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Game Profile
GENRE: Strategy
March 10, 2009
 Written by Jason Cisarano  on March 04, 2009

Hands-On Preview: In this alternate reality, the Cold War turns hot

There's a lot going on in InnoGlow's newest installment in the Codename Panzers series, Cold War. First and foremost is the revamp that takes the game out of WWII and into a more modern setting. It maintains the persistent hero system of the earlier games, while adding realistic, physics-based building destruction and a weather system that affects gameplay rather than being merely cosmetic. Add a reported eighteen single-player battles, a reported twenty multiplayer maps with three different gameplay modes (Co-op, Domination, and Team) for up to eight players, and this take on the Cold War starts looking hot indeed.

The game deals with an alternate timeline, a post-WWII, fictional conflict between the Soviet Union and Allied forces. The mission I played was set in 1953, four years into the alternate reality. I'm tasked with a hostile landing into Soviet-occupied Heligoland. My primary objective is to destroy the Soviet HQ, where their tank production facility is housed. A secondary objective has me occupying a lighthouse that serves the Soviets as a communication station. By taking that objective, I can use a variety of key assets spread across island. Once I've grabbed the lighthouse, I can capture and use training facilities, a helicopter pad, and even a large artillery piece located near the center of the island. At first, I was able to move pretty easily around the island to gather up these points with only a few small skirmishes here and there. But when I turned my attention to the HQ objective and foolishly left my other prizes unguarded, Soviet troops beat feet around the interconnected network of strongpoints, taking them back before I could react.

Some other map positions are useful only for the prestige points they earn me. Prestige is the currency used in the game, and I spent it on calling recon helicopters and bomber support. With a few prestige points under my control, my forces would automatically generate prestige. Prestige was never really a problem during the match, since all off-map support has a cooldown of a minute or two?by the time I could use it again, my prestige had built up enough so that it wasn't a problem.

Like a lot of RTSs, combat in Cold War is heavily weighted towards tanks and other armored vehicles, at least in the scenario I had the chance to sample. As the battle progressed, I was able to build a force of six or eight tanks to defend the ground I had won while pushing the advance. The AI likewise responded by building tank after tank and throwing them at me as I captured strong points and repaired my inventory. The action isn't completely skewed towards armor, however. I found my bazooka and mortar teams to be effective support to the tanks, even when facing down a few tons of Soviet steel. And tanks themselves have limitations against ground troops that only other troops can help alleviate. For instance, troops inside the vehicles have a really tough time spotting hidden enemy sniper teams. As I approached the final objective, I rolled forward with my tanks, thinking that they would smoke out the bad guys in the area so that I could safely advance the more vulnerable ground troops. I quickly learned my lesson when I lost a whole squad of medics to the bullets of a pair of sniper teams within spitting distance of my tanks.

Final Thoughts
Overall, it looks like Codename Panzers: Cold War will offer solid, if familiar gameplay. Many of the game's systems feel like variations on what's become standard fare in many current RTS games: resource nodes, points spent in exchange for units, and heavy reliance on armor as the primary fighting units. The single-player experience will certainly rival similar games, especially since the alternate reality setting offers the chance for twists and turns in the kind of battles and units that it will offer. Not only are the Fifties a neglected era when it comes to wargames, Cold War is reputed to include some advanced weaponry that goes beyond even today's technology. Where this game will almost surely shine is in the online multiplayer component. The resource node system looks like it will make for some serious back-and-forth battles as players compete for radar dishes, training centers, and artillery. If there's one big innovation that Cold War adds to the RTS toolkit, it's those usable resource nodes. They're definitely worth fighting for.

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