It’s surprising that in this day and age someone can launch a game called Soldiers. I’d have thought that that title was a little too 70s arcade for Codemasters but it seems not. Of course, Heroes of World War II, and by all accounts there were more heroes than you’d care to count.
You basically take command of your man, or men, or vehicle to battle away in WWII, playing as either Russian, German, British, or American. But this is no Sudden Strike, with lots of men running for hours across grassland to die in killing fields of the Hun’s machine guns. The scale is kept down so things don’t go mad like in SS, but at the same time, the realism is there. It’s a combination of first person shooter and real-time strategy, and I’m pleased to say that it works surprisingly well, so long as you keep your eye on your men.
You select a soldier, and you can either directly control them, or click where you want them to go, or what you want them to do. You can also group select, so for example, you can select four men and make them all get into a tank. Once in the tank, the same options apply, direct drive (and shoot!), or click where you want it go, or what you want to shoot. You also have a game camera, which zooms in and out, as well as changes pitch and rotates, so you can change the angle and look around to see what you’re doing and plan your attack strategically. The game camera uses the scroll mouse button, so make sure you have one.
But the options don’t just end there. Each vehicle needs fuel and ammo, and some crew, so you have to arrange this. Your soldiers can carry a range of things, all of which you can pick and choose. There are a range of WWII weapons from all sides to pick up when you come across them. But that’s what you’d expect from a game these days. You can also carry other things - matches, barrels, piles of wood, toolkits - to help you on your way and make life more interesting.
But the piece de resistance has to be the environment. The map is almost entirely interactive and destructible. If you are a bit sloppy in the driving of your tank, and you clip the corner of a building, you may well bring the wall down, followed by the roof. You can drive into other vehicles, people, ammo dumps (not recommended!). If you go a bit crazy, you’ll break your vehicle, in which case you need to fix it before you can continue (with the aforementioned toolkit) - its all been thought of here!
The sounds are very good, and the characters have a welcome sense of humour. They even scream well when they die - I had one poor Polish crewman standing next to a fuel and ammo dump as my tank rolled over it - he was launched into the air screaming and hit the ground like a sack of spuds, where he remained for the rest of the game. The graphics are also detailed and complimentary - they won’t blow you away, but then you are viewing all the action from a distance, so it not like the detail you’d expect in a FPS - it just works perfectly.
In a world of sequels and power-hungry graphics-rich games, it's fantastic to come across something from a saturated genre that is both original and sporting excellent gameplay. Think Sudden Strike and Hidden and Dangerous (the latter without its bugs), and you have Soldiers. All in all, it's just great fun.