CDV’s Codename: Panzers, Phase One was a WWII RTS made popular by its “beer and pretzels” (fast action – little focus on nitpicky details) game play . It was a well-received (though not terribly original) RTS, which completely eschewed the annoying base-building and resource-gathering requirements of the genre. It’s now less than a year later, and we have Codename: Panzers, Phase Two, which is billed as a sequel, though for the most part, really feels like another stand-alone expansion pack from publisher CDV. Is that a bad thing? Certainly not, and there’s enough in this game to ensure it a place on every action-strategists’ shelf.
New to Codename: Panzers? Ok, here’s the quick ‘n dirty lowdown on the game. As already noted, it’s a real-time strategy title set in WWII Europe. While Phase One was mostly about Europe vs. Germany with some Russians sprinkled in, Phase Two focuses on three campaigns – the Allies, Germany and the Yugoslavian resistance. Yes, you read that right, the Yugoslavian resistance. And if you think for a minute you’re the most hardcore computer commander around, just try to win the game as the resistance – you’ll earn your stripes and then some. Being an RTS, both Panzers titles are about gathering your military forces and bringing their collective might to bear against the opposition. Phase Two offers missions along the same lines as every other WWII RTS, which include capturing locations, defending locations, protecting convoys, waging guerilla warfare, etc. etc. After you complete a mission, Panzers rewards you with new units and you’ll slowly unlock new commanders (“heroes”) who’ll boost troop morale and lead you through their unique storylines.
Unlike most other RTSs, both Panzers titles rely on a well-scripted storyline to keep the campaigns interesting. Rather than just throw you into yet another “blow this up” or “capture this” mission, Panzers (both Phase One and especially Two) offer elaborately scripted cutscenes in which your heroes’ stories unfold. The cutscenes are well animated and interesting enough so that you don’t find yourself skipping over them.
On the battlefield, the action in Phase Two is fast and furious. For those gamers who like to sit back and take it easy, this game will be especially challenging. The AI doesn’t play around, it’s out for blood, and won’t waste a second when it comes to clobbering poorly led troops. While the combat isn’t as realistic as in some other RTS titles as some weapons score nearly instant kills, or never miss, it’s still a lot of fun to jump into a big battle with guns blazing. Watching Soviet Katyusha rocket trucks lay waste to an entire column of enemy armor is beyond amazing to behold, especially at night, which, by the way is a new addition to the game (night missions, that is.)
Graphically, Phase Two isn’t a huge leap over its predecessor, but it’s certainly no slouch. The camera really shines, as it allows you to take the eye-in-the-sky viewpoint with a far out zoom, or a “man on the ground” view by zooming in tight and tilting the camera to see from right over the shoulders of your troops. And to see some of the units close up is really amazing, with little details such as unit numbers, insignias, battle damage and smoke pouring out of damaged armor bringing the heat of battle right to your PC.
The weapons and vehicles don’t just look good, they actually sound good, too. It’s unfortunate, however, that the voice work is pretty much awful once you’re in battle. Each side has maybe 10 lines of dialog during battle, and it gets plenty old plenty fast. After an hour or so of play, I’d turned the voice volume down as low as it would go. The voice-acting in the cutscenes, on the other hand, it much higher caliber, especially with Peter Weller (of Robocop fame) voicing the American hero. It’s too bad they couldn’t have used the skilled actors for the combat voices, because it’s practically god-awful to have to listen to the commanders saying the same thing countless times.
Probably the biggest change from Phase One to Phase Two is the inclusion of a mod engine. This engine lets you design scenarios, maps and even in-game animations. While I wasn’t able to figure out the animation editor (it’s pretty scary looking), I was able to quickly whip together scenarios and mini-campaigns with the mission editor. This alone gives the game huge replay value and assures you that you’ll get your money’s worth.
If you’ve never played a Codename: Panzers title before, and you enjoy RTS’s, then give Phase Two a shot. Heck, even if you’ve played the first game, this sequel is worth checking out, especially since you can keep the fun going by making your own scenarios. If you’re not an RTS fan, or you’re more interested in the cerebral RTS’s that have you spending hours on finishing just one mision, you might want to pass.
- Gameplay: 8.5
- Solid gameplay for fans of fast-paced combat
- Graphics: 8.5
- Looks great, especially the evening missions
- Sound: 7.9
- Great music and cutscene dialogs, but the chatter during combat is almost painful
- Replay: 8.5
- Three challenging campaigns and a modding engine ensure extra life from the game
- Overall: 8.5
- All around good stuff, worth putting on those worn out virtual combat boots for again
— Craig Falstaff