Aug 24, 2007
In a game that feels like it was commissioned by George W. Bush, Combat Mission: Shock Force simulates a near-future US invasion of Syria. The good news is if you've got a boner for realism, Shock Force - the fourth title in the Combat Mission series - still delivers the goods in spades, with an improved engine and a new emphasis to real-time rather than turn-based action.
Commanding either high-tech US troops or Syrian cannon fodder, Shock Force is incredibly frustrating to master - even for CM veterans. There's no tutorial. The camera system is a total bitch. The interface is a complete mishmash, revolving around a horribly complex system of hotkeys. You don't even get any tool tips on the buttons and icons on the display. And unit path finding is dire, not making the whole real-time thing any easier.
The whole US vs. Syria doesn't help either, giving you the feeling of taking part in Donald Rumsfeld's wet dream, not to mention the repetitive scenery, lack of unit diversity and the almost complete absence of helicopters (and this is meant to be realistic?).
Battlefront has still got a great engine on their hands here, but they need to find a more exciting and comfortable setting, as well as sorting out their interface. The Combat Mission series has suffered something of a defeat in the deserts near Damascus, but we feel it will be back.