Combat Mission: Market Garden – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Excellent graphics and playability. Adds more weapons and vehicles to the new Combat Mission franchise. Tons of replayability.
Failed Basic: Creating a new battle force from scratch is somewhat confusing especially when compared to the classic Combat Mission games of the 1990s. Some of the screen text is a little too small. Somewhat slow load times for larger battles.
The venerable Combat Mission system from Battlefront has been around since the 1990s. The original trilogy of World War 2 games covered battles from the Italian and North African fronts, Russia, and Eastern and Western Europe. The games were huge hits and spawned tons of additional fan-created scenarios and campaigns as well as mods of vehicles and even the faces of soldiers (such as the “Kelly’s Heroes” mod). What made the original Combat Mission games so popular and innovative was that they were tactical games in which the player could watch the action unfold from above as well as down in the dirt with the tanks and soldiers.
A few years after the original Combat Mission releases, Battlefront released a more up-to-date redesign of the operating system but adapted the game play to cover modern combat in the Middle East. Combat Mission Shock Force featured units such as Apache helicopters, M1 Abrams tanks, T72s, Strikers, US Marines and other units taken right from today’s headlines.
Utilizing the same upgraded graphics system as Combat Mission Shock Force, Battlefront has revisited the Western Front of Europe during World War II with Combat Mission Battle for Normandy. Now the most recent expansion of the upgraded Combat Mission takes us to Holland during Operation Market Garden.
The historical situation, as stated in the PDF manual for Combat Mission Operation Battle for Normandy: Operation Market Garden (CMMG) expansion was as follows:
Combat Mission: Market Garden depicts allied Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery’s September 1944 dash across Holland, a daring gambit to leap the Rhine river and enter the heartland of Germany itself. Involving U.S., British and Polish forces, Operation Market Garden was meant to be the lightning stroke which would end the war before 1945.
“Market” was the airborne arm of the operation. First Allied Airborne Army units, including the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and 82nd Airborne Divisions, the British 1st Airborne Division, and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, were to be dropped behind enemy lines to seize key bridges and terrain. This was the largest airborne operation in history, moving over 34,000 men by air, and was prepared in one week. The airborne forces were expected to capture important bridges at locations such as Eindhoven, Arnhem and Nijmegen, and then hold them for up to four days until relieved by the ground forces.
The ground portion of the operation was labeled “Garden,” and consisted of the British XXX Corps moving up Highway 69 in what was supposed to be a rapid sprint, relieving each pocket of airborne forces as they proceeded north to Arnhem and beyond. If successful, the German industrial heartland in the Ruhr would be open to rapid attack, potentially ending the war within months.
The Germans, however, had different plans in mind. Following the Allied breakout from Normandy and the subsequent disastrous Falaise Pocket, Army Group B had been in full retreat towards the German border. Despite these recent defeats, the Wehrmacht once again improvised brilliantly in reaction to Market Garden, forming an eclectic force to stop the Allied advance, which consisted of units from SS Panzer divisions, Heer grenadiers, Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger, and even improvised combat units from training schools and the Kriegsmarine.
The CMMG expansion adds Dutch landscapes and architecture to the game series, along with the massive Arnhem and Arnhem railroad bridges, the Nijmegen bridge and the Eindhoven bridge. This expansion also provides the ability to create generic large bridges for self-designed scenarios. Many additional vehicles have also been modeled. Vehicles and special units (paratroopers) in this game include:
Germans – 8 Rad Model model 231 and 233 armored cars; anti-aircraft vehicles such as the Whirlwind and the Sd.Kfz. 10; tanks and tank destroyers such as the Jagdpanzer IV, Marder II, the King Tiger with the Henschel turret, Panzer III G and the Panzer IV J; plus trucks and other soft skinned vehicles. Also added are field guns and many types of specialized troops and small arms.
Allied – British get Universal Carriers such as the Bren Gun Carrier, Humber, Daimler and Staghound armored cars, scout and recon cars and other soft-skinned vehicles; tanks such as Crusaders, Stuarts, Challengers, and Cromwells, plus the British up-gunned Shermans such as the powerful Firefly variant. Also added are British field guns and infantry forces with small arms such as the Webley revolver, Lee Enfield rifles and the PIAT anti-tank rocket launcher (somewhat dangerous to the user). The Americans get the formidable M18 Hellcat tank destroyer plus different types of halftracks, including the quad-50 mounted anti-aircraft halftrack (a favorite of mine from when I built the Revel model kit over 40 years ago). Many different small arms and field guns are also added to the mix.
Additionally, Spitfire IXs and Typhoons have been added to provide close air support to the hard-pressed Allied troops.
For those who have not played any of the CM games, Combat Mission is a tactical combat simulator. The player picks the type of scenario desired—either a single battle (randomly generated, user created, or one already programmed by Battlefront) or a campaign game. The campaign games in CMMG cover all the fighting that took place during Operation Market Garden, and each campaign is playable from both the Allied and the German sides. From the airdrops of the paratroopers to the Allied tank drive towards the bridges to the German attempts to recapture Arnhem, all are included. Each unit can be given orders that include retreat, advance slowly and cautiously, surge forward and assault, stand and shoot, take cover, etc. Once the actions have been picked and assigned to each unit (or group of units), the one-minute turn progresses and the player watches the action. The ability to rewind and change the viewing angle is very addictive. Each turn plays out like a movie. The player even has the option to give real-time orders instead of playing the game in turns if he thinks he’s good enough. Tanks burn, troops fall, men yell, smoke billows into the sky, forward observers call down artillery and air support—the game is brilliant and immersive. At the end of the day, casualties are calculated and victory points are totaled. A results screen lets the player know how well he did.
The game can be played either solitaire (with an extremely challenging AI), in hot seat mode or over the Internet.
Updated subroutines make vehicle attacks in urban areas much more deadly for the vehicles unless they are adequately supported by infantry, so beware tank drivers: always wait for the ground-pounders to help clear the way.
A well-written 121-page scenario design PDF book is included for those who are inclined to create their own scenarios.
The flaws to CBMG are few. Somewhat slow load times can be experienced on the larger scenarios but once past this, the game play is fast and furious. At times, the onscreen text can be a little small, even on a 32″ HD monitor. I prefer the original Combat Mission interface from the 1990s games for creating a combat force from scratch. I find the upgraded force-creation menus to be somewhat confusing and frustrating.
This expansion is dependent upon the user already owing a copy of Combat Mission Battle for Normandy plus the 2.0 expansion. So if you are interested in this expansion and haven’t upgraded to version 2.0—bite the bullet and do it, soldier! This is as close to real combat as most of us want to get. Combat Mission Market Garden almost perfectly takes us “a bridge too far”!
Armchair General Rating: 94 %
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!