World War II is one of the most justifiable wars in which the United States has participated, so it comes as no surprise that video games reflecting this era are very popular. Most people look on the war as a moment of great triumph for the USA and its allies against an enemy with previously unheard of means for destruction. WWII veterans have few or no misgivings about why they were fighting and neither will you when you play Close Combat: Invasion Normandy. The game is based in France where the Allies gained a foothold in Europe.
The main objective is to control as many important points as possible and not simply just kill the enemy. In fact, eliminating the enemy in every mission isn't possible because there simply isn't enough time or manpower. Each side begins with a certain number of control points and must advance and take control of as many new ones as possible. This slow process will aggravate some gamers because troops move like molasses. While you do have the option of quicker movement in some situations, troops cannot run right past an enemy -- each time enemy troops are spotted, your units hit the dirt and attack. This element of gameplay lasts a very long time due to the difficulty in dispatching the enemy from certain positions. Tanks and large guns also prohibit you from blazing through the battlefield because of their range.
The game seems very simple when viewed in terms of its stated goal to "control the most points" but, in practice, this is hardly the case. Before starting, you move your troops to any point within a highlighted area on the map. You then have to advance each unit towards the enemy front and, with well over ten units to control, many options for taking control of the battlefield are presented. It's possible to select multiple units and send them out to points that you deem more important or you can simply advance all of your troops directly forward. Typically, the side that controls the most points wins but occasionally, control of a specifically important site can mean victory.
Some hot keys are available but the mouse is the controller of choice. It's easier to simply right click on a troop and give the orders in an effort to try and speed up slow gameplay. The keyboard is used to set waypoints and utilize sea or air support. You can play a full campaign or any of the missions independently but gameplay doesn't end when you simply defeat the scripted scenarios. By customizing your own game, you can decide how many control points to assign to each side, how many and what type of troops and even limit supplies. For example, give the enemy a low supply of ammunition and no air or sea support and you increase your chances of winning significantly.
Not only can you create your own scenarios from scratch but you can also edit the existing campaigns. Each battle can be loaded into the editor and then customized. Doing so, of course, eliminates any historical accurateness of the original scenario. If you save the customized scenario over a preexisting one, you won't be able to restore the original without either reinstalling the game or grabbing the original file from the CD and importing it to the correct folder.
Even though very customizable, Close Combat: Invasion Normandy's gameplay can get very repetitive after repeated play. Granted, you have a multitude of strategic possibilities with the number of troops and unit types but, in the end, the game still has the same objective -- get the most control points. The characters and scenery are very small and after an hour of watching the tiny forces attack each other, it's easy to get tired of the entire concept. Although small, the environmental graphics look realistic.
The sound is well done but some varied objectives would've helped improve the game's longevity. For instance, what about having certain missions with no control points and an objective of simply destroying the other troops or a certain building? In World War II, certainly intelligence had to be used to find target points of great importance to eventually destroy them but, here, you only have one objective. Of course, changing these parameters would also expand the game beyond its strategic borders and lead to some inconsistencies.
Close Combat: Invasion Normandy is entertaining, though, and the custom mission builder lets you vary the difficulty of every level. The sounds immerse you in a very intense battlefield situation and while your troops don't move very fast, the weapons still fire quickly and when completely involved in a battle, you can hear it raging. You can play as either German or American forces with the number of troops for each tracked by a red (German) and green bar (American).
The game should appeal to the true war strategy fan but the lack of action coupled with repetitive gameplay will annoy many gamers. Just think of Close Combat: Invasion Normandy as a World War II board game with sound and animation in which you advance your troops in teams to control certain victory points.
Graphics: In high resolution, the trees, sand, water and other terrain look very realistic but it is all too small with no ability to zoom in on the action. Gunfire is represented by green and red streaks.
Sound: The sound is the only aspect of the game that gets intense and exciting. When you're in heavy enemy fire, you hear realistic gun shots along with yelling and screaming when soldiers are killed.
Enjoyment: Some aspects of the game make it repetitive but it still has some solid entertainment value. Watching the yellow smoke signals rise into the air to signal where bombers should strike is fun, especially when the screen shakes after they drop their payload. Much of the work lies in positioning your troops before they strike (it is a strategy title) since it's not possible to move them much after the battle starts.
Replay Value: Defeating the campaigns and pre-generated battles is only the beginning since you can also create your own battles, operations and campaigns. Additionally, you can play multiplayer with one other person using any of your own creations.
People who downloaded Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy have also downloaded:
Close Combat 3: The Russian Front, Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far, Close Combat, Civil War Generals 2, Axis & Allies, Sid Meier's Gettysburg!, Age of Empires III, Avalon Hill's Squad Leader
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