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Squad Leader
by James "Bismarck" Cobb

A bounty of weapons awaits your men in the equipment screen.

The deployment screen gives a foreboding of something wrong. The battlefield's landscape is too regular, rather like an English garden. Everything is shaped as nice quadrilaterals with changes in elevation stepped like terraces. Trenches and foxes holes are neat rectangles trimmed neatly with sandbags. Shell holes are perfect circles and barbed wire is perfect until the section with the hole comes along. The wrecks, beach obstacles and shelled buildings that are placed to make things messy seem only to underscore the overall manicured nature of the terrain. The first bug also shows up in the deployment screen. Each unit has a different color tag, which is useful because a soldier's abilities decrease the further away he gets from his squad. However, when three rifle squads are chosen (and some scenarios allow four squads), two have the same blue tag which makes squad integrity more useful.

In a typical slyvan glade, this German is about to catch a burst.

A zoomed-out map shows a battle field in Holland.

The interface raises hopes as the interface bar displays a togglable panel showing either the character's attributes and wound graphics or his health and effectiveness bars and action points, a panel showing his weapons and one showing movement, stance and action icons. Interspersed with this are nice quick search icons moving the cursor to friendly specialists and spotted enemies. Movement is where the breakdown begins. Clicking on a destination shows the soldier's path and action point expended. Movement over any distance often shows and incredibly tortuous route. An inadvertent double-click locks in this waste of points so that the player moves step-by-step to insure the most economical movement. Slowing things down further is an optional movement stop when the soldier reaches the minimum points for a snap shot. This option negates the rapid animation and makes no sense anyway since the player is either moving a long distance in a safe zone or is moving cautiously in a target rich environment. The scale for movement costs is strange also. Does it really take twice the energy to flop prone than to kneel? An odd omission is the lack of a stealth mode. Hand-to-hand combat works better if the soldiers are behind a target. So a soldier can stomp around in the woods to flank his target. No problem because everybody is deaf in this game and only responds to line of sight cues.


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