Up until now, if you mentioned the phrase ‘World War Two combat game’, there were only two possible responses – Medal of Honor and Battlefield 1942. But now, thanks to Activision, there’s a new kid on the block, making the PC war-gaming fraternity leap up and down with excitement.
The action is centred around many of the major and most bitterly-fought conflicts of the war, including the D-Day landings and the attacks on Stalingrad. You have the opportunity to fight as a British or American paratrooper and as a young Russian soldier conscripted into the Red Army.
The closest you come to a solo mission is when you have to blow up the defences and generators of a repaired dam in the Ruhr Valley – the rest of the time you work as part of a tight-knit squad where each watches the back of the other.
This is the beauty of this game. After each initial briefing you are immediately in the thick of the action and the way you support your comrades will determine the outcome of each mission.
In one thrilling chase scene, for example, you specifically have to prevent a soldier from being killed before he can lay charges to blow up a bridge, by firing at trucks from the back of a speeding vehicle and then sniping at the survivors.
It’s all first-person action, which heightens the tension, and the graphics are so highly detailed that you can almost smell the enemy before you. Whether it’s a muddy village in Normandy, a German stronghold in Austria, inside an enemy battleship or on the hard streets of Red Square, every effort is made to capture the authentic emotions of the real battles.
Much of the success of this is due to the sound. If you are able to make full use of the 5.1 surround sound cranked up to the max, you will be overwhelmed by the non-stop cacophony of exploding mortars, pinging bullets, grinding tank tracks and rattling machine guns.
You truly get a sense of the chaos of war as plans go out of the window and you constantly have to re-group and re-think tactics as another unexpected assault is launched.
Controls are easy to operate, with a simple action key to pick up items, arm explosives, enter or command vehicles and operate heavyweight guns. There are generous supplies of medi-packs dotted round the maps but you’ll need them, as some of the missions involve wave after wave of enemy reinforcements.
Once you complete the single-player campaign you can then explore the multiplayer option which includes the familiar Deathmatch one-on-one (or team variation) as well as Behind Enemy Lines (small Allied team holds out against superior Axis numbers), Retrieval (finding documents in enemy territory) and Search & Destroy.