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Eric Young's Squad Assault: West Front

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Tri Synergy
Developer: Matrix Games/ Freedom Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

WWII has always been a favorite genre of developers. Whether this is because the era is just that ripe for plotlines (which it arguably is, especially when you consider the scale and jumps in military technology) or because it's so far removed from our psyche that some of the 'sting of war' is taken out of it is anyone's guess. Although flight sims and FPSs are usually the ones getting the attention, war games have always had their hands in the WWII timeframe. Eric Young's Squad Assault: West Front is one such game that manages to combine the draw of WWII with fun, RTS style gameplay.

Graphically, Squad Assault is just okay. Everything in the game environments is recognizable, such as houses and trees, but the game features little in the way of details. Troop details are on par with the environments, but don't do anything to stand out. Details do improve as you zoom in on objects on the map, but it still can't shake that generic 'seen it already' feel. The same goes for the animation. Characters move, but it's not the prettiest thing to witness. Animation is also a little choppy, calling to mind older games where frames of animation were always dropped.

Music is a high point of the entire experience, and helps to give the game that WWII feel. This effect is pushed further by the inclusion of ambient battlefield noises that are always going on in the background. Overall, it's just a good audio package.


Squad Assault: West Front places you in France during WWII as either the Axis or Allies as you push towards victory during the West Front conflict. The game features 9 campaigns in which you'll have to take command of troops and complete various objectives such as breaking enemy lines, controlling bridges or capturing enemy territory. In order to accomplish your goals, you'll have access to a vast array of troops, tanks and other military equipment. At the beginning of each mission you are give a resource pool of equipment and troops to select from. Each of these troops has distinct abilities that can help you during the upcoming scenario, so you'll have to select which troops best suit your mission. However, this isn't as cut and dry as it seems. One of the better aspects of the game is that some troops are versatile and can cover multiple roles, some can't -- so it's up to you to plan a strategy and see which suits your strategy best. I had few complaints about the game's layout, at least after I actually played through the training missions like I cared and spent some time with the instructions. This is not a game you can simply jump into and begin playing. Troop management is a little tricky, as is the game's camera system. The number of moves each troop class can perform is a little dizzying at first, especially when you throw in non-traditional movements like 'Move Cautiously'. This isn't a game where you can just rush the opponents and win. Instead you'll have to think out your actions, assess the situation and plan accordingly. Successfully commanding your troops does come with rewards. Although the obvious one is that your troops will live, your troops will also gain a psychological morale advantage during the fight. If a platoon is doing really well, they begin to fight better. However, this works both ways, so if you allow your troops to get pinned down in an area or suffer heavy casualties, you'll have a hard time keeping your guys in the fight.

Of the variety of troop movement options included in the game, I felt a few important ones were left out. Troops cannot be separated individually, which means you can't leave a small battalion behind to watch your back. This also restricts your scouting options since you are forced to send out an entire platoon to see if there are enemies over the next ridge.

Aside from the game's single-player campaign, Squad Assault also features the option to create your own maps and scenarios. Squad Assault also offers the option to play multiplayer games either over LAN or by going to www.wargamer.com. Here you can register and find other people to play via email.


Squad Assault: West Front is a challenge, but is only really difficult if you make it that way. Poor troop management ultimately leads to bad experience, so it's always better to take your time during combat. AI does, however, get in the way of success at times. One of the more noticeable flaws is that troops tend to move into what formation that it thinks is best suited for the situation. Instead of keeping in tight formations, they would usually spread out in order to cover as much ground as they could -- sometimes leading to difficult battle situations. For whatever reason, troops don't seem to be all that trigger happy. Although this cuts down on soldiers going on their own personal Rambo missions, it gets a bit frustrating when they won't even return fire at attacking units unless you tell them too. When you consider the number of troops you have at any given time, this isn't an easy situation to manage.

Game Mechanics:

For the most part, Squad Assault: West Front plays like a hybrid of Real-Time and Turn-Based strategy games. The entire game runs in a Real-Time format, but you can also pause the game at anytime in order to give commands or get a better idea of the situation. Commands are given via an easy-to-use menu and mouse clicks on the battlefield. The control set up, as well as the camera controls, are a little different at first, so it would be a good idea to spend some time with the manual and to take full advantage of the two training missions.

Overall, Squad Assault is an enjoyable strategy game. Although the game has some glaring problems, mostly involving the game's less-than-good AI scheme, there's still enough game here to keep you entertained for a little while. This game is more likely to appeal to war gamers and strategy buffs rather than RTS players who want a little more action than strategy (such as in Warcraft III).

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/2000/XP; Pentium 700 MHz or Higher; 16 MB 3D Video Card; CD-ROM: 8x or Faster; 256 MB RAM

Test System:

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

Windows Silent Storm Windows Two Thrones

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