While in reality the Cold War was won by diplomacy and economics, real-time strategy contender Codename: Panzers -Cold War has decided that’s boring. Real wars are fought with bullets and dying. Thus, history must be re-written. Basically, this is the Codename series recognising that while we love bloodshed and period dress, we’re bored of World War II.
The clock has been wound forward to 1949: Russia has tired of sharing control of Berlin with the West and decided some fightin’ is in order. The advantage of being close to WWII in era, location, and units is a feeling of authenticity that fictional conflicts often lack. The disadvantage is that it also retains the musty dullness that’s come to characterise the period. We’re tired of WWII and this is still battles over Spandau prison, Berlin and other locales recognisable from a dozen other games, fought mainly with units from the ’40s.
The plot does offer some alternate reality fun. Through cutscenes we learn that Stalin is in league with the toadish villain from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that they’re after nukes for the motherland. Oh, that wacky Stalin.
So begins America’s battle to knock the invading Russkies back out of Europe, with the help of their ever-faithful sidekick NATO. Each mission is broken down into objectives mandatory, optional or conditional. The mandatory ones mostly involve defending a base, attacking a base or both. Certain tasks are more specific – repair a dam or defend a retreating convoy – but the strategy required is almost always the same. Get a posse of tanks together, shoot at the enemy a lot and overwhelm their forces with your greater strength and/or numbers.
There’s an almost hack-and-slash style of satisfaction to this – explosions feel good – but with so little tactical nuance required, the lack of variety fast spreads from the setting to the action. Optional objectives refer to other Points of Interest placed on the map. The base you inevitably have to attack or defend is one PoI, others will be repair depots that fix up nearby units and helicopter pads that deliver reinforcements. Certain PoIs will generate Prestige points over time, the game’s only resource, that can be spent on new units either mid-battle or at the Market screen before each mission.