Codename: Panzers - Phase Two PC CD-ROM
Published by CDV
Developed by Stormregion
Release Date: 22nd July 2005
Codename: Panzers – Phase Two, an introduction.
It's not often I get to do a review of a sequel when I've never played the game that preceded it but that's exactly what I'm doing here. Codename: Panzers – Phase Two (I'll just call it Phase Two from now on) is of course the sequel to Codename: Panzers – Phase One, a World War II based RTS. Having not played the first game I've been reading up on the game and it seems, by all accounts, the game was a great RTS. However, I must stress that this review of the sequel is written from the perspective of someone who hasn't played (and enjoyed all that was apparently great) about the original game.
What's the game about?
Phase Two gives you three campaigns to enjoy. There's the Axis (German-Italian) campaign, the Allied (Anglo-American) and the Partisan (Yugoslav resistance forces) campaigns. You'll have to complete the Axis and Allied campaigns before you can play the Partisan campaign. The battle locations include the deserts of Africa, Italian countryside and the forested terrain of Yugoslavia. The game also offers skirmish battles and scenario play. Multiplayer games on offer are Team Match and Domination. Also included are two editors, a level editor and an in-game animations editor, both of which are impressive and it goes without saying that this will encourage creative gamers to make their own scenarios which could lead to future free scenarios being available to download.
What's good about the game?
I was very impressed with the quality of Phase Two and it's easily one of the more impressive World War II based RTS games that I've played. If, like me, you're new to the Codename: Panzers series the first place you'll head for is the tutorial. The tutorial in Phase Two is excellent and you will learn, in a concise and no fuss manner, what the game is all about and how to make use of the various units at your disposal. Phase Two makes an outstanding use of icons that provide the game with valuable information. When medics heal your injured units you'll see red crosses float from them to the injured units. Similarly you'll see cogs float from repair vehicles to vehicles that have taken damage. More impressive though (from a deaf gamer's perspective) is the way that icon's indicate enemy sounds. If an enemy is within earshot of one of your units but for some reason they cannot be sighted (they may be behind solid metal gates or a wall for example) then an icon will highlight the fact that your units can hear them. This allows you to attack this location and spring a surprise attack, if you want to. Likewise at night you'll see headlight icons to signify the locations of enemy units which enable you to get a rough idea of where the enemy units are. Of course if you want to launch a surprise attack you'll want to make sure the lights on your vehicles are turned off.
Nice touches aside, Phase Two gets all the basics right and proves to be a compelling RTS. The enemy unit AI is just what you would want it to be. There are three difficulty settings and whilst the game is forgiving on easy it's certainly isn't charitable on the other two difficulty settings. You have full control over your unit movements (such as whether to make them crawl or lie prone). I've also noticed that your units will make themselves lie prone if they come under heavy fire and you've not been quick enough to give them sensible orders. The action can be paused whilst you issue orders which makes even the most dramatic battles manageable. The game has day and night cycles too, which increases the strategic options. At night your units range of sight is decreased by 25% (but so does your enemies of course) and the cover of darkness can be made to work in your favour in certain situations. You also have hero units that must be kept alive at all costs, which adds extra spice to the game. Damage in the game is fairly realistic, so to take out tanks you'll need anti-tank guns or other tanks etc. Enemy vehicles etc, can be captured which makes things even more interesting (I really like the way you can overheat a tank, with flamethrowers, to make the soldiers inside exit it). There are so many ways that Phase Two shines that suffice to say if you're a fan of the genre this game pushes all the right buttons and will leave you little room for complaint.
What's not so good about the game?
There are only a couple of issues I have with the otherwise brilliant World War II based RTS. First of all the pathfinding, whilst generally very good, can be a little troublesome at times when your units approach an obstacle. You'll find that your units don't stay bunched with some going one side of the obstacle with the others choosing the other way. This isn't a big problem but there are times when it becomes a little cumbersome having to carefully move them around potentially hazardous locations. Secondly the game's cutscenes are not subtitled which is more disappointing than you may think. The problem here is that cutscenes can appear mid-mission as well as at the beginning of a mission. The story revolves around the game's Hero characters and the cutscenes tell their story and give extra meaning to the missions. Because the cutscenes are not subtitled this takes some of the personality out of the game for deaf gamers.
How does it look?
Whilst Phase Two probably doesn't offer state of the art graphics, they still look great in my books. Many of the objects in the games levels are destructible and this all helps to make the battles look dramatic with the explosions in particular looking impressive (the game claims to have hundreds of destructible objects). The environments you'll battle in aren't static either and you'll see the clouds of sand blowing around in the sandstorms as well as trees swinging in the breeze. Seeing your tanks smash their way through palm trees many not seem like much but it certainly looks impressive. Night time warfare has also been included as the game has day and night cycles which opens up further strategic options (as we've mentioned above) and visually this element of the game has been done extremely well.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
For the most part Phase Two is deaf gamer friendly. The one exception being that the cutscenes are not subtitled. Whilst this is an important area of the game not to have been subtitled, in every other sense the game is fine. However given that the cutscenes are woven into the campaign missions in quite a unique way, this does increase the need for the cutscenes to be subtitled. The tutorial is subtitled. The introductions to the campaigns are spoken but you are also given the text in the form of an open notebook (for the Axis campaign) and letter (in the case of the Allied campaign). We mentioned earlier that the game makes superb use of icons and this is also of great assistance to deaf gamers. Mission objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. Should new objectives be given out during a mission you'll be notified of them. There are no subtitles for unit confirmations though but this is usually the case for most RTS games.
Codename: Panzers – Phase Two is a superb World War II RTS and it's a must own title for fans of the genre. Naturally, not having played the original game I can't honestly say if this sequel improves upon the original game but when compared with other World War II RTS games that I have played, it's certainly as good as anything I've played before. Whilst it's not perfect for deaf gamers, due to the cutscenes not being subtitled, I'd still recommend Codename: Panzers – Phase Two without hesitation.
Overall Game Rating: 9.1/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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Codename: Panzers - Phase Two is an excellent World War II based RTS that all fans of the genre simply must own. It's a shame the cutscenes aren't subtitled though.