WWII Online: Blitzkrieg
Waaaaaay back in our July revue, if you're interested, we revealed WWII Online, a simulation of the war that changed the history of Europe forever and a game that would combine tank, ship and aircraft simulation, first-person combat, role-playing and resource management. Fans of Hidden & Dangerous could run around in their dozens, killing soldiers on the other side, flight-sim nutters would be free to strafe them and in support would rumble the tank commanders as rearguard land and sea-based artillery pounded the enemy positions. Even those who might object to this virtual online total war could partake in the action; ferrying supplies and soldiers around in trucks, jeeps, troop planes and staff cars. And somewhere a general would be direcring equipment, men and supplies as the lines on the map of war snaked around hour by hour. Even more remarkable was the fact that the whole shebang would be squeezed from computer to computer via a screeching analogue modem. In its grand ambition, WW2 Online not only crosses the boundaries of every genre imaginable, it meshes them together. That, at least, is the plan. Simply put, WW2 Online is a simulation of the theatres of conflict during World War II. Each theatre can host between 1,000-1,500 players simultaneously across a map that is 1,400 x 1,200 kilometres in size and is controlled by a strategic layer of players who have earned suitable rank.
Upon embarkation you read the WW2 newspaper that details all the hot spots and recent victories or losses and choosing a hot spot drops you into that area of die theatre, whereupon you can see all the local bases and what missions are available.
"There are a number of mission types," says Chris 'MO' Sherland, the game's producer. "For example, the games will automatically post up defence missions if that base is under attack. On the other hand, the player can post missions via the command K A a structure itself. Alternatively, you can simply get together with a group L of friends and organise your own mission.
"If you were a fighter pilot and you'd earned two kills, but then got shot down over the Channel, you have a choice: you can either lose some of that earned experience and warp back to your base; or you can choose to ditch. If you ditch you can tough it out, organise a rescue from an MT Boat and say steal a truck and get back home without losing any experience."
WWII Online isn't just a straightforward sim/action hybrid, it also has RPG and economic aspects to it. Each side has vital supply lines and production facilities that they'll have to protect from the enemy forces during the war. Wasting an enemy factory will drain your opponent's resources; factories and supply lines can also be captured and redirected to your own guys.
Supply and transportation will rely on good commanders and poor performances will lose you both rank and willin', plavers Entire groups from other games such as Warbirds, which a lot of the current team had experience with, are already planning to move wholesale into WW20 when it opens. But WW20 isn't just a flight sim. You can crew up an entire tank, controlling all aspects of it rather than relying on the AI to handle them. This has the potential to be the best simulation of a tank to date - especially since switching between multiple viewpoints and screens is no longer a necessity. Now you can simply order your driver and gunner to do what is needed and the commander can concentrate on spotting enemies.
All of the co operative vehicles and ships require a great communications system and WWII Online offers a multi-layered approach to reflect this. You can switch radio channels to speak to different levels of the battlefield, from your own crew to the entire theatre - well, your own side anyway. Additionally, there is the ability to use third-party voice communications software - we wait to see if Cornered Rat actually tie one such service into the game itself.
The Landscape Ain't Changing
Graphically, WWII Online looks good, it is not the best, but it's pretty damn close. The models of armour and planes that have been shown to date look excellent, both exteriors and interiors, and the landscape is more than adequate. Sensibly, WWII Online does not have fully dynamic landscape, otherwise within a few days everywhere would resemble the Somme, circa 1916. Purists may want to be able to destroy everything, but the designers have realised the need for preserving features for infantry and vehicles to hide behind. Another good decision is that only infantry can control and occupy a set position. If a factory, building or emplacement needs capturing then it requires an infantryman to enter it and seize it. fc'IBUA (if you don't know, get an army dictionary) is therefore a distinct possibility and tanks won't have it all their own way.
As well as the theatres, there will be a number of arenas to simply go head to head in and even in the full theatre there is little restriction to simply strapping yourself into a Spitfire and going out to seek glory. Having said that, as the game develops over time and the war expands into new areas, new technologies become available. Eventually you will get to see the iiber-weapons of the rime, such as King Tigers, although these will not only be rare but also only available depending on supply lines and rank. You aren't likely to be given a meaty tank unless you've already proved yourself elsewhere.
WWII Online is an ambitious project that is running now in closed beta. Its technical detail in the weaponry appeals to hardcore WWII fans, but the instant gratification levels will also be high for those less fascinated with tweaking propeller pitch (whatever that is) to get an extra 5mph out of a Spitfire.
