Soldiers: Heroes of WWII - hands-on special

Following the recent announcement of the new tactical-action title , we met up with publishers Codemasters and took a look at it in action. The mission-based game combines elements of both realtime strategy and third-person shooter games and gives players the option of controlling a small group of soldiers or individual team members. Cold facts and figures can be found at the link above but to know the feel of the game, read on...

Codemasters' own description of the game is 'Commandos meets Cannon Fodder'. The Commandos reference was to be expected but the nod to Cannon Fodder took us a little by surprise. But Soldiers does indeed have the immediacy and fun factor that the Amiga classic provided by the bucket-load. So there's no messing around before any of the 30 missions: your men are dropped into a location and off you go. Of course, that's not to say you can't take a tactical approach. If you want to hang back and survey the land, check out the enemy firepower and position to get a handle on what kind of approach you want to take, go ahead. The point is you don't have to.

Soldiers often pits you against seemingly impossible odds - hence the subtitle Heroes of WWII - but never dictates how you go about beating those odds. The level of interactivity with the environment and game world in general is very impressive - if it's physically possible in real life, the chances are you can do it in the game. (Or die trying, at least.) From hiding in grass and swimming to commandeering planes and blowing up buildings, the game provides the necessary game physics and mechanics to let your imagination run wild.

Of course, there is the little matter of tons of enemies to deal with: despite your best laid plans, at times your soldiers will still be cut in half by automatic fire. The point is, if one approach doesn't work, you can just try a different tactic. So if running in like demented fools - as we are wont to do - results in being slaughtered, perhaps stealth is the way to go.

The strange thing is, you won't mind dying (well, not too much) because of the game's immediacy. You'll have a laugh whatever, to the extent that, at times, you may well approach missions without thought of completion but because you wanted to have a Molotov cocktail-fuelled mental moment.

But if you like your combat to come in a more serious RTS package, don't worry, it's all there. If you want to point-and-click all the way through the game, that option's open to you and works as you'd expect. Personally, we like to get down and dirty, so we revel in gaining direct control of individual soldiers.

Developers Best Way have gone to great lengths to replicate the physical world as accurately as possible, including authentic ballistics, weaponry and vehicles. But they've also made sure that the player has the opportunity to do things their way - without forgetting that gaming isn't just about accomplishment, it's also about having a ball on the way.

Soldiers: Heroes of World War II will be released for PC towards the end of June