Rush for Berlin is a real-time strategy game that trains its sights on an oft-overlooked war in video games: World War II. Okay, so World War II isn't exactly an original take on a genre struggling to reinvent itself. Yet Rush for Berlin earns a salute for at least attempting to go off the beaten path, even if it's only a few feet. Key features include an alternate history timeline, four distinct campaigns, prototype units, and a skill system. The developer has adapted the 3D engine used in its Codename: Panzers series, bringing the battlefields to life with subtle detail and fluid animation.
Those who prefer marching orders in lieu of base construction will appreciate the game's design. Rush for Berlin forgoes resource management in favor of action. Instead of ordering peons to fetch raw materials, you lead a group of soldiers and vehicles across enemy terrain. Missions typically involve capturing, defending, or destroying key structures as quickly and as efficiently as possible, with time playing a role in each campaign's success. This is, after all, Rush to Berlin, not a jaunt or a leisurely stroll. Since there is no pesky economy to deal with, the focus is on tactics. Units are carried over from mission to mission, as players call in reinforcements as needed and try to minimize casualties.
While the core action doesn't deviate far from previous titles in the genre, Rush for Berlin emphasizes fun over tedium through its 25 solo missions and five multiplayer modes. The entertainment comes from the actions performed by both standard units and officers alike. Each infantry unit has an innate special ability as well as a clickable skill, with officers and certain vehicle types able to use three skills. From calling in air strikes and tossing magnetic mines to boosting morale and planting explosives, skills influence battles in dramatic ways and give even "lowly" units purpose. Familiarity is Berlin's greatest fault, but its polish and pacing will appeal to aspiring generals with tempered expectations.
Graphics: The cut-scenes will elicit a few cringes, but the battlefields look nice. The scalable camera lets players easily see activity from all angles, while the mini-map clearly delineates objectives, enemy units, and structures.
Sound: The explosions, bombs, machine gun fire, and other sounds of war are convincing. The above-average voice acting also has a humorous touch.
Enjoyment: Rush for Berlin doesn't offer much in the way of new features, but what it lacks in ingenuity it makes up for in entertaining action.
Replay Value: Players can revisit campaign maps to complete side objectives and earn various medals for specific achievements. While the campaign can be completed within 25 hours, five multiplayer modes offer different styles of play against the computer or friends.
It's hard not to think of subcategories within the real time strategy genre as members of a somewhat awkward and dysfunctional family. The roots of this particular brand of gameplay can often be traced back to The Ancient Art of War and Dune II-two games often considered to be the original parents from which all current RTS games stem. If that's the case, then Rush for Berlin would have to be the proverbial black sheep of the bunch. Unlike its more popular older siblings, Warcraft and Command & Conquer, the game tends to pass almost completely under the radar. In spite of this, however, Rush for Berlin does try very hard to set itself apart from other conventional World War II strategy games by implementing some rather interesting ideas, such as a hypothetical German campaign in which players have the opportunity to change the course of history. Just as the title implies, Rush for Berlin's storyline will revolve around the recreation of several key battles (with a few liberties taken, of course) that occurred prior to the capture of Germany's capital by allied forces.
Fans of the original Codename Panzer titles should feel right at home with Rush for Berlin's style of gameplay since both were developed by the same company. However, it would be a huge mistake to simply brand it as a rehash with better textures. Unlike other strategy games where players with the most efficient build order often dominate the battlefield, Rush for Berlin focuses almost solely on micromanagement and tough decisions which need to be made on the fly. Upon discovering that tasks such as base building and resource gathering are out of the picture one may ask, "Where's the beef?" In truth, the game is actually better off tying the gameplay mechanics to the historical tensions between the Soviets and the West-two military superpowers both trying to be the first to reach and overtake Berlin. To set the stage for a potentially chaotic and hectic experience, time becomes a factor that you must constantly take into consideration since you are being matched against your allies by a timer which frequently checks each side's performance as the game progresses. This puts a lot of pressure on players to resist the temptation to call in an excessive amount of reinforcements or airstrikes, as it can slow you down in the long run. But don't let that intimidate you. Should you make a few mistakes here and there, you'll always have a chance to turn the tables and do a better job next time. Mission briefings will be extremely helpful in that regard, since you'll be able to follow up on your allies, reassess your previous battles, and modify your strategy accordingly. This also gives you the chance to assemble your troops together from a pool of fresh new recruits, as well as skilled veterans from your previous outings.
Rush for Berlin doesn't sport anything groundbreaking by today's next-gen standards, but the graphics engine is still more than capable of producing what are, honestly, some of the best looking visuals ever to be implemented in a strategy game. Each environment-from the snowfields of Bastogne to the ruins of Stalingrad-comes to life with all the brutality intact, yet manages to retain a certain cinematic and aesthetically beautiful quality. Unfortunately, the game tends to get heavily bogged down during large scale firefights due to all the particle effects being simultaneously rendered onscreen.
Despite boasting four campaigns and a wide variety of missions, Rush for Berlin feels disappointingly short. There's no doubt that the game holds up its end of the bargain when it comes to delivering fast paced action, but one can't help but feel a little ripped off when the stages can easily be beaten in half an hour or so. Even less impressive is the substandard AI, which-aside from a few bright moments-only seems to be able to pose as some sort of danger when enemies attack in large numbers (à la Lemmings). The game is still rather difficult in that regard, since you will often face them in massive quantities. But for a game that looks this good and plays this well, it seems a shame that of all things, this is where the game suffers.
Rush for Berlin offers several online configurations, including a cooperative mode allowing you and your friends to play through certain single player campaigns, classic team and free-for-all deathmatch, domination mode, and two "new" additions known as RISK (in which teams are given randomly generated mission objectives to accomplish) and RUSH (which is essentially a modified domination mode). These five multiplayer options will definitely add quite a bit of replay value to the game once you're finished, and it more than makes up for the lack of tactical difficulty in the single player campaign.
In the end, Rush for Berlin is still quite enjoyable despite its flaws and should be credited with making a good effort, especially since it could have easily been mislabeled as just another generic World War II title. It definitely doesn't deserve to be missed out on, especially if you're a fan of the genre, and it should adequately hold everyone's attention.
People who downloaded Rush for Berlin have also downloaded:
No Surrender: Battle of the Bulge, Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, Moscow to Berlin: Red Siege, Theatre of War, Rome: Total War, D-Day, Panzer General 3: Scorched Earth, Codename: Panzers - Phase Two
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