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Wargame: European Escalation

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By JcDent26-03-2013
Leigh Cobb (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
Wargame: European Escalation

The Defence

Developer:
Eugen Systems
Publisher:
Focus Home Interactive
Genre:
Strategy
Release Date:
23-02-2012

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Dual Core 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT
AMD Radeon X1800
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
10 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

 

The problem with the Cold War is that it never turned into a full conflict. Well, it’s a problem for game makers: I’m sure that thousands of servicemen and countless civvies on both sides of the Iron Curtain are happy they never got to see NATO forces clashing with the Warsaw pact. This, however, leaves us gamers with about 50 years of history and technology development that is untouched by the gamemakers...most of the time. Well, we can count ourselves lucky, because the Cold War goes hot in Wargame: European Escalation.

The Trial

 

The game immediately wins against World in Conflict, because the plot isn’t as farfetched (WiC, if you don’t know, is like Red Alert 2 with mundane tech). For one, Wargame doesn’t really have a story: there are several campaigns that revolve around “what if” scenarios. And those are plausible ones, like rebellion in Poland, so nobody is invading the US. This kind of makes the game hero free and characterless, but you’re not here for the story. You’re here because a hardcore Cold War simulator is nowhere to be found and Codename Panzers: Cold War sucks.

Before you jump straight into crushing capitalism under the treads of your T-72A, you are presented with an army selection screen. To use units in your campaign or your multiplayer game, you have to unlock them with the stars you get in the campaign or MP matches. It’s best to start with the campaign, since the basic one you start with is like the unobtrusive tutorial. The second pits the soviets against polish rebels, so that’s quality past time, too.

So, hopefully you have finished the first mission and have veteran Leopard 1A1 tanks and maybe a few veteran recon units. Now you can buy them some friends! There are 350 units in this game, spread over two power blocks and four countries. There are stats for each one such as speed, armor, weapon stats and so on. Each unit has its role – like T-34/85s are here to look horribly outdated and serve as protective padding (their armor is weak, but the gun is tank grade) for armor rushes. But before you spend all of your hard earned stars on tanks (a tempting option), remember one thing: recon is king.

For as that one tank episode of Cobra-11 taught us, tankers can’t see for shit outside their moving blocks of steel. In fact, most units in the game can’t see that far. Therefore, recon is here to find ambushes, targets for the artillery, spot incoming tank rushes and many other uses. Heck, some particularly well managed recons can kill softer targets like really unlucky AA trucks, HQ units or outflanked tanks. I still treasure the memory of my recon armor taking out two T-55s in a forest on mission two.

After this debacle, clearing infantry became artillery's ‘raison d'etre’.

After this debacle, clearing infantry became artillery's ‘raison d'etre’.

Because cover is the queen of Wargame! Tanks just love hedges and forests, but do you know who loves it even more? Infantry! While normally they can and will get demolished by anyone with a gun or extremely determined rodents, they become a pain in forests and towns. Especially in towns, where tanks don’t have clear firing lines and only limited venues of approach. The game tells you to use other infantry to dislodge them, but after losing about 50 troops against two groups of about 10, I reverted back to plan A – massed artillery (I use this plan in a surprising amount of games). For you see, Wargame takes place in one of those perfect worlds where at the first whiff of a tanks exhaust fumes, all civvies teleport three countries away while taking their belongings, pets and works of art with them. This means that you can bombard cities with impunity!

You can call the wrath of the heavens on tanks, too, but for a different reason: to scare them shitless. You see, the supposed tank crew doesn’t have the feeling of safety that you, the eye in the sky, have from seeing the battlefield from up high. They don’t know that their armor can withstand the bombardment. So they freak out. And morale is a big part of the game here: panicked units are next to non-effective and can eventually rout. Now, this isn’t Total War, you can’t chase a T-55 formation off the map, but routing units are easy to kill, since they aren’t even firing back. These aren’t your WiC tanks that will stand their ground no matter what.

And, in the end and in the campaign, you begin to feel for your troops. To save scam once your favourite recon ‘copter runs afoul of an infantry ambush. You may have better tanks in the roster, but, for example, those Leopard 1A1s are your veterans, your buddies! They follow you from mission to mission and if they’re destroyed – that’s it! That is why you spend a lot of time micromanaging your forces despite the fact that they lack typically micromanageble abilities. An especially careless man can end the campaign with almost no units to call back up from. It’s a pity, then, that this does not apply to the enemy and his predilection to swarming you with tanks or APCs.

T-55 spam - more common than you would imagine.

T-55 spam - more common than you would imagine.

And all that swarming is lovingly recreated by the IRISZOOM engine. It might not be top of the line, shit your pants gorgeous, but it comes close – and you have to consider, that this is an engine that has to recreate kilometers upon kilometers of battlefield swarming with hundreds of units of different variety. And, as I’ve learned from using mods, the Company of Heroes engine can’t do that. The units do look detailed up-close, especially the armor. One other thing is watching ATGMs streak towards your or, for more comedic effect, enemy units. Those missiles miss more often than not – and sometimes spiral away twice further than your unit was from the target. The only thing better would be if such a missile would hit your low flying HQ helicopter, which would then fall on nuns boasting a picnic for orphans of helicopter pilots.

And you know what’s also great? Mi-24 pilots humming “Ride of the Valkiries” while they attack. Yes, they speak Russian, but this is an imperative that is common to all attack helicopter pilots. Other units are voiced well, too, even if it isn’t that funny. By far the best sound effect is the alarm sound of that goes off whenever an enemy hits your unit – you just carpet bomb your pants.

The Verdict

 

Wargame: European Escalation is hardcore. While it’s easy to learn, it’s hard to master and it will not cut you any slack. The scope of your operation may clash with your ability to manage so many units at the same time – or maybe that’s just me? At any rate, it’s an excellent wargame (hur hur) and I can’t wait for the sequel – Wargame: AirLand War.

Case Review

  • Detailed: OMG so many units!
  • Easy controls: this is not Combat Mission, you can play without having formal military education
  • Towards the sound of conflict: The sound part is very well done
  • Hard: This ain’t the game for weak ones!
  • Micromanaging intensive: the units do little on their own to save themselves
  • Ugly Infantry: infantry combat is neither thrilling, nor pretty up close.
4.5
Score: 4.5/5
Wargame: European Escalation is your chance to test out hot Cold War military hardware
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Posts: 558

Micromanagement intensive you say? Not my strong suit in RTS titles :P