part of it then select manual and the computer will assume control, giving you a brief summary of the fight afterwards.
However, there is a drawback to all this. If you don't drive the tank, you don't win the medals. So if you like to see rewards for your hard work then you must climb into your vehicle and take out some opposition. Before you start to complain that you don't like tank simulators let me tell you that this is the best I have seen so far. The excitement level is raised to fever pitch as you ore hot on the heels of an enemy tank. You are able to control anything up to 16 tanks in a 3-D environment littered with trees, houses and of course other tanks!
The best control method for the arcade section is through the keyboard - now there's a novelty! This system is extremely user friendly with you controlling one tank and the others roving around doing their own thing, blowing each other up and such like. It certainly gets a bit tense out there at times and your pride occasionally takes a bit of a bruising, especially when you are chasing an evil enemy, have him lined up perfectly in your sights, loose off a shot and miss.
Not too bad you may think but it takes quite a while for your gun to be reloaded so you are left stranded with no available ammo and an enemy tank sticking it's gun barrel in your face. You will find yourself having to swallow your pride many times and turn tail and run to save yourself getting blown to molecules. As if that wasn't enough, Campaign contains another completely different section. This is the map editor and it allows you to create your own campaign maps.
You can include anything you could wish for, including forests, mountain ranges, roods, rivers and seas before setting up the vehicle groups and objectives. Of course, when you consider that the maps included in the game will probably take you months to complete anyway, you know that you have a pretty big game in your hands!
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