World War II Online
By Russell "Buster" Ford

Article Type: Update
Article Date: January 13, 2003

Product Info

Product Name: WWII Online: Blitzkrieg
Category: MMOG
Developer: Cornered Rat Software
Hosted By: Playnet
Publisher: Strategy First
Release Date: June 8, 2001 (Released)
Minimum Spec: PII 400, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB 3D Video
Recommended Spec: PIII 600, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB 3D Video
Files and Links: Click Here

That Was Then

I can still remember watching the first video clip for WWII Online: Blitzkrieg. I sat there mesmerized in front of my PC watching a tank coming through a break in the tree line. The soldier lying in ambush never stood a chance as the tank opened fire with the hull machine gun cutting him to shreds. Plans were made and mulled over with my gaming buddies on the forming of a unit to play this great new sim. It was with this in mind that I set forth on a 120 mile round trip to pick up my copy when it was released over a year and a half ago.

Cornered Rat Software has come across a rocky road at best since developing WW2OL. At one point, I know that I gave up on this game. Still, they have managed to hold together a dream and keep gamers online through the difficult start. I won't go deeply into past problems with this game. You can read the last two reviews for that (see Resources section below for links). Patches were very slow to come when it went online. Every glitch and bug seemed to surface from the very start. Long load times, to server crashes, to just plain not being able to connect. Not to mention having to play on several different servers instead of one large one. Playing this game was an ordeal. NoÖit was a nightmare. Even when a patch was implemented, it seemed to cause as many problems as it corrected. If I have counted correctly, there have been ten public patches since the last review. Lets take a look and see how the game has progressed since then.

This is Now


Let's take a look at what has changed:

New foliage

Infantry
Infantry is the backbone of this game. Many preferred not to play infantry when the game was released. With the addition of sappers and hand grenades, plus attrition of all units being put into effect, infantry is now fun to play. A lot of new additions are coming for the infantry model. Manual reloading has been added and binoculars have been given anyone with the rank of captain or above. Animations have been redone and are still being added. Development updates suggest that emotes are on the way: Pointing, Follow Me, and Rally are some that have been mentioned. There has also been talk of adding taunts and even a jump key. Personalizing your soldiers face and maybe even an arm patch for the different squads are also being considered. All buildings can now be entered. Terrain has been added that makes hiding much easier. Nothing was more disappointing than to make a 10-minute ride to the front only to be killed as soon as you arrived because of a lack of foliage to hide in.

Armour
Tank battle in this game is the most enjoyable for me. If you study the terrain and keep situational awareness, you can get many kills. The PzKpfw IV medium tank and the SdKfz 232 armored car have been added for the Axis. While on the Allied side, the Vickers Mk VI light tank and the AMD Panhard 178 armored car arrived on the scene. All these new vehicles added along with the old make for a well-rounded game. The armour and explosives on all the vehicles have been adjusted through several of the patches.

Stuka escort duties

Aircraft
The He 111 bomber and the Dewotwine 520 fighter are two new aircraft that have been introduced into the game. The 520 fighter should be a great addition when it is upgraded. It will have (4) 20mm wing cannons and be able to carry 1 small bomb under each wing. A siren was added for the Stuka along with the ability to jettison bombs on the Blens. I still do not like the flight models in this game. Compared to every flight sim I have played, and they are numerous, the planes just do not feel right. Flying the Me 109 for example, the slightest twitch of the joystick gives you a blackout and the throttle does not seem to react properly. Thatís only my opinion. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Flak 30 kill

AA/AT Guns
The Hotchkiss 25mm AA gun has been added to the French arsenal. There is nothing like lighting up a bomber or fighter as it flies over your position. Though not easy to get kills with, the pilots are not as brazen as they once were flying over cities looking for targets. The Bofors 40mm gun was also added. Though not able to fire AT rounds as the 88mm gun of the Axis, it evens the side as a great AA, light armour, and fortification gun. As a pull vehicle for the Bofors, the Allies also received the Morris CDSW.

Naval
When WW2OL was distributed to the masses, there were no ships included even though it was advertised on the box. Since then the Fairmille has been introduced as a ship for both sides. It has been re-equipped with a two-pounder deck cannon as well as 4 mg. stations of different calibers.

