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Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich

Score: 70%
ESRB: Rating Pending
Publisher: Tri Synergy
Developer: Matrix Games/Panther Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

At first glance, the graphics in Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich will fail to impress most gamers. Instead of going for fully-detailed tanks and troops, developer Matrix has instead kept things simple -- focusing more on the game's rich gameplay. The game board can aptly be described as a map -- albeit a slightly more detailed one. Picture an overhead photo of an area, and you have a good idea of how things look. All of your troops, tanks, planes and artillery are represented as simple tiles with a black 'shadow' of what they are supposed to be. Each of these tiles contains numerous groups of whatever they represent. And, well -- this is about the extent of what the game has to offer. There are a few special effects that show up from time to time, such as explosions during battles or day/night cycles -- but there's really not much here to go nuts over. It's simple, but it works.

Sound is about as bare as the graphics, but is effective. The background music has a good, WWII military feel to it that helps to get players into the game. The usual sounds of battle -- such as artillery fire and soldier yells also show up. As if the idea of one tile representing a regiment of troops wasn't a suspension of disbelief, hearing them yell and shoot is.


Gameplay:

Although the game looks simple graphically, looks can be deceiving. Instead of focusing on the bells and whistles of the game, Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich instead looks towards providing a deep, strategic experience. Highway puts you in command of either the Allies or Axis forces during Operation Market Garden. Each of the game's 34 scenarios places you in the role of General as you plan and execute various objectives such as knocking out supply lines and capturing key points on the map in areas such as Neerpelt, Eindhoven, Nijmegan and Arenhem. In addition to your main goals, each of these scenarios contains additional objectives that you must complete in order to move on, and completing these will not be easy. Not only will you have to deal with historically accurate troop deployments (meaning, if they didn't have it in WWII, you won't have in the game), but you will also have to contend with accurately recreated weather models from the time period. In order to accomplish these goals, you'll have access to various troop types -- such as tanks, planes, foot soldiers and (as the game's title suggests) paratroopers.

Unlike other RTSs, Highway is geared more towards the strategist than the economist. Highway gives you troops, a map and objectives that you must complete. There's no upgrading of troops over the scenario, nor are there bases and economies you need to micromanage.

Highway also features a robust map marker utility that allows armchair generals to either build their own maps or modify existing maps and scenarios, which can then be taken online. Unfortunately, I was unable to find someone to play online with as of the time of this writing, so I wasn't able to test out the experience.


Difficulty:

A simple appearance doesn't mean that it's simple game. Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich is about as detailed as they come strategy-wise, meaning that it may not be for everyone. When I first stepped into this game, I figured my years of RTS experience would help me dominate the Germans, and it did... at least to a point. Unlike other RTS games, where you're limited to simple orders like move and attack, Highway offers a plethora of options and abilities for your armies. This makes the game really confusing at first, especially to new players. Avid war gamers may not have as many problems though. Even after you master everything (which is a challenge in itself), Highway remains a good challenge.

Game Mechanics:

As previously mentioned, each tile on the map represents a regimen or platoon of troops. This makes planning out strategies a complicated, in-depth endeavor. Instead of grouping up a few troops and sending them on their way to destroy a designated building, Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich forces you to think moves in advance and keep track of everything going on at once. You'll also have to think in terms of offense and defense. Grouping up all your troops and running them down the gullet of an Axis base is a sure-fire way to get aquatinted with the 'Game Over' screen. Each tile has their own set of abilities, like bombarding or long range artillery, which offers up hundreds of options when completing goals. This also gives you a lot to think of when planning out exactly how you'll go about doing things, since you have to know what the enemy has and what they are capable of. In order to succeed, you'll have to experiment with various options and see what works in different situations. There's really no easy way (or exploit) that will win every time. It should also be noted that Highway can be a very time-consuming game. Highway is very slow paced, which means marching your armies through the European landscape could take hours, so I hope you have a comfortable chair.

Overall, Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich is a great game -- however it's just not something that will appeal to everyone, or even a majority of the hardcore RTS fans. Although RTS fans, especially those that would rather worry about winning battles instead of micromanaging your base's economy, are sure to enjoy Highway, the game seems more geared towards war gamers (especially those who love the old Avalon Hill series of games) than anyone else. Those looking for a detailed, military based game -- this is the one for you.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Not Available
 

Test System:



Windows XP; Pentium 4 1.7 GHz; Radeon 9100 128 MB; 40 Gig HD; 640 MB RAM

Microsoft Xbox BMX XXX Windows Deus Ex: Invisible War

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated