Codename Panzers Phase Two review

It's not a codename. It's a real name. Has nobody told them yet, asks PC Gamer

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Sorry for the negativity, man, but I'm getting really bored of World War II games. I feel like I've gorged myself on rich cake. If I play another Medal of Honor game, I'll park my lunch.

The endless cycle of FPS and RTS titles... how many different ways can you cut the war before it's all been done? Perhaps there's no answer to that question.

But one thing's for sure: Codename Panzers Phase Two has arrived at a time when WWII games have been done to death. This armour-heavy RTS will have to do something extra-special to earn a place in our hearts. And it doesn't, really.

It's entirely competent in many areas, less so in others. If you want a WWII RTS that's a veritable toybox of clanking hardware, then Phase Two's your man.

In very much the same vein as the original Codename Panzers, it's a romp through a series of Second World War skirmish scenarios, this time based in the North Africa of Rommel and Monty, so you'll be pitting Panzers against Shermans, Chieftains against Tigers, and Crusaders against 88s in realtime tactical combat.

In single-player mode, there are three campaigns to choose from, one for the Axis, one for the Allies and one for the embattled Partisans who, as you'd imagine, rely more on 'recovered' vehicles and gun-running infantry than the factory-fresh tanks of the other two more established forces.

Within these divisions (and this becomes more important in multiplayer and skirmish modes), you get armour, infantry and support units from lots of different nations; the Allies get to play with British and Russian weapons, for example, while the Axis get Italian and German gear.

And as always, the Germans get the best toys - marry some Stug mobile guns to Panver IV tanks and a couple of 88 field-guns, and you've a massacre waiting to happen; big guns and heavy armour is the way forward.

There's a commendably wide variety of kit to play with, and it takes a real enthusiast to get the very best out of what's on offer.

Just like the previous game in the series, you have a certain number of points to spend before a battle on a hand-picked force. This can lead to a certain amount of frustration, however, when you're halfway through a mission, and realise you're missing a unit type that is vital to successfully completing the objective.

Hit Escape, Restart, build a new army - it can be quite annoying. And when you've so many armoured units, you simply have to include ammo resupply and repair vehicles in your roster, which annoyingly adds an extra level of fiddling to proceedings.

Out in the field though, it's a pretty good hack. Tanks rock on their tracks as the shells fly, metallic clangs and crumps echo around the desert as they hit home, and the dust clouds roil as your armoured columns roll across the wasteland.

The visuals range from standard to impressive. The tanks, for example, have been given a lot of love; the detail is very fine, and there's a real sense of weight and momentum to them. Big tank battles are mechanically visceral, and a sight to behold.

The infantry, on the other hand, are a bit of an afterthought; they're visually blocky, physically weak, and play a distant second fiddle to the armour. About the only thing you need foot-sloggers for is to crew vehicles and field guns when their crews bail out.

Moreover, dedicated tactical troops, such as machine gunners or flamethrower troops, are mostly ineffective, requiring more management for less impact than the vehicles they're supposed to support.

You invariably end up buying more armour instead, unless a particular mission forces you to do otherwise. The addition of air assets, such as artillery strikes, pretty much renders infantry obsolete.

Panzers isn't a bad game. It just feels like standard-fare RTS in a standard-fare setting. The missions are challenging and detailed; the units are varied; there's combat aplenty; and the old paper-scissors-stone mechanic still works.

But the action fails to really inspire any excitement, and baby, that's what I'm here for.

Codename Panzers Phase Two is out for PC now

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