So if you’re anything like me, you dig non-fiction historical titles set in relatively recent history (as opposed to antiquity). None of the ancient nonsense, no imaginary creatures or monsters to distory your sense of reality, just good old red-blooded men dukin’ it out – up close and personal – until the bloody bitter end. With Nazis (that’s pronounced nat-sees). Wargame 1942 is a decade old – but stay with me – has kept up with us in its old age, which is why I’ve decided to spend some quality time with ‘er and review it. Set in the European terrains and battle grounds of WWII, Wargame 1942 gives you the power of commanding the development of bases, armies and navies / militaries, war technology and new strategy developments and even diplomatic powers to survive and command and conquer those Central Powers bastards – or the Allies, if your heart is made of poison gas.
Now the thing to keep in mind with Wargame 1942 is that the progression system isn’t locked into one straight-forward progression. You can play the game like other war-based strategy games, but the system offers different nodes to connect to and modes to play in which alter the game’s objective – think of it as a way to custom-tailor the game’s architecture – but more on that later. Keep in mind that when Wargame 1942 was originally announced, the leaked demos caused a huge amount of excitement. I’m still talking 2002, just a few precious months after September 11, 2001 (though I haven’t been able to discern whether the game’s release was in any way influenced by the events of 9/11/2001). The timing of the game combined with its ambitiously exciting design (the expansive graphic detail combined with the live-battle system is one of the game’s most impressive strengths). Dozens of would-be commanders can designate and specifically control aircraft carriers, planes, tanks and boots on the ground while battling together online on extensively detailed World War II-inspired battlefields. All at the same time. After spending about a week of quality time with Wargame 1942, the ease of the game was the big standout to me: I can control troops, weaponry, ground vehicles and airplanes while interacting with other players online simultaneously with relative ease. This is no simple feat.
I was actually able to warp back to 2002 in various OSG forums (thank you, legacy mode!) reading about the hype that Wargame 1942 had built, and the reasons still apply. As mentioned above, the system isn’t vertically integrated; the game’s objective can be varied depending on what exactly you want to do in the game – which makes it very attractive. Any person can jump into a tank and start driving around shooting at people if they so desire – a huge laborious tutorial isn’t required (or even necessary, as the controls are surprisingly intuitive and easy to navigate). When you die, you re-spawn. Sound familiar? It almost reminded me of Grand Theft Auto in that vein – with more plot and less prostitutes (for better or for worse, depending). Unlike GTA however, we can play online – although there is an offline mode offered (which I found much less fun). Play the online version instead. Different game segments (modes) allow the player to actually vary the game objective, which was a standout to me. Conquest mode for example allows for a game of Capture The Flag (basically), where you can control a portion of a map (called ‘control points’) and lay waste to offending ‘visitors.’ Mine was a heavily armed outpost bunker, and with the ammo and munitions I found laying about (right?!) I had no problems keeping players 2-47 down. Pretty fun.
Gameplay aside, as you can probably tell from the graphic above, the visual elements definitely leave something to be desired. The controls are laid out fairly directly, the interface itself isn’t confusing (status bars are standard and easy to understand for buildings under construction, for example) but doesn’t add anything that I like; that’s to say, the interface isn’t stimulating or interesting. If you aren’t phased by flat renderings of maps / buildings / layouts, you’ll be fine, as they certainly don’t interfere with gameplay at all. If you don’t mind the lackluster graphical elements, you’ll probably get as much out of the game as I did: a great, simple concept that allows a player to get as involved as he or she wants – without the hassle of being required to devote hours upon hours on development just to be able to execute a strategy with an online partner or enemy. Lower time requirements and intricate node / mode systems make the game, and render the lackluster graphical elements as minor. Give me your thoughts in the comments below, y’all.