Sound
Sound problems with WW2OL were numerous in the beginning. A person could always hear tanks and shots firing in the background even when in the middle of nowhere. Poor performance for PCís was also blamed on sound problems. There have been major sound improvements in this game. New sounds for troops, low flying aircraft, and near miss bullets have been added. Bullets now make different sounds when striking different materials. Doppler effects now make it much easier to track vehicles around you while hardware acceleration support has been added. Environment sounds such as owls hooting and dogs barking now fill the air when there is a lull in shooting.

New moonlight

Graphics
While WW2OL has never been a beautiful game to look at compared to titles being put out today, much has been done to dress up the eye candy. I almost did not recognize this as being the same game compared to the last time I played. So many new cities have been added that having a map is now a must. Many different types of trees, tall grass and lots of different types of buildings now can be found all over the map. A moon has been added to the night sky that makes playing after dark much easier. Explosions and bullet holes have much more visual impact and change based on the type of material they hit and the angle they are traveling. Impact smoke has also been redone. One of the newest items to be implemented is screen shake. Whenever an explosion detonates close by, you will get a varying amount of screen shake determined by how close you are to the explosion. This has definitely added to the gaming experience for me.

Find a battle easily now

Gameplay

Thanks to a new user interface, getting into a battle has never been easier. There are new map icons denoting battles happening at the moment and showing where the enemy has been detected. No more guessing or having to ask where the action is. It is now easy to keymap the vehicles from this screen or check your personas.

One of the critical aspects of the game is winning, of course. Lets conquer Europe! A common course of action that used to happen was a truckload of infantry sped to a town and captured the flag building. This is not as easily done now. When a point changes hands, a warning goes out to all players that a facility has been lost or captured. Flag buildings must be captured and held for a period of time. Full attrition has also come into effect. It is now entirely possible to use up every vehicle that can be spawned from a city or forward base. When units are lost on the field, they do not reappear to be used again and again. There are set amounts for each vehicle that can be spawned from each point.

Rank now has its privileges. Lower ranking players cannot access the heavier equipment and the highest-ranking players will only use the rarest equipment. I can attest to that! An alert system has been added that warns of enemy armor, infantry, or attack. Messages now appear in your chat box giving you up to date information about conflicts in the whole game arena. One thing I did notice while playing was the lack of grievers. My experience of multiplay has always been one of being able to find them. There was a lot of teamwork being exhibited. This is a definite plus.

I did not experience any problems installing or playing the game this time around. Connection time is not much longer than an ordinary multiplay game. I experienced no CTDís while playing. I did experience some lag or what seemed to be lag trying to track aircraft while using an AA gun. One second they would be up close and personal, the next second they would disappear only to reappear a very short time later. If there was any lag playing as infantry or armor, it was not as evident. Another problem I encountered was spawning in a hotly contested area. I had a bad slow down for about 5 to 10 seconds while the PC was loading all the necessary graphics information into memory. After that it was play as normal. My frame rate never went into the teens no matter what vehicle I was in. This was a definate plus over what I had been accustomed to in the past.

Easy to use this keymapper

Conclusions

Having played this game for more hours when it was first introduced than I care to admit, I went into this free trial not expecting much. What I came away with was an eye opening experience of what this game was supposed to be when it was released. The graphics are still not fancy compared to todayís titles. But they aren't supposed to be, right? This is an MMOG. The punch is in the game play.

There are now 49 different units available for use in this game. Quite a difference over what was initially released with this title. Too many improvements have been made to list them all. You can go online and read about them on the development forums. I have tried to hit the highlights. The game has earned my admiration. At a little over three dollars a week, I feel it is a good value. If you are looking for a multi-play gaming experience that occurs in this time period, then this is for you.

I would also encourage anyone playing this game to join a squad. The lone wolf play of this game will not get you far. It can be played that way but is not nearly as much fun as playing with a team. When I first began playing, I joined a squad. Picking a battle, choosing tactics and weapons to get the job done are as much fun as the game when playing with a team.

I have to give Cornered Rats a thumb up for sticking this one out when things did not look promising.

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WWII Online: Blitzkrieg


WW2OL Online Resources




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