Game Review - by James Allen
There have been many games that have simulated World War II operations. Routinely, past games have focused on the battles after D-Day, or in the Pacific or Eastern Front. Rarely have games focused on Mediterranean and Western Front amphibious operations from 1940-1944. This is the focus of Combat Command II: Danger Forward. Simulating 1940s combat in Europe, we are greeted with a game that centers on accuracy, rather than the trivial bells and whistles found in other war simulations. Is this enough to make a compelling game worthy of your hard earned dollars?
Combat Command II: Danger Forward is a turn-based simulation of World War II amphibious and airborne operations. You can play the game against a computer opponent, over the internet, or by e-mail. Before you start your game, you can set attack strength modifiers, tactics, and aggressiveness if you are playing a computer opponent. This is akin to an across-the-board difficulty setting found in other games. While you are in the heat of battle, you can access several reports to increase your chances of victory. Under your command, there are several types of units: headquarters, artillery, anti-tank, armor, and infantry. Each of these general headings are broken down further into specific unit types, from commando infantry to track artillery. As all of these units have different and realistic characteristics, using the correct unit type for the correct situation is vital in winning your battles.
Battles take place in 20 scenarios spanning 4 years of World War II, ranging from the swamp of Carentan to the mountains of Sicily. Such diverse environments require a change in strategy not found in many war simulations, as a majority of games focus on one specific exotic locale. Most of your new troops will be delivered by amphibious or airborne drops, and a constant supply of new blood is key. To make the most out of your killing experience, there is a multitude of information available in the manual relating the specific characteristics of many aspects of skirmishes. If the included areas are not enough, you can use the scenario editor to craft your own maps and battles. The features of Combat Command II are complete and include all aspects of 1940s warfare.
Sound is another area where Combat Command II falls severely short. The only sounds (besides background music) you will hear is (4) gunfire, (1) explosion, (2) movement, and (1) minefield. No people screaming. No other ambient noise. The sound is very situational, as you will only hear it while the appropriate action takes place. Sound is another area of grave concern.
Luckily for all of us, the gameplay is very accurate in Combat Command II. Since this is a turn-based simulation, each turn is broken up into several phases. The supply status phase (which occurs once per game day) is where your troops are connected to the supply line. If the line is blocked, no supplies for you! The initiative determination phase decides who goes first, based on disruption and other characteristics. Then, reinforcements arrive, such as paratroopers, gliders, and amphibious troops. After all troops have landed (usually not in the location that they were specified: remember, this is accurate), troops that are in contact with headquarters are able to recover disruption and position themselves. After all the troops have advanced (or retreated, depending on how you are doing), the direct fire phase is met. Both sides are able to fire at other troops within their line of sight and range of weapons. The subsequent assault phase differs in the fact that combat here is conducted in ranges under 500 meters. Assault may include naval or mortar bombardment, or direct troop attack. Finally, troops may withdrawal, and advance to capture them.
There are several factors that affect many aspects of gameplay, and may change your strategy accordingly. Weather, entrenchment, and soft ground all change the characteristics of your troops. Also, engineers may place minefields and bridges throughout the map to promote faster (and much slower) troop movement. There are so many complications and perturbations of combat in this simulation it boggles the mind. A totally accurate depiction of World War II operations is what you find in Combat Command II.
Ah, the graphics. They say that graphics do not make the game, and this is surely true with Combat Command II. Using early 1990s graphics, the graphics certainly do not impress. All the units are shown as large boxes, with unit type, attack, and defense rating shown prominently. Gunfire is shown as yellow lines. Being spoiled by the eye-catching graphics of other games put Combat Command II in a tough place. Frankly, I hope you are not purchasing this game based on its graphical prowess.
Any fan of World War II-style combat, or turn-based warfare, should consider Combat Command II. Despite shocking shortcomings in graphics and sound, the gameplay and features more than compensate for this truly accurate war simulation. If 3-D graphics and complete sound were included, Combat Command II could compete, and very much win over the general public, rather than just the war strategist.