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War Front Turning Point Preview

War Front: Turning Point pack shot
Developer:Digitial Reality
Genre:Real Time Strategy
Official Site:http://www.war-front.com/
Release Date:September 2006 (UK)
Writer:Craig Dudley (Mani)

World War II RTS games have been done, lots. Frankly not many have found their way into my collection - while I like realism in other types of game I most definitely do not in strategy titles. Indeed, I much prefer RTS games where you must collect resources, build factories and bases while battling it out with your enemy. Think any of the Command and Conquer series or Total Annihilation and you'll get the picture. Thankfully that's pretty much what we have with Digital Reality's upcoming War Front: Turning Point. A World War II RTS that concentrates on being fun but takes some serious liberties with history.

For the sake being at least a little sensible, our resource trucks will wander backwards and forwards from coal mines rather than some made up or even alien resource. These collections generate cold hard cash which can then be used to purchase buildings and units as well as advance down the tech tree, a tech tree which goes a hell of a lot further than weapons we actually saw in WWII. Occasionally you'll come across an oil well which can be captured to increase income along with junk yards which can also increase cash-flow.

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While War Front doesn't stick to the true history of the war and its weapons, most of the units do have some element of truth. Giant tanks straight off the drawing board of Nazi or Soviet engineers for example. Super weapons do also make an appearance for those who love to nuke things, me included. There are a few other surprises here too, like bomber air strikes and paratrooper drops. Some ground troops can capture buildings while others can dynamite them providing the relevant skills have been researched; I imagine this is sounding fairly familiar to many RTS veterans. The use of hero units isn't particularly new either, each army would appear to have up to three, each with their own special abilities. Your hero units can enter tanks or other vehicle on the battlefield which gives surrounding units a boost in some way, depending on the hero.

Without going into too much detail, units are generally split into support, ground troops, artillery, tanks, anti-air, fighter aircraft and bomber aircraft with sometimes several version of each, usually one per tech level if there is more than one version. There's probably about the right amount of units per team and given that the pace of games is likely to be extremely high, you don't really want too many.

As is also quite common, we get three teams to play, the Allies, Germany and the Russians. An online ladder system also already exists in conjunction with gamespy. As with all RTS games that are value for money we get a skirmish mode with what seems like pretty viscous enemy AI, at least as much as I can tell from a dozen or so games with a computer opponent. It certainly looks as though we will also get three single player campaigns in the finished game though there's only two in the version I played; 30 missions or more in total are promised and that should be plenty. There also seems to be a great variety of terrain in which to fight; cities, deserts and a frozen Russia etc.

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Engine wise, War Front is looking good, animation is very good indeed - explosions create lots of debris while looking gorgeous, the shockwaves are visible as smoke emanating from the point of impact and actually shake nearby trees, great stuff. Destroyed vehicles also get pushed about by others for a short period until they explode completely. RTS games probably aren't the biggest candidate for needing physics but a few touches like this do help. Some very nice weather effects and a daylight system are also in use

My only real gripe with the game so far is the draw distance, while camera control is very familiar and you can spin 360 degrees with ease, you can't quite zoom out far enough for my taste, hopefully that can be rectified before shipping, currently scheduled for September. While I'm talking about the viewing angle it's probably a good time to mention to turret FPS view and the tank view, you can actually take over turrets and join the battle yourself if u so desire; whether or not you are better off letting the computer deal with that is another story. Tank view hovers your camera just above and behind the selected tank as it goes about its business, that can be great fun in a big engagement.

War Front: Turning Point uses a tried and tested formula and sticks it in the middle of an alternate history World War 2, it seems to be working really well so far but as with all games of this type, balance is the key. It's no good being fun to begin with if one team or even one unit turns out to be horribly overpowered and dominant. To this end you might want to help out and join the beta that's just begun. It does remind me of lots of other great RTS games and as such its gameplay style is not all that original; we haven't had a good one for a while though, so if you love RTS games that don't worry too much about historical accuracy then War Front: Turning Point will definitely be worth a try when it ships this September.

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