We really need to see this one running with a few hundred players to get a good feel for it, but it has great potential and a dedicated and proven team working on it. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
While persistent universe role-players such as EverQuest and Ultima Online continue to boast over 80.000-100,000 users during US evenings, it's no surprise that other companies are looking to the Net as a nice little earner. And while games such as Anarchy Online are going head-to-head with the old established giants, others are taking a different view. A group of Texans down in Grapevine have decided to mix the most enduring children's game (playing at war) with every adult's favourite toy (the Internet). The result? World War II Online.
Unlike every other WWII sim out there, WWIIO doesn't do the usual Americanised version of history (that WWII started when Pearl Harbor was attacked). In fact, for the initial release, America is out of the loop entirely, as the first part will be spanning the period 1939-1940 in what was known as the Blitzkrieg (see 'On The Real Blitzkrieg' boxout). Not only is it a virtually unique period for a PC game to use, but at this point in the war, the two sides were historically fairly evenly matched (Germany had a superior air force, France the best army and the British Navy still ruled the waves). This means that the game can go either way, and dependent on the players, history could actually be rewritten. But what do the players actually do?
Well, WWIIO is more a first-person shooter/hardcore strategy hybrid. Although these would seem unlikely bedfellows, stay with us, as it does make sense. Kind of. Now, when you first dive into the game, you're just a regular grunt, and you're sent to the front with your trusty rifle to do battle. Obviously you will be able to select your national allegiance and the service of your choice Oand, sea or air, but once you sign the dotted line, off you go. All the combat is done in first-person mode, so think WarBirds meets Counter-Strike meets Quake. On a giant scale.
Assuming you survive combat (or at least limp away with enough limbs to fight another day) then you get experience points (think RPG, kind of). Build up sufficient experience points and you get a promotion. Just like the real armed forces, but without the 4am starts, acts of random violence and mountains of unpeeled potatoes. Eam a couple of stripes and not only will people scan to call you 'Sir' and hate you for it, but you also start getting control of the strategy side of I the game.
Now, remember when you first logged in and were sent into battle? Well, once you start pulling the strings, it is up to you to decide where gets hit, and with what. Airborne assault behind German lines? Massive Panzer thrust on Paris? As you gain rank you start calling the shots. But fame is shortlived. If your escapades start costing lives or even the war, you will find yourself demoted back to the ranks, and you'll have to work your way back up all over again. Sleepless nights here we come.
At present the game is still in closed beta, so many of the strategy elements have still to be added. There are still big issues with the radio chatter, as during a large battle every man and his dog is trying to call for help or radio in the enemy positions. Quite how the radio will be filtered remains to be seen, but at present there is an overload of information at times.
The developers have also had to scale back the size and scope of operations (at least for the initial release). The Naval units and campaigns will be released about three months after the game first ships (excuse the pun). However, Cornered Rat software has made it very clear that this will be a free upgrade, so worry ye not.
Bigger And Better
The game has vast scope for expansion, and it is likely that Africa and the Eastern Front will be next on the wish list, along with all the associated weaponry, closely followed by die war in die Pacific. On the flipside, the game has been developed to run on both Mac and PC, and graphically doesn't come close to the likes of IL-2 and WarBirds III. Then again, EverQuest doesn't come close to Quake III or Counter-Strike graphically and people still lap it up, so it's a moot point.
WWUO is going to be epic. Bigger than epic. But it is going to need the numbers online if it's going to work properly. Based on the number of registered users on the BBS (more than 30,000) however, we don't think this will be a problem. A ground-breaking game on the Internet has long been overdue. World War II Online could be its finest hour.
On The Beal Blitzkrieg
Um, can I borrow your boat?
Blitzkrieg means, literally, 'lightning war'. Unlike the British and French, the Germans had learnt some hard lessons after the four-year static slaughter that marked WWI. After the invasion of Poland in 1939 there was a period of uneasy peace, commonly referred to back then as the 'phoney war'. Very little activity took place, and life was almost the same as it was before war was declared. All this changed in May 1940. Hitler launched an attack on the neutral countries of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. The elite French and the majority of British forces rushed up the coast of Northern France to try to save the Dutch, straight into a trap. Unknown to the Allies, Germany had massed a large force of tanks and troops in the Ardennes Forest, who then thrust straight into the middle of France, splitting the defence into two. By the time the Allies realised it was a trap, things had reached the point of no return. Fighting a desperate rearguard action, the British and French tried to regroup with the main forces around Calais, but to no avail. Eventually, the British realised that the situation was unattainable, and evacuated over 300,000 men from Dunkirk, losing almost all their heavy weapons and equipment in the process. The French carried on fighting for another two weeks, but the situation was lost. France was defeated in six weeks, and it would be another four years before any part of France would be free from occupation.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
WWII Online: Blitzkrieg Screenshots
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