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by “Admiral” Nelson Hernandez
Combat Mission (CM) is one of the best computer wargames ever made, and certainly the best tactical-level wargame I have ever played. Set in northwestern Europe in the period from the D-Day invasion to the surrender of Germany, the game incorporates two innovative concepts--a 3-D battlefield and a simultaneous movement system.
CM combines them with superb realism and great replay value to make a game without peer, one that satisfies the grognard’s desire for detail yet remains entertaining and educational for the more casual audience.
The game allows the player to command the forces of six nationalities (American, British, Canadian, Polish, French and German) in battles on the company and battalion level, on 3-D maps. The basic unit is the squad or vehicle, with teams carrying heavy weapons. Each turn represents a minute of game time.
CM departs from the standard “I go, you go” turn sequence. Instead, the game uses the “we go” system: players plot the orders for their units, then the computer resolves the turn.
Players are able to watch the events unfold with a freely movable virtual camera that can get any angle on the action. The movie can be replayed an unlimited number of times. Reactions to unexpected events that take place while the turn is playing out are handled by the tactical AI, which is usually pretty sensible and places a premium on self-preservation.
The turn sequence lends this game very well to play by e-mail, and makes all kinds of “gamey” tactics used in similar turn-based games impossible. The net effect is to stress the use of real-world tactics and avoid the click-fest present in any fully real-time game.
Finally, the game includes a very user-friendly scenario builder with which you can generate just about any situation imaginable on the Western Front during the 1944-45 period.
Installation was no problem. The manual is excellent, weighing in at over 160 pages with an index. It also includes a guide to the tutorial and the scenario builder. On the whole, the game is pretty intuitive, and the unexpected things that happen are not bugs for once—just frightened or berserk men doing the crazy things they do in war.
It is worth noting here that Combat Mission was basically ready to be shipped last December, but Big Time Software opted to hold back and work out some bugs they had spotted. The state of the game shows the wisdom of taking this course.
It only crashed once while I was playing it, and the corrections on the latest patch are minor. I hope some developers are watching and realize how much gamers appreciate simple things like a bug-free product and a manual that explains how the game works.
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