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Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Charles Moylan

GAME DEVELOPER:Big Time Software

GAME PUBLISHER:Battlefront.com

Copyright 2000, Big Time Software

Combat Mission is arguably the very best squad-level first-person wargame ever made, lack of hype and limited distribution notwithstanding. Ciril Rozic’s excellent review says it all about what makes the game an instant classic.

“Set in the post-D-Day period of World War II in Western Europe, Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord simulates tactical-scale combat between individual vehicles, guns, infantry squads and weapon teams. The combatants are American, British, Canadian, Free French, German, and Polish. The turn system is neither alternating nor real-time; instead, both players issue orders first, and then the computer calculates and displays 60 seconds worth of action. Since the players can only influence the battle every 60 seconds, exactly what the units do depends to a great extent on how the program’s “artificial intelligence” carries out the players’ orders. However, it is when a turn replay starts that the game shows its full beauty. The players give their orders, hit the Go! button and watch (often at seat’s edge) as the little men, vehicles and guns spring into action.

The viewpoint can be set to several height levels (including traditional “top-down” views, but here they are not as essential as in other games) and then rotated 360 degrees in the horizontal plane, or locked to a unit to follow it around. Tracks roll, men run, turrets turn, guns blaze and recoil, artillery explosions send up patches of dirt, tracers cut through the air. According to Big Time Software the animated objects would be even more numerous and detailed if there wasn’t a cap on the number of polygons that contemporary hardware can smoothly put on the screen. Unfortunately the limitation affected not just the cosmetics, but a few minor decisions regarding the combat system too, e.g. whether to make the vehicles kick up dust. Nevertheless, the “A” still holds, especially with the excellent sound in mind. Engines thunder, explosions thunder even louder, high-velocity shells whiz, and men shout over the din, but when violence is absent, bird song fills the air. The sound system takes into account the position of the source relative to the camera, so the same explosion can feel like a distant insignificant crack or a major catastrophe.

The simulation of many wargamers’ favorite topic, armor vs. armor combat, is very detailed. Many vehicle characteristics ignored by most other games are explicitly detailed in Combat Mission, from vertical armor slope angles to turret speeds. The latter will be especially welcomed by Allied players, who can now use various tricks (such as Mongol-style drive-by attacks, as used by real World War II U.S. tankers) to defeat thick-skinned German monsters. According to Big Time Software, ballistics computations are extremely complex, and the program tracks each round’s flight until the moment it hits a solid object, be it the intended target, ground, house, or a wrong-place-and-time friendly unit. When it does hit an armored target, the shell’s impact can have many different effects: it might injure crew members, disable the vehicle’s systems, ricochet, or even shatter and harm nearby infantry.

In short, nobody should be left unimpressed by the armored ingredients of Combat Mission. Throw in scenario-, map-, and operation-editors for a major replayability factor, as well as a good helpful manual, and you have a product that performs. Right now the theater and period are limited to post D-Day Europe, but this still provides a lot of history to play with. No doubt limiting the game’s scope allowed the developers to concentrate on getting the included elements right. There are plans for a sequel, to be set on the Eastern Front. That is still some time away though, and in the meantime Combat Mission can provide many hours of entertainment.” Whether you are a die-hard wargamer or FPS fan who crave realism, Combat Mission is a must have, and a proud entrant into our hallowed Hall of Belated Fame. Two thumbs up, way up!



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