Codename: Panzers Phase One is an RTS military game set in World War II. You may be thinking “WWII RTS games are a dime a dozen these days.” But before you quit reading altogether and dismiss this game, let me reassure you that Codename: Panzers comes out looking more like a shiny, new quarter.
Codename: Panzers lets you experience WWII from the perspectives of the Allies, Soviets or German, and the game’s 30 long missions put you in the middle of some of WWII’s biggest and most notable battles, including the invasions of Poland, France and the Soviet Union. And, yes, D-Day is included, too.
Panzers has players build their armies before entering the battlefield, giving them access to more than 100 units before even firing a round. What’s nice about this pre-battle setup is that there’s no tedious base-building or resource gathering, a common complaint in other RTS games. You choose your units from three classes, vehicles, infantry and stationary guns. It’s totally up to you as to what kind of army you want to build, although there is a maximum of 25 units that can be deployed at once.
The infantry units range from riflemen and snipers to medics and flamethrowers, and your unit decisions have a distinct impact on your gameplay strategy. Flamethrowers, for example, can heat up enemy tanks and force the men inside to come out into the open, a technique that, say, a sniper certainly couldn’t use. If enemies are shooting at you from inside a building, you can either send in some troops to fight toe to toe or call in an air strike to level the building. Likewise, you can drop paratroopers behind enemy lines for a surprise attack from behind or dive-bomb enemy tanks.
The vehicle units provide just as much variety, and they, too, can change the pace of the gameplay. As a result, you’ll want to choose wisely from the huge variety of tanks, halftracks, support vehicles and infantry transports. Stationary guns can also be pushed into position by your infantrymen or hitched up to a truck and pulled behind, adding to the gameplay flexibility. In fact, just about the only thing that’s not flexible in Codename: Panzers Phase One is that fact that every unit has limited ammunition, so it’s a good idea to buy a couple of support vehicles to refill your supplies. Later in the game you can buy better guns that are mounted to vehicles for even faster deployment.
Panzers’ visuals are some of the best I’ve seen in an RTS game. The tanks look and sound like the real thing, and they can plow over trees and other obstacles in their way with incredible realism. The explosions look great too, along with the particle and smoke effects that fill the battlefield. Amid all the gameplay action, you should take a break to notice the maps, too, which are not only pretty but also very interactive and destructible. If you like your WWII RTS games to be as pretty as they are fun, Codename: Panzers will not disappoint.
The audio is great for the most part, although the voice-over in the tutorial is just plain awful. The guy sounds like he is bored out of his skull and just wants to get it over with. Once you pass the tutorial, the infantrymen will respond with a “yes sir” and a few other responses when you issue them an order, and although this can become repetitive after a while, the men do respond in their native language, which is a nice touch. The sounds of battle are also very well done, and the music fits the game perfectly. Other than a few bad voices, the game’s audio is great.
It’d be a shame to have a great-looking and -playing game with bad AI, so you’d better believe that CDV took its time with that aspect of the game. In fact, the enemy AI in Codename: Panzers is quite capable of kicking your butt over and over again, so make sure to save your progress as you play through each battle.
If you want a true challenge, though, you can play Panzers against human opponents online. All the normal multiplayer modes are included: deathmatch, domination and an assault mode. But the most welcome addition to the multiplayer game is cooperative play. Yes you heard me right: online co-op! You and a friend can play the single-player campaigns together over the Internet. Not only does this up the ante in terms of cooperative strategy, but it’s also just makes the game that much more enjoyable. I hope more developers follow CDV in adding co-op modes to their online games.
Codename: Panzers Phase One is sure to please anyone who enjoys a great RTS game set in the World War II era. In a genre filled with WWII titles, this is quite an accomplishment. But with three campaigns, 30 lengthy missions and online multiplayer, it’s no wonder Codename: Panzers will keep you playing (and loving every minute of it) for a long time to come.
- Gameplay: 8.5
- RTS gameplay at its finest.
- Graphics: 9
- It’s like watching a real battle from above.
- Sound: 7.5
- A few bad voices, but everything else sound great.
- Replay: 9.5
- This game has online co-op! Need I say more?
- Overall: 8.5
- A must-have WWII RTS. Did I mention its has online co-op?
— Randie “Buzz” Kilgore