WarCommander is essentially a combination of games such as Sudden Strike and Commandos. You get to control a decent number of men but you still have to occasionally rely on the solitary unit and the special skills that he has. Unlike other CDV titles, WarCommander has been kept in the dark. There is no English demo and details about the title have been sketchy and few and far between compared to the likes of Sudden Strike which had a demo far in advance of it's release. It was a surprise then when the game arrived for review and we were notified that it had already been released.
The game focuses on the US Ranger battalion and their activities in June 1944. The Rangers spearheaded the US and were ordered in to clear the way for the rest of the army. In the game you have to control the Rangers and take them on exceedingly dangerous missions in which you are asked to clear the way for the US army. The single player part of the game consists of two campaigns, Omaha and Utah. Both of these consist of twelve missions. There are three levels of difficulty but as we shall see in a moment the easiest of these is not necessarily easy.
Those of you who have enjoyed the masterpieces that are Cossacks and Sudden Strike may be initially disappointed with WarCommander. There is no tutorial and to make matters worse the first missions of either of the two campaigns do nothing to introduce you to the game's interface or intricacies. Both of these first missions take place on a beach. It is a beach landing and you have to take your men inland whilst constantly being bombarded with gunfire and other types of explosives weaponry. Time after time your men will be destroyed before you can blink. The other missions do give you time to think though and organise some kind of tactics. Perseverance is definitely a requirement for this game. Most of the missions will require at least six or seven times attempts using various tactics.
As we said earlier in the review the gameplay is a mixture of both Sudden Strike and Commandos. This unusual mix of styles doesn't come off too badly at all. Each type of soldier, scout, sniper, commander etc. has a couple of unique actions. The scout, for instance can camouflage and creep up on the enemy with only an enemy scout being able to detect him. The commander can perform a once per mission battle cry which instantly heals all injured men within his range, the range is denoted by a circle on the ground.
All of these special abilities give the game a unique feel but the sense of control is not as great as in Commandos and you will find yourself, more often than not, controlling the men in groups in the same way that you would in a standard RTS. The game features day and night cycles and on some missions you will definitely find it a wise decision to wait until darkness falls before carrying out your tasks which is a nice touch. Your men gain experience too and this adds extra incentive to keep them alive. The experience they receive increases their attack value and defence value so the more experience they have, the more battle hardened they become.
There are some niggles with the game. Whilst playing you'll notice that the units bunch up, that is they overlap each other so it looks like there is only one soldier there instead of the twenty or so. This is a graphical error that should have never appeared in the final version. It doesn't always happen but it does happen on a regular basis. It also must be said that the enemy soldiers seem a hell of a lot more accurate than yours. If you order your men to grenade the enemy you always seem to come off worse because their grenades are always spot on whilst your grenades don't seem half as accurate. One omission that hinders the gameplay is the inability to make decisions whilst the game is paused. Had this been possible then it would have compensated for the difficulty. I must also mention that your progress is not automatically saved in a campaign. If you are the kind of gamer who likes to go back to an earlier mission in a campaign make sure you save your games at the beginning of each mission. If you simply select the campaign option from the menu you will find that you have to start at the beginning.
Text feedback within the game is decent with mission briefings and bonus objectives being given completely in text. The mission briefings can be be recalled whilst in the missions by clicking the 'i' icon next to the minimap. Your men occasionally make useful comments but these comments are not given in text. The manual is very light on useful information. To be fair though, had there been a comprehensive tutorial then the lightweight manual wouldn't have mattered but without a tutorial a decent manual is a must.
Graphically the game is OK. The terrain is more detailed than in Sudden Strike and the dynamic lighting and weather conditions combined with the day and night cycles give the game a pleasing look. What is poor is the pixelated blood that appears when the soldiers are shot which combined with the overlapping of soldiers makes the game look very out of date which is a shame because on the whole the graphics are OK.
For those of you who like to play on the multiplayer side of things the game offers a standard capture the flag, capture the flag 5 times and last man standing modes. There are a total of 14 different maps and you can play over a network or across the Internet. Thankfully the chat mode is in text so you will be on an equal footing with hearing opponents.
Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10 WarCommander may not be in the same league as the classic titles such as Cossacks and Sudden Strike but it offers an unusual and for the most part enjoyable experience. There are some things that should have been avoided such as the units all bunching up. The inclusion of a tutorial and the ability to give orders whilst the game is paused would have made the game far more enjoyable.
Deaf Gamers comment: WarCommander is OK for deaf gamers but there are a couple of improvements that could have been made. Your men occasionally give you verbal warnings that are not shown in text which can put you at a slight disadvantage. Also the location of your objective should have been marked on the minimap.