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Sixty years ago, the majority of the World was left sitting in the wake of the largest conflict ever to breach the borders of multiple continents. Twenty years ago, video games began to offer a way to relive this conflict, albeit from behind a glass screen. Ten months ago, Stormregion developed one such game and it immediately rose to the top of the genre, a well deserved spot indeed. In two weeks, it hopes to achieve the same feat again with the second outing, Codename Panzers: Phase 2.
Historically-vague introductions aside, the 22nd of July sees the next contender in the World War 2 strategy line of games hitting the shelves, and a lot of people (including myself) have been hoping for more of the same, with perhaps a little retouch here and there. Thankfully for us, Stormregion has actually listened and produced a more polished, involving and believable game.
To start the ball rolling once more, the game offers a total of three single player campaigns spread over various theatres of war, namely North Africa, Italy and the former Yugoslavia. Unfortunately there's nothing else to add to that, unless you're able to get a few friends together for a bash, in which case the enhanced multiplayer mode and cooperative campaign capability will keep you going for quite a while. This was the first feature I noticed Stormregion had left in (I confess, I read the back of the box to find out beforehand), and I'm mighty pleased they did. Cooperative mode essentially offers two unique experiences of the same campaign settings.
No doubt to the relief of Phase One fans, Stormregion has kept all the 'good bits' of the predecessor intact. Control groups are available for units, and the pause option is still present. Units continue to gain experience points based on their kills, and your heroes return once again to boost your forces in battle. It's worthwhile to note that the highest level of experience bestows 50 per cent damage reduction and 15 per cent damage increase, which is extremely tasty on your heavy tanks. The graphics engine has apparently been improved, but I noticed no distinct difference – the visuals are still excellent, albeit restrictive in zoom distance. The same winning formula seems to have been maintained, which so far is a big thumbs-up.
Phase Two's interface hasn't undergone a huge change, which isn't really surprising, but neither has the inability to redefine a lot of the controls. Many games now ship with the default control method of w, a, s and d for movement related commands, with space often being reserved for jump or operate. Phase Two, like Phase One, locks the arrow keys into moving the camera with space being used for the all-important pause feature. It's not a major annoyance considering that pause can be moved to a different key, but it's a niggling fact that really could have been addressed.
On the positive side, the tutorial option (which blinks demandingly at you when you load for the first time) reveals a superb introduction to the game which really removes all need for the instruction manual. Within this tutorial you discover several small new features which when utilised, make you wonder how you ever coped without them.
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