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.