Codename: Panzers Cold War PC Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Gameplay 5.0
Graphics 7.0
Sound 6.5
Value 6.5
Developer: Atari
Review Date:
April 2009
Reviewer:
Mark Arnold
Classification: M15+

6.5


Codename: Panzers Cold War
 

Codename: Panzers Cold War is a RTS by InnoGlow and Atari. It was originally developed by Stormregion and 10tacle, however, both of which went bankrupt in 2008, and that could go a long way towards understanding the end product. C:PCW is a solid enough RTS and it has some good ideas that could have made it stand apart from the pack, but unfortunately they weren’t fully realised and tend to be insignificant and that means this game becomes a cookie-cutter RTS without much staying power.

 


The game’s premise is an alternative history timeline in which after World War II, when Berlin is partitioned into East and West, the Allies and Soviets go to war over an incident during the famous Berlin Airlift operation. It’s an interesting concept which pits the US against the USSR, but before the advent of laser range-finding and after WW2. This allows you to use equipment from the late 40’s and 50’s that haven’t been popular choices because of the lack of direct armed conflicts around that time. Yet, the scenario is highly plausible.

The premise is probably the best feature of C:PCW – everything else fails to impress. Most things could probably be lumped under the heading of “lacking polish.”

The in-game interface is a little cludgy. For example the game supports dual-monitors, providing a specially designed “mini” map for the second monitor, which is really quite handy. It displays the objectives and marks everything on the map is clear icons. However with this enabled you can no longer edge-scroll on the first monitor because the mouse moves over to the map area. Although there are a few buttons there to be pushed, it’s a poor design decision. Another example is the improper implementation of issuing orders directly to the mini map – it just moves the camera – which is a throwback to the 90s. These aren’t exactly game-breakers, but they’re a little annoying.

The graphics seem a bit dated also. They’re generally passable, but seem a little grainy and although decent, contemporary RTS graphics are truly breathtaking leaving C:PCW behind in the wake. There are some niceties such as tracks and footprints on different surfaces, and decent explosions, but these are offset by very poor machine gun fire and below average soldier animations.

The biggest problem for C:PCW is that its game balance is just not very fun. At first it seems to have some great ideas for tactical options. Tanks have four directions of armour before internals start to be damaged – and as these internals are damaged critical systems may break. Most troop types can be converted to a permanent structure, for example a medical squad can make a triage tent, an SMG squad can create a machine gun tower, and a commando unit can build tunnels. This forces you to decide between having a mobile unit or a stationary base. Here’s a tip though: don’t. The mobile form is always going to be better making this a missed opportunity.

The skill in the game primarily comes down to building the right type of unit. There is a fairly interesting reinforcement system in which you must capture and hold helicopter pads, barracks, or warehouses which grant you different vehicles and soldiers (with overlaps, so that a helipad may allow you to fly in a light tank, but so will the warehouse.) You can then often select 2 or 3 upgrades from a potential four meaning that one vehicle could have many variants useful for a variety of situations. Once you have your army balanced the way you like, however, you just attack-move everywhere.

If you throw a few medical squads and repair vehicles into your army, you’ll notice that they shoot out healing icons that quickly repair and heal nearby units. Although it can’t keep up with the damage an enemy can inflict, it certainly lengthens a unit’s longevity in a toe-to-toe fight. Then when you win, no matter by how little, you will be fully healed by the time you meet your next foe. This is highly convenient since you don’t even have to click a button to heal up, but it’s also incredibly easy.

 


This is one of the main reasons why there is no need to ever use abilities – like the aforementioned triage tents or machine gun towers. It is much more effective to simply move into range and, with your healers automatically repairing everything, have your army gun everything down. Combine this with the fact that the abilities just aren’t very good – the tent is stationary, the machine gun tower not very powerful or hardy, and the grenades that can be thrown do little damage and are slow to deploy. It’s a problem when “select all then attack-move” is the best strategy.

On the positive side the campaign has fairly interesting cut scenes before every mission as well as a voice-over briefing which is well acted. The cut scenes and voice acting therein are both a bit rough around the edges, but they’re passable. The missions have some variety with events unfolding and new obstacles – such as river crossings forcing you to get your commandos’ inflatable boats out, or to modify your APCs so they are amphibious – but the developments are often missed because the in-mission text is not voiced and it is far too subtle making it easy to miss. Often you won’t realise anything is happening until you see the new objectives message appear, and by then you’ve missed the story.

 


C:PCW has a bunch of nice ideas, not only those mentioned but a few others as well such as experienced units purchasable from mission to mission, and the whole pre-mission set up phase, but most of them fall flat due to lack of thorough integration into the game mechanics. This results in RTS gameplay that is very same-same and unremarkable. Its production values are passable if not cutting edge and its premise is a great idea, if not fully realised. Codename: Panzers Cold War is an average RTS that may interest true die-hards of the genre who like the sound of some of this game’s attempts at novelty.






 
 



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