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Officers WWII RTS
Officers is a World War II real time strategy game which challenges you to play as the Allies taking on everyone’s favourite enemy, the Nazis. There are loads of units to command, tactical options for artillery and air support and gigantic maps to conquer. It offers a decent strategic challenge but it is slightly dated and there have been better games released dealing with this exact scenario.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve relived an interpretation of Operation Overlord. Counting films and games it must be well into double figures and yet the beach landings and World War II in general continue to provide fertile ground for game developers. Perhaps for that reason Officers feels quite familiar right from the opening cinematic which features soldiers being gunned down amidst ruined burning buildings as the tanks roll in.
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The gameplay is fairly familiar too. There is a short tutorial which explains the main concepts. You select units by clicking on them or drawing a box round them and right click to command them to move to that spot or attack. You can order reinforcements of men or vehicles from the menu at the bottom right and they will appear at your nearest base. Each map is made up of large resource bases which can be captured and allow you to set up supply chains and order up more troops. In between these larger bases which can be factories, air fields or even towns, there are smaller villages, outposts and depots. To take overall control of the map you just need to seize the large bases but there are advantages to grabbing the small outposts too such as reduced enemy capability and bonus finds in fuel, food and ammunition.
The basic troops under your command comprise a wide range of units with different movement speeds, abilities and specialities. You also have access to a number of special orders which allow you to send a recon plane overhead and scout a spot, bomb a target, send the fighters in to deal with enemy air attacks, drop paratroopers or call in a devastating artillery barrage. You need to use these effectively if you expect to win and knowing when and where to use them is half the battle.
For the most part the game works as you would expect. You can tell units to take cover and they will dig in, if they encounter enemies they will fire at them automatically and seizing a new resource just means dominating the area. There are problems though. If you have told your army to go to a spot they will continue there even if they encounter massive resistance. They will shoot back but they will also continue to progress forward. You have to scout an area before you can see the enemy troops. There is no fog as such but enemy units can be firing at you and your troops can even be firing back sometimes and yet you still cannot see the enemy.
The initial thrill of the huge maps which can cover miles and miles of territory becomes an irritation when the enemy keeps launching counter offensives behind your front line. Trying to stay on top of multiple skirmishes is a headache. I also found the resource system which challenges you to keep the different points supplied was a little confusing.
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Officers is dated in the graphical department. The unit models are very basic, the animations are a bit stiff and the visual effects are lacking. The environments look good enough to set the scene and the vehicles resemble the real thing: they just aren’t particularly detailed. If you compare it with something like World in Conflict or Company of Heroes it looks distinctly behind the times. The HUD and menu design is simple and effective, the icons aren’t the greatest in the world but you can learn them quickly enough. The overall presentation is reasonable and the intro cut scenes are cinematic and blended together quite well. However they are clichéd and offered at quite a low resolution which does detract somewhat.
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The sound in Officers is very cheap and it shows. The music is basic and repetitive, the sound effects are quite sparse and the illusion of chaotic war is not quite achieved. Worst of all are the incredibly flat monotone voiceover lines which are spoken very repetitively every time you command a unit. Some of the men sound as though they have been drugged their voices are so devoid of any feeling. The actual dialogue is very badly written and this extends to the pop up dialogue that introduces sections or missions.
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The multiplayer option lets you play LAN games with up to five other people. There are loads of maps to choose from in Officers suited to different forces from 1 versus 1 up to 3 versus 3. You can also set victory conditions and resources. The problem I encountered was that I couldn’t find anyone else who had the game to play against. I suspect the multiplayer would offer a more interesting challenge because the AI is definitely not the smartest.
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You are going to want at least a dual core 2.6GHz processor, GeForce 6200 graphics card or above, support for DirectX 9 and at least 1GB of RAM. In terms of hard drive space 3GB will cover it. Running the game on a better system than the minimum spec it crashed several times and had to be restarted and since the auto save is infrequent this was very annoying and meant replaying a large chunk of the level.
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If you can get past the dated look of the game and forgive some of the eccentricities Officers can be quite engaging. Fighting a campaign on such a large map is an interesting challenge. Officers really does require some tactical thought and strategy if you expect to complete all six levels and it offers several hours of gameplay. If you can find someone to play with then the multiplayer mode could extend the life of the game even further. The bottom line problem is that there are other games out there that feature more accomplished gameplay and look visually far superior to Officers.