Format: PC
Black Bean

8 011642 129051
Age Restrictions: 12+
15 April 2005

It's the summer of 1942 and the blitzkrieg forces of the axis have crossed the vast Russian plains crushing everything in its path. Victory for the Nazi's seems assured and only one thing stands in their way Stalingrad. The cities fall or survival will see a turning point in the war with the winner determining the next phase of World War Two...

There's no other word for it, this game is awesome, and from the opening movie to the end of the game the developers have spent some serious time on making the game as historically accurate as possible. Action takes place between July 1942 and January 1943 as the Wehmacht assaulted the Red Army amongst the increasingly apocalyptic landscape of the city. The game also contains, in its mission menus, extensive information about the background to each mission.

Across thirty-six missions you get to play as either the Russians or the Germans. For the Germans the object of the game is to eradicate the defending Red Army units to take the city, and conversely as The Red Army Stalingrad must be defended against what appears to be a superior force, with the hope of eventual victory after a battle of attrition. There are also several secret missions to play, though I never did discover them, though I feel that this is more a reflection on how naff a player I was.

There is a vast array of units to control, on both sides, and each has been modelled to reflect the originals range and rate of fire. Controlling your units is fairly intuitive once you get use to choosing a unit with your left mouse button and issuing orders with the right. As you would expect units can do the usual actions like entrenchment, and you can choose more than one unit to issue orders to - but remember they all travel at different speeds.

The game is hard and that's not a bad thing, the player is given only so much in terms of armour and troops to complete the mission and careful thought has to go into how to use available force. Try rushing forward with your troops or tanks, without thought for tactics or the lay of the land, and you'll soon find yourself on the sharp end of defeat. This game requires careful thought and planning to win, just like the real battles. The terrain can be used to good effect, as the game has a 'line of sight' element allowing armour and troops to interact with any cover.

Graphically the game is a delight with a high level of detail, though I would have liked to have had the ability to zoom into some of the action. In the midst of battle it can sometimes be a little difficult to see what your infantry is doing. If they are laying on the ground it's difficult to know just by looking at them quickly if they are dead or alive. Audio-wise, the game has a grand thumping dub-metal soundtrack that helps to crank up the tension, though the repetitive phrases from the German or Russian troops can get on your nerves after a while.

This game is going to take you time to master, but it will be time well spent.

Charles Packer

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