Codename: Panzers, Phase Two First Look

As its name suggests, Phase Two is the next chapter in this impressive World War II strategy series.

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Codename: Panzers, Phase One was a gem of a World War II real-time strategy game that got lost among the big releases of late last year. But with a name like Phase One, you know what would come next. Codename: Panzers, Phase Two is the next chapter in the series, and it will feature all-new stories, characters, and battles. However, Hungarian developer Stormregion is also paying attention to the feedback from the first game. As such, the company is making changes that will hopefully make Phase Two more successful with gamers.

As with Phase One, Phase Two will focus once again on intense and realistic World War II tactical battles. However, don't mistake Codename Panzers for a wargame. In this real-time strategy game, you'll follow the stories of several characters and see the war unfold through their eyes. And though it is a real-time strategy game, Phase Two will once again straddle the line between strategy and tactics. You will not gather resources, build bases, or construct units on the battlefield, as you would in a "traditional" real-time strategy game. Instead, you will start a battle with units that you recruit beforehand, and you'll carry those units with you from mission to mission. Of course, you'll take losses in each battle, but your success will let you recruit replacements and reinforcements between battles.

Phase Two will have a stronger story, better voice acting, and more of the impressive World War II action seen in Phase One.
Phase Two will have a stronger story, better voice acting, and more of the impressive World War II action seen in Phase One.

The combat in Codename: Panzers is very tactical in nature, which makes it a bit different from most real-time strategy games. For example, in this game, if you want to destroy a tank, you will need to have a weapon that can actually damage a tank, such as another tank, an antitank gun, or a bazooka. You simply can't have a bunch of infantry shoot their rifles at the tank, which is a tactic that works in most other real-time strategy games. The game will also model armor thickness on vehicles, so you'll discover that tanks are vulnerable on the sides and extremely vulnerable in the rear, which emphasizes the importance of maneuvering on the battlefield. The game will also capture the gritty details of World War II combat. For example, if a tank is knocked out, its crew will abandon the vehicle and become dismounted infantry. Ineffective dismounted infantry, to be sure. But, if you can spot an abandoned vehicle, the tank crew can climb aboard and take control, which is something regular infantry won't be able to do. Your soldiers have a completely different job. You can send them into a building to clear it out or to barricade it as a strongpoint. In either case, you'll see the roof of the building fade away and watch as your men go from room to room.

The fog of war in Codename: Panzers is such that you will only see what your units can see, which is common sense. However, since you can often hear something coming at you long before you actually see it, the game will display icons on the screen that indicate that noises are coming from a certain direction. For example, you may see an icon of a tracked vehicle, indicating that a tank can be heard at that location. One of the new features in Phase Two will be vehicle headlights, and just as it is in reality when you see a vehicle's headlights shining long before you see the vehicle itself, there will now be an icon for headlights to indicate that your men see headlights in the distance.

Phase Two will introduce entirely new characters, weapons, vehicles, and stories. That said, you will encounter characters from Phase One throughout the game, though you won't need to have played Phase One to understand Phase Two, as it's a completely separate storyline. The new campaigns will feature the Anglo-American experience in North Africa, and there will be an Italian campaign as well as a Yugoslavian campaign. The North Africa campaign in particular will feature some gorgeous new structures, such as magnificent castles dating back to the Crusades. Despite the story-driven nature of Phase One, one of the complaints that fans had was that the actual stories felt a bit thin. To address this, Stormregion has hired two Hollywood screenwriters with experience in teaching screenwriting and writing for television shows such as Law & Order and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Going a step further, publisher CDV is in negotiations with Hollywood actors to provide voices for the game, with the voice work to be recorded in a Los Angeles sound studio.

The versatile 3D graphics engine from the original game returns with a few enhancements.
The versatile 3D graphics engine from the original game returns with a few enhancements.

The highly detailed and flexible graphics engine has undergone a few enhancements, but it still looks very good. If you played Phase One, then you already know about some of the details in the game, such as the way vehicles rock on their suspension, as well as the impressive smoke and artillery effects. Not only is the engine capable of rendering beautiful 3D battlefields, but also it's capable of astonishing zoomed-in levels of detail. In fact, the same 3D engine that powers the real-time strategy battles is the same one that will render the in-game cutscenes, which look like they're from a traditional 3D adventure game.

The changes that Phase Two will bring to Codename: Panzers appear very promising, and hopefully Phase Two will have a better chance of standing out than the original game. Phase One was released amid a very busy time on the strategy calendar last year, with competing games such as Rome: Total War and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War making their debuts. Phase Two looks to have a better release window this year, as it's expected to ship sometime this summer. We'll keep an eye out for further developments on the game until then.

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