WWII: Frontline Command
World War II has become quite the popular theme for the entertainment business as of late. From movies to video games, players have had a chance to experience the myriad of battles from the last Great War. WWII Frontline Command from the Bitmap Brothers and distributed by StrategyFirst takes users back to the 1940’s and allows you take control of the various military powers during the later stages of the war. The game starts right before D-day and takes users through the end of the war. WWII Frontline Command is a real time strategy that adds some new things to the genre.
WWII Frontline Command is not your typical RTS game as you do not collect resources or build bases. Rather you start with certain amount of units that you have to complete the mission with (some missions do add more units if you complete certain tasks or side missions) like Myth. This means that you have to watch all of your units and know where they are at all times if you want to be successful. This also means that you don't just rush them into an enemy encampment guns a' blazing.
Another difference is that instead of having individual units you have small squads of units. Some types such as the commander and vehicles are single units while some units work in pairs or in threes. This means that instead of having one soldier, you have a squad of soldiers. This is a neat idea but can be frustrating when you are down to your last squad and want to have units attack an enemy from two different sides.
Since WWII Frontline Command takes place during WWII, not all units have fully automatic weapons. Because of this your units have to spend time reloading their weapons during combat. This adds a nice (but sometimes frustrating) tactical element to the game. The Bitmap Brothers do a nice job of showing reload by placing a circular counter next to a unit that shows how far they are in the reloading process. This goes not only for infantry but for artillery as well.
Another new concept is unit morale. If you are getting your ass handed to you your units’ morale goes down, indicated by a morale bar next to the unit, and it will take repeated issuing of commands to get them to do anything. If their morale is high then they will perform actions above and beyond the call of duty (such as taking on tanks and bunkers). Morale obviously goes up and down with the tide of the battle but placing a Commander unit near a unit will increase the morale of that unit.
WWII Frontline Command has two single player paths to take. The first is a regular mode which features 10 missions and some slightly easier play settings. Units have unlimited ammunition and slowly heal over time. There's also a veteran mode for the really talented of you out there. Veteran mode offers 20 missions (10 new ones) but you are required to re-supply units with ammunition and the AI is much more difficult to beat.
The sounds in the game are excellent and really add to the atmosphere of the game. Tanks, guns, and artillery all sounds like they should. The Bitmap Brothers have also done a nice job with background sounds for each mission. For example, the Normandy beach mission features a lot of screaming in the background and machine gun fire noise. The sounds for the other units are also well done and there’s a lot of nice voice work done for the units. A nice touch is that you will actually hear the mechanized units shift gears and start up as you move them across the map. This coupled with all of the other little audio cues really adds a lot of depth to the game. There is some occasional background music sprinkled through-out the game. It’s solid but not quite the same as the Medal of Honor score.
Graphically WWII Frontline Command is well done but not ground breaking. The menu screens and interstitials have a nice WWII military ERA look to them and it helps to set the table. The in game graphics are also well done. The developers did a good job of rendering the backgrounds and units. Some of the units do look a little too similar (the squad size helps here) but it's a trade off of realism for user interface (I don't think either side would have color coded units by type…). The fog of war effect is excellent in the game. It's a small thing but it really helps set WWII Frontline Command apart from other games in the genre. There are also some nice vintage cut scenes between the mission groups, which put some perspective on what you are going to be doing next and it further helps to help bring you into the story line.
The controls in WWII Frontline Command should be familiar to most RTS players. The Bitmap Brothers did toss in a few new things to make it interesting though. You can right click the units and have them setup for the usual array of defend and guard as well as the ability to defend an area or setup an ambush. If you select defend or ambush, setup the direction in which the units will face and then they dig in. Unit speed (run, walk, and sprint,) can also be setup via the right click menu. Crawling allows you to move quietly and slowly around the map, which can allow your units to sneak up behind enemy troops. Another nice little feature is that if you accidentally click off your units you can right click on an empty spot on the map and it will automatically re-select the last group of units you had selected. Again, this feature alone isn’t a big deal but it shows you how well The Bitmap Brothers thought through the RTS genre.
The game play in WWII Frontline Command is a little slower than your typical RTS game as WWII Frontline Command feels a little more tactical with the limited resources you have in the game. The game forces you to constantly setup your troops in positions where they can cover each other and provide backup. To do this, you control your troops from one of three views, a real time 3D map (which shows you a portion of the total area), a 2D tactical map which shows you the entire area with your unit locations) and a static 2D map which shows you the objectives of the mission. If available, some search and destroy missions just offer you a clue as to where the enemy may be. You spend most of your time in the 3d view giving orders switching occasionally to the other maps to coordinate troops and figure out what you are supposed to be doing.
WWII Frontline Command also does a really good job of forcing you to use terrain and tactics which can further slow things down. If you do screw up and haven’t saved then most times you are going to have to restart the mission. The missions themselves are excellent recreations of some of the major battles of WWII. From pre-Normandy through the end of the war you get to see what Allied troops had to fight through from a different perspective. The D-day mission is a trip! I’ve stormed the beaches from a FPS perspective many times but playing it from this perspective puts another twist on the hell that D-day must have been.
Performance wise the game ran really well at 1024X768 with all of the options turned up on my P4 2.667 GHz PC. I did hit occasional glitches as the game loaded a section of the map from time to time but nothing significant. Mission load times were also pretty quick considering how much data had to be loaded.
I did have a few gripes about the game. Grouping units can be a bit of a bear as the game allows you to have main groups and sub groups. I often got caught up trying to separate out the units and ended up having all of the units in one big group where I wanted smaller groups. Given the deluge of WWII games on the market, I did feel a little bit of “Hey, I’ve been here before” more than a few times. WWII Frontline Command does a better job than most of recreating the atmosphere but there is a lot of been there, done that in the game.
Overall WWII Frontline Command has a lot going for it. The binocular and fog of war effects are outstanding and provide a nice little innovation that will hopefully be picked up in future RTS games. Building on that, the ability to hear units that are out of sight is also a nice little feature that adds to the game play. This helps offset some of the downsides like the slower pace of the game (although some people will see this as a plus) and the problem of differentiating units at a distance. At the end of the day WWII Frontline Command is a pretty solid RTS but it's not quite there among the pantheon of the other RTS games out in the market.
While WWII Frontline Command is not C&C generals, it still is a fun game that adds some cool features to the RTS genre
Rating: 7.8 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.