By Eric Baker
There are a variety of multi-player games that are refighting World War II twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but none of them are quite like Battleground Europe: World War II Online from Cornered Rat Software and newly distributed by Matrix games for the PC and the Mac. [Yes, thanks to OS X, even Macintosh owners can get in on this version of the war.] What makes BE:WWIIO different from other online multi-player WWII games is its size. Each server has only one map and it covers all the ground between Ramsgate in England and Cologne in Germany, a 12,000 by 12,000 kilometer space where up to 10,000 players can be online at once. While the weapons, vehicles, and terrain are authentic, the game is not historical in that it doesn’t attempt to recreate any single battle. Instead it fights the whole Western Europe Campaign all at once.
Just as in the war it models, single players acting alone in BE:WWIIO cannot effectively advance the strategic objectives of their army. This leads to large learning curve in the game. It isn’t hard learn the controls, but players need time to find a squad to serve with and to fit themselves into the command structure. There is no AI. All the decisions on troop movements are made by ranking players in the game, and all the arms and material are wielded and moved by players. There is no leveling, so players who are on more can advance more rapidly in the command structure, if they care to, but an occasional player is at no disadvantage in combat. If BE:WWIIO is not the most realistic recreation of the war, it is certainly the most realistic experience of serving in an army.
A more traditional simulation with much better graphics is Rush for Berlin by Storm Region (makers of the Codename Pansers series) and from Paradox Interactive for the PC. This is a real time strategy game where the player commands units of infantry, armor, and air to recreate the end of the war in the European theater as the Allies raced one another for Berlin. The player can choose to command the Western Allies, the Russians, or the Germans, so essentially the game can be replayed three times. In a nice departure from other games that have dealt with this campaign, when players choose to lead the Germans against the computer controlled Allies, they are given an array of weapons that historically were only prototypes. This alternate history deployment gives the Germans the fire power they need to make a true struggle of it.
Still in Europe, and on an even greater scale but with even simpler graphics, Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg by Fury Software and available at Battlefront.com for the PC is a 2D, turn based, strategic simulation of the entire European Theater with big chunks of Russia and North America included so the Battle of the Atlantic can be recreated along with Stalingrad and D- Day. Players can take on the whole war, including a diplomacy mechanic for bringing in neutral powers for one side or the other, or they can play one of the five mini-campaigns for a more contained experience. The game supports hot seat and play by e-mail modes as well as play over the net for when head to head instead of head to computer competition is wanted.