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Hearts of Iron II

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 32
Genre: Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

World War II is a war most, if not all, gamers are already intimately familiar with. We’ve been able to storm the beaches of Normandy, take part in the battle of Midway, and put an end to Axis rule in both the Pacific and European theaters of war. Hearts of Iron II once again returns gamers to World War II, this time as the leader of an entire county.

Strategy games are rarely known for their graphical prowess, so Hearts of Iron II fits in perfectly. Most of what you’ll see is limited to flat, static maps representing the areas your current campaign is taking place in. Think of a digital version of the board game “Risk” and you’re in the ballpark. Maps can by cycled between various views, all designed to give you information such as weather and terrain. Functionality is a big part of the game’s visual presentation. Menus are streamlined just enough to give you all of the information you need and never get in the way. The few units you do see on the map screen are well animated and show off nice details.

Sound is mixed in terms of quality. The orchestrated score is done right and helps to set the mood. All of the tracks fit the WWII time period and flow with the gameplay. Sound effects are not as good, but get the job done.


Hearts of Iron II is about a good as strategy games get. It’s deep enough that the hardcore fans will be entertained, while at the same time casual players won’t feel too out of place with it. The game is split up into four campaigns. After choosing a country to play as, you’re turned loose and charged with shaping the war. To aid you in your fight, you’ll have access to all of the resources available during WWII. You’ll have to budget your spending while at the same time researching new technology and making sure your country’s economy stays healthy. As your country grows in power, so will your influence within the war. You can form alliances with other countries or conquer them, the double-edged sword being that the more your power expands, the bigger a target you become to other countries.

Although your actions play a large part in what goes on, WWII buffs shouldn’t fret -- there’s still plenty of history to be found. Hearts of Iron II also offers the opportunity to play through several real-world scenarios such as D-Day and Operation Barbarossa. How these scenarios play out is totally up to you. Scenarios are worth playing if you need additional tutorial time. With the exception of a few conflicts, most are two-sided battles, offering some training wheels before jumping into worldwide warfare.

Multiplayer games are offered through the game’s matchmaking service as well as through LAN. Multiplayer games are not for those with short attention spans as games can be lengthy. Still, if you can get into the single-player game, multiplayer matches can be fun (provided you get a good opponent).


Even with its in-depth tutorial and learning curve, Hearts of Iron II still suffers from the Achilles heel of all strategy games -- it’s still really hard. Casual players will feel a little more comfortable than with other recently released games, but will still feel overwhelmed. Hardcore vets will still find challenges, but will handle them better. Settings, more importantly A.I., can be scaled to fit your needs. This helps to make the game more accessible than other strategy games. Still, expect a challenge.

Game Mechanics:

The combat system has received a revamp, making it easier to handle. Many of the aspects have been simplified, once again helping to make the game a little easier to manage. Ground troops are easy to order around. In addition, neighboring forces can help out allies by being ordered to stand in reserve. Air units can receive orders now as well, allowing for more flexible strategies.

Perhaps the most welcome revamps are the Technology and Economic systems. I’m a big strategy fan, but even I have to admit that the micromanagement involved can drive the sanest of players nuts. Instead of having to research new technologies, you can assign historical figures to lead your research teams. Production chains can be adjusted by sliders, allowing for some control.

Strategy games aren’t for everyone, and even with its player-friendly systems, Hearts of Iron II still falls into this category. Still, it’s much easier to get into than other games in the genre, making it a nice starting point for the curious Strategy player or casual fans. Hardcore fans will love it without question.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/2000/ME/XP, Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent, 128 MB RAM, 4 MB VRAM, 700 MB

Test System:

Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, Radeon 9100 128 MB, 40 Gig HD, 640 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c

Windows City of Heroes: Special DVD Edition Windows Sentinel: Descendants in Time

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated