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Soldiers: Heroes of World War II PC CD-ROM

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Best Way Company
Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99

Even the most dedicated fans of the Commandos series would have to admit to being disappointed with Commandos 3 when it was released last year. Rather than being a sequel that moved the series forward it was a sequel that was quickly forgotten and hit the bargain bucket very rapidly. The game itself was good but a clumsy interface meant that many gamers just couldn't be bothered with it especially after the interface in Commandos 2 had been very good. What's the point of mentioning the Commandos games at the beginning of this review? Well for a start Soldiers: Heroes of World War II has been clearly influenced by the Commandos games but unlike Commandos 3 it actually manages to take this style of game further, a lot further.

So what does Soldiers: Heroes of World War II have to offer then? Well the game has four campaigns, Katyusha (USSR), Project America (UK), The Way to Berlin (USA) and Wrath of the Tiger (GER). You'll also have four tutorials to play through (recommended) as well as 7 bonus missions. In all you have around 30 missions and it's a nice touch that they can be played co-operatively (1-4 players), over a LAN or on the Internet. In terms of features the game easily surpasses anything the Commandos series could boast. There are over 100 authentic vehicles that can be used in the game. The game has a fully destructible environment with spectacular explosions too. The amount of actions that your units can carry out is also impressive. You'll find that tanks have to be maintained and refueled for instance, which all adds to the depth of the strategy you'll need to use. You'll also notice that the game has an impressive collection of context sensitive commands (indicated by the change of icon appearance). This allows you, amongst other things to climb inside buildings, use the environment as cover and climb over obstacles and into vehicles.

Whilst we mentioned the Commandos series in the introduction it wouldn't be fair to label Soldiers: Heroes of World War II as a Commandos clone. Yes there are similarities but there are enough differences to say without a doubt that it's a different, more in-depth, experience. One of the key differences is what is known as 'Direct Control'. Direct Control allows you to have a more precise control over your units. For instance it can allow you to manually aim your units weapon or control vehicles. In short it allows you to make your units behave exactly how you want them to. What I also like about Soldiers: Heroes of World War II is the ability to put the game into slow motion (you're not limited to it's use either) and this also gives you a greater degree of control. If slow motion is not for you then you can pause the action and give orders (with the latest patch you can queue orders with the use of the shift-click action) so you should never get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things that's going on.

Soldiers: Heroes of World War II has many elements that are noteworthy but what will stand out more than anything else is the difficulty. The game has four tutorials and it's highly advisable to complete these before embarking on the campaign missions. Even so the tutorials don't really prepare you for the steep learning curve that awaits you in the campaign and if the game has a problem it's definitely the severity of the learning curve. The game has three difficulty levels but even on easy it's still a monumental challenge. No matter which campaign you undertake and no matter which mission you'll play in those campaigns they will all seem initially impossible. In fact the missions in Soldiers: Heroes of World War II make those in the Commandos games seem like kids stuff. However with a lot of effort (and a good deal of patience) you'll find that many of the missions can be completed in various ways which is both excellent to see and good to know in case you want to play through the game a second time.

Graphically Soldiers: Heroes of World War II looks impressive. To be perfectly honest, the screenshots don't do the game justice in the slightest. There is an impressive level of detail in the game that initially many won't spot but extended play with the game reveals the hard work that has been put into the game. The units animate wonderfully and the variety of animations that have been included is also impressive. Destroy an enemy tank and you'll see it's surviving crew get out and run around with flames on their back. Should your tank's caterpillar tyre come off you'll have to instruct your men to fix the problem. Of course in many strategy games the animations would have been poor for instances such as this but in Soldiers: Heroes of World War II you'll see your men climb out of the tank and fix the problem before climbing back into the tank. You'll see the unsuspecting enemy soldiers smoke cigarettes and puff the smoke into the air (as well as other actions such as looking at their watches) which of course does nothing for the game play but does a lot for the atmosphere. You'll also see the trees and plants swing in the breeze which again looks great. The water and explosion effects are also worthy of mention as they look great. You can alter the level of detail in the game to make the game run smoothly on your PC so even if your PC specification isn't that high you should still be able to play the game.

Subtitles can be enabled in Soldiers: Heroes of World War II and of course this makes the game accessible for deaf gamers. When I began to play the game I did make a note of a potential problem with the text in the tutorials in that the text spilled over from the lower black border to the main game screen. This caused the text to be unclear and reading it was difficult. However I discovered that a patch had been released and after downloading it and installing it, I was pleased to see that this problem had been rectified and is no longer an issue. Whilst it was no longer a problem in the tutorials, it still remains in the introductions to the campaigns although the text is larger here so it isn't as much of a problem as it was in the tutorials. Whilst in a mission you'll be notified in text if a new objective has been added and objectives can be viewed at any time by pressing the 'O' key. Comments that your units (or enemy units) make are not shown in text. This is a shame but it doesn't spoil anything so there is no real harm done. It would have also been nice to see a visual representation of alarms (or at least of the enemy units shouting alarm). The game manual is light on details and only informs you of the basics but as we mentioned above you'll be best served by playing through the tutorials as they offer a better way of getting started.

World War II strategy games have always been tremendously popular and if you're one of the many gamers who like these games then there is little doubt that Soldiers: Heroes of World War II will appeal to you. As we mentioned earlier the difficulty level is a little overwhelming at first but with perseverance you'll begin to find your feet and feel comfortable with the game. The advantage of the difficulty level though is that when you are successful it's a very rewarding experience and it makes you want to take on the next mission. Soldiers: Heroes of World War II is definitely ones of those games where a lot of patience is required. If you like games such as the Commandos or Close Combat series then you're going to love it but those of you who want instant gratification and simplified RTS gaming might be in for a bit of shock. If you have the patience and perseverance to play missions where the odds are heavily stacked against you though you'll appreciate just how fine a game Soldiers: Heroes of World War II really is.

Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10
Difficult, very demanding and at times demoralising because of the sheer difficulty that's involved. However patience is the key and the satisfaction you'll get from the game is completely dependant on the effort you put into it. Soldiers: Heroes of World War II is a game for those who really like to get their teeth into a strategy game.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Unit comments are not subtitled and audible warnings such as alarms etc. are not shown visually but thankfully you can save anywhere you want to so this shouldn't cause too much frustration.