French game developer Monte Cristo Multimedia started back in 1997 with a Stock Market simulator, and continued developing simulators over the next 7 years. But over time, those new simulators moved the player from the boardroom to the battleground, with 2003’s Platoon, followed by 2004’s Desert Rats vs. Afrika Corps, and now D-Day, a World War II strategy game that allows the player to lead the allied forces march to victory.
When I received the assignment of reviewing this game, I did so with a little trepidation, as I had never played a strategy game so firmly based in history and reality. I was also a bit concerned as to how much I would enjoy a game where I already knew a great deal about the expected outcome.
When it comes to game play, D-Day is much like other games of its genre, in that it provides a good measure of reality to the idea of a real-time war simulator. Ordering a platoon of soldiers to rush a fortified machine gun placement might result in your troops taking the position, but not before the enemy has littered the path with the bodies of your troops. Players with a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality will not enjoy this game. Stealth and guile are at least as important as firepower, especially in the missions run prior to the invasion of Normandy.
The controls are very easy to understand, but can become a bit clunky when attempting to control a large operation. Fortunately, the developers added a pause feature to allow the player to issue orders to troops without the pressure of having to click on moving targets or during missions with time limits. The zoom control allows the player to view individual units at a very up close level, or all the way up to a full 360 degree field of view.
The commands available to give the units under your command are quite flexible, and the game goes so far as to add life-like special abilities for units such as scouts, snipers, mechanics and medics. These units, while somewhat weak in direct combat are vital to the success of your missions. The realism of the game is also enhanced by the damage the units under your command can do to your own units if used improperly. More than once I made the mistake of letting my infantry charge a position, only to see them accidentally wiped out by the explosion from a shell fired by one of my armored units.
This brings us to the artificial intelligence of the game, which was one of the few areas I found lacking in the product. For as much thought and detail was applied to the game, the fact that most soldiers had difficulty finding a secure path to go from point A to point B was very frustrating. The units themselves seemed to be programmed to find the path of most as opposed to least resistance, unless guided by the player, which was not always possible during a large operation.
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