Combat Mission: Shock Force - British Forces
Preview - posted by Jason on Mon 10 August 2009, 08:16:08
Combat Mission: Shock Force - British Forces
A little while ago I reviewed the Marines expansion for Combat Mission: Shock Force. While it was a solid expansion with some fun new units and an interesting branching campaign, it didn't really add anything new to the core game. Now Battlefront have released their second expansion called British Forces and I'm ready to take another look.
For those who have played the original Combat Mission: Shock Force, the formula is well known. You fight tactical battles on a 3D map in Battlefront's own phase-based real time with pause or turn-based gameplay system. For a wargame, the graphics are rather passable and while the sound effects are nothing to write home about they do their job. Like the original and the first expansion, you still fight with coalition forces in Syria. With the difference that this time around you will take the British Highlanders for a spin through the desert.
Once again there is a large selection of new custom missions to play through as well as the ability to jump into a quick instant-action battle. There's also a plethora of fun new units to play around with and this time we finally get some on-screen light artillery to use. Nothing better than to carefully maneuver your mortar squad in perfect position to let them pound the enemy into oblivion. Other than that you get to take British Challenger tanks for a spin, call in Tornado and Harrier airstrikes and deploy your lads with Spartan APCs.
Apart from all the new toys there is one thing that really sold the game to me. The original Combat Mission had a passable campaign and the Marines module improved rather well on that one. The missions however often felt a bit flat and samey. It's obvious that by now, however, Battlefront has really got the scripting and design down to a science when you start with the British campaign. From the first mission on it's clear the game doesn't pull its punches and that the designers spent a lot of time thinking up some rather nasty surprises. You can expect plenty of IEDs to line the roads and when you reach an objective more often than not the game is scripted to throw huge counterattacks or call in artillery and reinforcements. This is definitely one for the experienced Combat Mission player, but that's not surprising considering this is the second expansion.
Missions range from fighting through border posts filled with insurgents to large scale armored encounters. Most of the time you will seemingly have the advantage in firepower. Don't get cocky however, since that doesn't mean the Syrians can't inflict some nasty damage. Playing the branched campaign also means that you'll want to keep your losses to a minimum. Not something that's easy with IEDs going off, RPG wielding insurgents sneaking around and T-90s charging.
The excellent editor gives players themselves the opportunity to create their own battles. You can easily put together a basic mission in a few minutes, but when you've got the time and will you can make them as intricate as you can. Something the huge variety of rather excellent user made missions you can download is testament to.
The AI of the game still hasn't improved much. On the squad level your troops will now maneuver and fight a bit smarter and effectively, however it's clear that the enemy still only fights according to how they are scripted for the scenario at hand. Apart from this, the version I played often managed to miss script triggers and failed to acknowledge when mission objectives were passed. This however might be very well due to the fact I played a press preview version and hopefully the final product won't have these problems.
The new units, missions and excellent campaign make this new module more than worthwhile for anyone who has enjoyed the Combat Mission games so far. Other than that, Battlefront has added quite a bit of functionality under the hood of the game that makes it run that much smoother with even more toys to play around with. In the end, this is once again not an expansion that reinvents the wheel. What it does well, however, is that it makes an enjoyable product even better and offers a great campaign to play through. A definite recommendation for those who've enjoyed the previous game and expansion.
Note: This article was based on the pre-release press build.