On June 6th, 1944,
the 1st Infantry Division of The United States Army took part in the greatest
amphibious invasion in the history of the world. The invasion took place on a
long stretch of shale beach in Normandy France that would be immortalized as Omaha
Beach. Adolph Hitler's dreaded Atlantic Wall would crumble before the weight of
the military might of America, England, Canada, and France and his Nazi empire
would crumble a year later, smashed between the Western Allies and Stalin's Red
Army. GI COMBAT puts you in the role of a company commander on the front lines
to lead the crusade to free Europe from Hitler's evil clutches.
Made up of former Atomic Games employees, Freedom
Games is set out to conquer the strategy genre with their latest wargamin and
action hybrid, a real-time strategy title called G.I. Combat - Episode
I: Battle for Normandy. While many might see this as the spiritual successor
to the Close Combat series -- and with good reason, as this fact has been touted
on various images and releases -- it is, in fact, a whole new game. From the ground
up, G.I. Combat has been built to take advantage of the creators' developing
experience and endless fan requests, putting the World War Two setting into a
dynamic 3D battlefield.
That isn't to
say that there no similarities to Close Combat; indeed, the beginner-friendly
interface, white-knuckle action, and historical accuracy are all accounted for,
and have even been enhanced to ensure that G.I. Combat is in a class of
its own. While many titles are released in 3D, very few take advantage of what
this medium is truly capable of with the possibilities given. However, Freedom
Games is doing what Bungie did years back with their Myth franchise and is taking
the initiative to ensure that this new realm isn't merely a gimmick, but a crucial
element of gaming. Gamers can view battle from a birds-eye view that will give
a better sense of the overall battle, from within a vehicle, or from an up-close
view that will show off all of the units in their meticulous detail. Using this
new dimension opens up mounds of possibilities, and being able to use it as a
means of viewing actual terrain from the French countryside that you can battle
through is just one aspect of the care and attention that has been given to ensure
that G.I. Combat will appeal to both casual and serious wargamers.
to Close Combat, soldiers in G.I. Combat will have various stages
of adjustable morale that dictates whether they break and run in hectic situations,
or stand and fight to the death, depending on which setting the player prefers.
Initial orders can also be given before combat, allowing you to tell your soldiers
to either Assault (move fast), March (move normally), Caution (low crawl), Defend
(you can set the range to defend at), Smoke (to make cover), and Fire (fire at
target). There will also be options to call in artillery, bombing runs, and naval
bombardment. Weather will also play a role in how quickly your troops and vehicles
move, as well as how well the battlefield can be seen. Other details abound, like
the correct number of crewmembers per vehicle and their armor slope, thickness,
and hardness, along with the fact that weapons have over forty different variables
apiece, such as armor penetration, rate of fire, etc. In other words, there will
more than enough to satisfy those who fondly remember the days of excessive data
spreadsheets and units represented with stars and crosses on grid maps.
Combat looks to be taking the real-time strategy genre a bit further with
realistic weapons, authentic settings, and the touch that made Close Combat
so special. It's important to note that G.I. is its own game, and by seeing
how things are shaping up, it would seem that it is pulling its weight very well.
Freedom Games looks to have gamers crawling through hedges around July 2002.
While the build I got to
try out was very early, it did give a good sense of the squad-based combat. While
artillery, air raids, and naval bombardments weren't yet available, the squads
and their various functions were. With a similar movement menu to Close Combat,
double-clicking on a squad will bring up their sub-menu that will allow players
to tell them how to approach a designated point. The classic line of sight is
also brought back with green meaning good to go, orange giving iffy results, and
black being not in sight. The various camera views were also more helpful than
I had imagined as I was able to get a good view of the whole battle, but zooming
out gave me a far better picture of my troops' situation than I had imagined;
being able to see where some hedges or a wall ended allowed me to have my men
move in tighter formations, and to keep better tabs on their numbers.
What was already showing great progress was the game's aesthetics. Since the build
was early one, the rough edges of units and structures could be fixed, but what
was in place was the great amount of detail for each unit. The outfits looked
great, as did their accurately modeled weapons and the various objects sported
by each, including pouches, backpacks, shovels, etc. The sound was also impressive,
and although much was absent, the various skirmishes sounded great and the various
vocal orders were well-done.
The retail version could very well be the
addiction of many gamers this summer as Freedom Games seems to be on the right
track. While the controls haven't been polished yet, I can only hope the camera
control is as intuitive as that found in the Myth series, especially since everything
else is done extremely well, and the easy navigation system used in Close Combat
should be great for new and veteran players alike. The game engine used here is
capable of great things and if all goes well, it will be taken full advantage
of as G.I. Combat makes its way onto store shelves this summer.