Codename Panzers: Cold War
The Codename: Panzers name is a tried and true RTS brand name. This has already been proven with titles like Codename: Panzers Phase One, and Codename: Panzers Phase Two. In the past the games were developed by Storm Region, nowadays InnoGlow fills that part. Loyal fans needn’t worry though, InnoGlow was founded by ex-Storm Region employees, so Codename: Panzers: Cold War (CPCW in short) stays true to its roots.
As the name implies CPCW starts off right after the end of the second world war. As such the player will command units from that timeframe, to further play out the Cold War card the campaign also starts with the defense of the Tempelhof airfield in Berlin. A nice historical reference – for those unfamiliar with Tempelhof, the world famous Berlin Airlift flew to and from this airport. An interesting era in history that doesn’t find its way into games often at all. The conflict will then revolve around an attack of Soviet forces on the free world.
At the hand of two tutorials beginning players can be taught how to play the game – if so desired. These tutorials range from the basics to the more advanced in regards to deploying, shooting, and in general fighting with your units. This knowledge certainly isn’t superfluous if you want to hit the ground running when it comes to playing the game. Don’t expect a particularly steep learning curve, but there are some nifty little features that otherwise would be less evident to figure out.
This tutorial, together with the campaign mode, a scenario mode and a skirmish option make up the singleplayer side of the game. The scenario function is in fact just the possibility to replay phases in the campaign that the player has already finished. The skirmish mode reminds a little of Company of Heroes. Except then, that this time it aren’t different resources you can capture, but it are different aids. So, no oil etc, but there is f.ex. a radar station, a radio tower, a helipad, each giving you disposal over a certain feature, like calling in aerial reinforcements. On top of these aids, there are also just “flag points”, these do build up resource points, resource points which can be spent f.ex. trying to airlift units in.
The campaign mode is a succession of various types of missions. One time you need to protect a dam, the other time you need to capture a network of control points, or maybe you need to blow up a manufacturing facility of sorts, goals tend to vary. But, that’s good, it keeps the player interested. Story-wise these missions are glued together with CGI cutscenes, not of the quality we could see in World in Conflict, but definitely not bad. The cutscenes mainly revolve around the conflict, rather than the fate of a few soldiers in that conflict.
The Multiplayer side of the game is essentially the same as playing skirmish matches against players, instead of against the computer. An interesting additional option there is the ability to play Multiplayer Missions, a co-op of sorts, where you tackle a multiplayer scenario together with a teammate. Aside from this there is also a Domination mode, where as a player you’re supposed to capture as many “points of interest” as possible. To top it off the Team Match option will make sure people can team up against each other in a skirmish scenario.
Graphically speaking the game is a treat. Generous use of shaders, high quality 3D models and detailed textures make the game look smooth and generally well finished. Units have nice animations and explosions almost blow off the screen. Details like the simmering heat around a helicopters exhaust are just the icing on the cake. So it looks all pretty, but nearly all RTS titles in the last two or three years were. It is hard to say Codename: Panzers sticks out head and shoulders above the rest.
The sound also deserves merit, samples at just the right tone, with enough power, make sure the action will also auditively transfer into the living room.
The game manages to distinguish itself from other strategy games through its much deeper tactical foundation. If the player pays enough attention, or has enough experience in the genre he can effectively make certain elements play to his advantage through tactical thinking. For example: there is a difference between the ammount of damage a shell will inflict on the rear side or the front side of a tank. The level of armor at one particular side of a unit is visually represented through a health bar on that side. Also the variety in units changes the tactical situation. In itself there aren’t particularly many different units, but you can customize almost each unit. As such you can choose to equip your paratroopers with bazookas, or machineguns, or maybe you can upgrade your tank with a better gun, or if you’re a flamethrower kind of guy, fit that. These choises make sure there is a plethora of ways to conquer each map.
Another nice thing is how CPCW sidesteps the regular problem of repetition, a problem that plagues pretty much the whole RTS genre. The least you can say is the variation of missions in the campaign can be called interesting. Certain levels play out as a skirmish battle, and depend on utter annihilation of enemy forces, or alternately the conquering of all points of interest (POI). Other times around you’ll have to conquer a network of POIs, but you can only start making use of every POIs ability once you have also captured a headquarter that connects all these points. Before the start of each mission the player can choose which units he wants to deploy to the battlefield, for this he can select from a list of units, which he pays for with an allotted ammount of resource points (a little bit like the Mech Commander of yesteryear). During this phase the player also has the opportunity to decorate his units with special logos, these logos can be unlocked by succesfully finishing certain parts in the campaign. At the end of each mission the player will get an overview of objectives completed, enemy units killed, etc etc. One of the nice things is you can also see how many hidden objectives you managed to realise. Such a hidden objective could be to approach a certain island through a less evident way, going in the proverbial back door. It can be basically anything, but it does challenge the player to study the map a little bit, that way you can also enjoy the tactical fruits of that knowledge.
All in all CPCW is a good title. At first glance it is a classical RTS, but it quickly becomes evident the tactical reigns supreme over the strategical. Building units for example is a lot less important than how exactly those units are deployed. The way points of interest influence the flow of the game is also interesting, not necessarily in the traditional way for resources, but more to gain a tactical advantage. In itself the campaign has quite a thin plot, but the Cold War setting and the nice cutscenes make sure the player feels at home in the game. Variation above all else when it concerns the campaign, certainly a nice plus. Graphically the game isn’t a new benchmark in digital art, but it certainly has a nice finish, which warrants a high score in that department.
In conclusion it can be said that the game has managed to not become the thirteenth RTS in a dozen. It is a very good game, but don’t expect it to be a new reference title either.