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Combat Mission: Shock Force PC

Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: Battlefront.com
Release Date: July 27th 2007

Given the success of the Combat Mission games it's not surprising that expectations have been high for Combat Mission: Shock Force. Few would have expected the basic structure of the game to have undergone some quite dramatic changes however. In fact to many the Combat Mission formula was very successful and didn't need much improving. Nevertheless, Combat Mission: Shock Force is a sequel that does things quite differently. It still manages to feel like a Combat Mission game but even veterans of the previous games in the series will take a while to adjust to how Combat Mission: Shock Force plays.

The first major difference you'll notice is that World War II is no longer the setting. This time we're dealing with a hypothetical crisis that's not too far away from real life events. The year is 2008 and the action is set in Syria. The game is essentially a conflict involving Syrian terrorists and Western Allies who are determined to bring a halt to the numerous terrorist attacks that have been carried out in the Western World. The Syrian terrorists have been exploding waste uranium in many locations creating havoc and needless to the say the affected nations called for action and the United Nations did not refuse. As soon as Syria was identified as the culprit action was taken. It was decided that Task Force Hawk, led by a Stryker Brigade Combat Team (who were backed up by a mixed battalion of Armour, Mechanized Infantry and support assets), were to slice through Syria and make it impossible for defending forces to redeploy from one area to another. In the game Syria is the Red Force with the Western Allies being labelled as the Blue Force.

Shock Force gives you the choice of playing a Campaign, Battle or Quick Battle. The campaigns, which are essentially a series of related battles, are semi-dynamic in that there are some predetermined elements and some that are based on the player's actions. Quick Battles allow you to choose an existing battle map (or one that you've created using the scenario editor) and set the parameters for the battle. As a result the Quick Battles aren't fixed scenarios like the Battles and offer a higher degree of replay value. The AI has three levels ranging from the easy to defeat Basic Training level to the very difficult Elite difficulty level which will give seasoned grognards a real challenge. You can play against human opposition either by playing hotseat (where you'll take it in turns using the same computer), by email or over the Internet or LAN. A scenario editor has also been included and it's very easy to use so everyone should be able to create their own scenario without any real problems.

Whilst the underlying calculations in the game are all carried out in real-time you can choose to play out the battles in real-time or a turn-based fashion. If you choose to play in real-time you'll have a setup phase, where the action is paused and you can place your units within the setup zone. Once you're ready to commence battle, the game will play out with one second game time equalling one second of real-time. The action can be paused (by pressing the Esc key) at any time and orders given when playing in real-time. When playing in real-time you'll find that the battles have a time limit and after this limit has been reached the battle ends. Of course you may prefer to play the game in a turn-based fashion and here the game feels more like the previous Combat Mission titles. Once again you'll have a setup phase and here you'll move your units anywhere you like within the setup zone. For the first turn only you'll go straight into the Action Phase but from thereon you'll find that each turn consists of a Command Phase (where you issue the orders to your units), an Action Phase (which lasts 60 seconds and is where you watch both your actions and those of your opponents play out) and a Replay Phase that allows you to study what has just occurred. It's important to point out that you can only issue orders in the Command Phase.

The developers have shown a great attention to the small details in Shock Force. Everything from modern lines of communication to the fatigue your infantry will suffer has been modelled accurately. In fact there's much more authenticity in the game than can be covered in a simple review such as this. However, what the game really lacks is a proper tutorial. I daresay the developers might have assumed that only Combat Mission veterans would consider picking up Shock Force and that a tutorial is not necessary. Personally whilst I think that this will mostly be the case I still think a proper tutorial should have been included to cover all eventualities. Thankfully the manual is up to scratch and you'll simply have to read it through in order to fully appreciate how to play the game.

One of my big expectations for Shock Force was that it would look a whole lot better than the previous Combat Mission titles. In truth, the game does look a whole better than the previous Combat Mission games but it doesn't look quite as good as some of the 3D RTS games that have appeared over the last year or so. The infantry looks much better this time around and animates far more impressively. The military vehicles in the game all look good too. The maps simply look OK although you could argue they look a little bland. The various buildings you'll find in the mission don't look that great to be honest. Where the game does impress though is the quality of its presentation which is much improved from the previous games in the series. The interface is much more accessible and inviting. There's far more information you can find at a glance which just wasn't possible in earlier titles. The game also offers realistic looking tactical maps which look great.

Deaf gamers will have no problems with Combat Mission: Shock Force. Virtually all of the information in the game is shown either in text or by the use of icons. Mission briefings and all the information you need prior to a battle is shown in text. The game uses a wealth of icons to display information and whilst most of these are fairly intuitive, the manual manages to explain what all of the icons mean. Actually because of the absence of a tutorial, the manual is very important and thankfully it manages to cover all of the game's various aspects quite nicely. What deaf gamers won't be aware of is the dialogue spoken by your units on the battlefield. This dialogue really adds to the atmosphere and it's a shame that deaf gamers will be unaware of it, although it would be incorrect to say it prevents deaf gamers from enjoying the game.

The developers took a bit of a risk moving the Combat Mission series away from World War II and also in more or less building the game up again from new foundations. However, Combat Mission: Shock Force is pretty much going to be exactly what fans of the series have wanted. There are some differences here but it still manages to feel like a Combat Mission game and an improved one at that. I was disappointed to see that a tutorial hadn't been included but I daresay this is something that won't worry fans of the series, although it does make it slightly daunting for those who have yet to experience a Combat Mission game. The bottom line is however, that Combat Mission: Shock Force is a great sequel and one that fans of the series will surely appreciate.

Overall Game Rating 8.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

DGC Classification C
(Click the letter or here for details)

Combat Mission: Shock Force is a sequel that's going to please fans of the series and is another fine strategy game from Battlefield.com. I would have liked to have seen a tutorial included however and subtitles for comments made by your units would have been most welcome.