Ah, the World Wars, whether it is the first or second one, you know that there are plenty of theaters of operations, skirmishes, and globally changing battles that occurred. Aside from the massive history lesson on why wars are seriously a bad thing for all sides involved, it also serves as a great resource for the gaming industry. So, if you are hankering of a bit of good old historically-themed combat, why not try out one these amazing games that focus on the world’s greatest military conflicts?
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes is a real time strategy game that puts players in the controls of either the Allied or Axis forces. Missions may seem like your typical “destroy all hostile units”, but the system of delivery actually makes more sense (cut off enemy supply lines, reinforce positions, prevent enemy retreat, etc). We love the way this game goes all out with the delivery -from the character animations (you can see the infantry men individually hide behind small walls and trenches, some will crouch, others will sit, the context based animations are top notch) to the smallest audio details (set fire to a building and you can hear the timbers crashing down inside, and in fire fights, you can hear the soldiers barking out commands to one another), all of these make for a very gritty and realistic gaming experience.
But Company of Heroes is not on this list for delivery alone, the gameplay itself is outstandingly good. There is a good balance between the two sides, and having a good strategy is what matters in winning the game. Unlike other RTS games, you cannot just hole up behind your base defenses while gathering resources. Players must actively create routes between resources to the base and continuously defend them -in the same sense, cutting off an enemy’s line is a solid strategy to consider in each mission.
Massive’s second major Real Time Tactics game does take a step away from reality and presents to us a what-if scenario involving a possible World War III. In this game, the Soviet army begins an aggressive invasion of the United States, and it is up to America and NATO to fend off the Russians. The Chinese would later join in the conflict as allies to the Soviets. The game’s overall delivery is pretty flashy which means that you would need serious hardware to run this game. At the same time, army control is mostly done by the AI, and players are mostly responsible for small groups of units on the field.
As an RTT game, there is no resource gathering involved. Unit deployment costs are slowly earned back on the summon troops are disabled. Also, resources are provided for as constant values per mission.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Any old school game worth their salt would know about Wolfenstein 3D. And that is why this later game that revisits that iconic original has also proven to be a major milestone in the gaming industry. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a major throwback to the first game, especially with the starting stage which mirrors the exact start of the original: you break out of your cell and scrounge up a knife and a pistol and fight your way through enemy forces. As you progress through the game, you manage to gain more weapons and fight tougher foes. There’s a bit of fantasy involved in this Nazi-remnants-are-the-baddies story, but we will not go into detail to avoid any spoilers for those of you who have yet to experience the game. In any case, this homage to the game that started the FPS genre is also a great title to have in your library and is certainly well worth the play hours to finish it.
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
This phenomenal game was developed by Gearbox Software, and puts players in the shoes of an allied soldier sent in to enemy territory just a short time before the allied landing. The player is then tasked with using whatever resources become available in order to fulfill his missions. The game is quite dated in terms of visuals and gameplay mechanics, but it does not make it any less fun to revisit. The narrative is quite compelling, and there is a certainly a sense of immersive involvement as you are trying to keep your squad alive throughout all the missions. We love the way the game instantly points out critical targets and allows you to instantly mark areas in the field where you would like your teammates to attack, defend, or simply go to.
Call of Duty
While Wolfenstein and Doom pretty much carved out the foundation of what would become the modern day FPS game, it was Call of Duty that polished the old school genre into the genre that we know today. Call of Duty sets players in the era of World War II and allows players to see the battle from the side of the Americans and the Soviets. Aside from having two campaigns, Call of Duty introduced several factors that made the game iconic as the mechanics would be adapted by other games.
The first is the employment of limited weapon carrying capacity. Call of Duty limited players to two main weapons, a sidearm, and limited hand grenades. Later versions of CoD would reduce that even further to only two weapon slots (and thrown weapons). Another major feature of this game is the introduction of the iron sight system. This mode allows the player to aim more carefully using the sights of the gun they are using (as opposed to having this feature limited to scope-based weapons such as sniper rifles).
Call of Duty 2
Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty game series certainly takes a huge chunk of the World War games category, and that is thanks mostly to the developer’s penchant for innovation. The first Call of Duty introduced rather impressive new directions for the FPS genre. Call of Duty on the other hand, shows us what polish really looks like. And we are talking more than just visually stunning stages, but also a great new narrative delivery that matches up to the fast paced action and combat of the game. In the single player mode, players are able to experience various campaigns all culminating towards a single ending. The inclusion of multiplayer mode (and a later add-on that allows players to create their own multiplayer maps), vastly improves the replay value of the Call of Duty 2 after the single player storylines.
Call of Duty: World at War
When it comes to cinematic FPS games, CoD’s World at War installment takes first place in our list. The story mode is outright amazing to play through -even if you are not an FPS gamer, this one is worth the effort to experience and finish (not to mention the fact that the voice acting is nothing short of spectacular). Much like its’ predecessors, World at War carries on with the tradition of having limited weapons capacity and weapon sight aiming. The visuals are amazing, even in today’s age of HD graphics. Aside from that, World at War also features the now-famous Nazi Zombies mode; this is one of the best multiplayer FPS modes ever made (basically, you and your friends try to survive wave after wave of zombies -this mode would eventually inspire other games like SAS ZA 4).
IL2 Sturmovik: 1946
IL2-S 1946 is actually a special release of the original IL2 Sturmovik game -only this time, all the critical patches, fixes, and updates are already present in the installer (which means that you will not have to worry about having to update the game after installation). This flight simulation game is heavily acclaimed thanks to its’ well defined flight-sim controls and impressive dogfight mechanics. That said, those new to the genre should pay attention to the game’s tutorials and explanations as the flying literally gets a lot technical. We highly suggest investing in a decent flight stick for this game as well as it enhances the experience of playing over using the keyboard and mouse combo.
Wargame: European Escalation
This real time strategy game explores what-if scenarios involving the Warsaw pact -more specifically, after an event ignites a war between East and West Germany. The game takes on the narrative point from various perspectives -ether from NATO or from the members of the Warsaw pact, until events culminate in a major quest for truth in a post-nuclear Europe. Combat-wise, the game is not much different from Command and Conquer and other RTS titles. The main draw here is the narrative which actually provides a unique view on the politics of the pre-Coldwar era. Once you finish with the main story mode in Wargame: European Escalation, there are various expansion packs that provide additional content.