Combat Mission Shock Force: Marines – PC Game Review
Combat Mission Shock Force: Marines
Developed & Published by Battlefront.com. $25 Solo / $45 for CMSF & Marines module bundle.
Passed Inspection: Finest Marines-focused computer wargame currently in play.
Failed Basic: Stuttering camera movement, would like more tooltips to show in game.
In CMSF: Marines, the military switch is made from standard Army TO&Es to that of the Marines, with the main gameplay emphasis surrounding and built upon the Marines Rifle Platoon.
Combat Mission Shock Force: Marines is the first expansion module in the tactically excellent Combat Mission Shock Force series by Battlefront.com. Long time wargamers may well know the acclaimed line of previous Combat Mission games, and their vaulted status amidst the genre. The Marines module takes all the new outstanding changes CMSF made to the series and implements them with all the operational and tactical precision of the United States Marines.
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In CMSF: Marines, the military switch is made from standard Army TO&Es to that of the Marines, with the main gameplay emphasis surrounding and built upon the Marines Rifle Platoon. Players may make use of an entirely new and vastly different strategic element with the Marines Rifle Platoon, along with employing the ad-hoc Combined Anti-Tank team (CAAT), the powerful Marines Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and unique Marines assests, like the AV-8B Harrier and the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW).
CMSF: Marines also brings in balancing changes to the Syrian forces, mainly by introducing Syrian airborne and engineer squads. Syrian airborne forces come in two flavors: airborne infantry and mech airborne infantry. Additionally, Syrian airborne anti-tank elements appear, along with the T-90SA tank and the BMP-3. Together, these new components all work to make CMSF: Marines a first-class combat simulator, well worthy to carry the Combat Mission name.
Combat Mission fans may be able to commit themselves to deep and intense combat in the Marines module right from the start: aside from the TO&E, nothing else has changed. The graphics, interface, sounds, menu options, and hotkeys, all remain intact from the original CMSF. This reviewer, however, having only previously played Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord to any great extent, had to take a more methodical approach to the learning curve between Army and Marine planning and action.
As previously mentioned, the Marines Rifle Platoon is the centerpiece of the Marines module, a much different battle beast to command when compared to a standard Army infantry squad. With more men and increased firepower, in both quantity and quality, the Marines Rifle Platoon here is a ravenous bulldog just struggling to be unleashed, yet must be kept reigned in and under tight control. Precision use of the platoon can be a wonder to witness, especially through the urban operation maps in game. Then again, releasing these dogs of war and allowing them to bring their full bite quickly to an enemy is enough to give players the warm and fuzzy. Deciding which is the most viable option under the circumstances is one of the main draws that has this reviewer firing up Marines quite often.
Much like the modern day U.S. Marine Corps, Marines makes sure they come to the fight with combined arms superiority and overwhelming firepower. In game, this is largely done through the use of the CAAT, which comprises TOW-2 ATGMs, Mk19 40mm grenade launchers, and the M2 .50cal machine gun. All these are HMMWV (humvee) mounted, giving them speed and maneuverability to offset their lack of armor. A single weapon system is capable of being used solo, but when joined with a squad of their mounted counterparts, they bring out their full potential as combat multipliers.
Another major difference from the parent CMSF Stryker Platoon-based equipment list is the number of Javelins the Marines carry – a lot less! In the Marines module, an entire Marines infantry battalion may only have eight Javelins to use. While the Marines Rifle Platoon is an awesome weapon to wield on the battlefields here, they do still have limitations. Going head-to-head with any heavy armor is one of them. If such tactics were normal play in CMSF, players may wish to make necessary changes quickly before attempting this with Marines.
Sixteen new missions and one main campaign are included with the Marines module. The campaign, named Semper Fi Syria, puts the player in command of the 26th MEU (SOC), and begins on the Syrian coast, with missions to push inland toward certain objectives on their way to Damascus. The individual missions also hold the promise of acute warfare, with missions as diverse as a beach assault at Tripoli, confronting a radical cleric, obtaining control of an orchard, seeking out a Syrian FO team on a wooded hilltop, and a confrontation between Abrams and T90 tanks.
Players must own the original CMSF disk in order to load Marines, yet either disk will access the new missions, which lessens the need to change disks often. No printed manual comes with the Marines module, since most everything is the same as CMSF, and can be found in its’ manual. The changes that were made can be found in .pdf format with the Marines disk. Sadly it doesn’t come with a handy printer-friendly option as the CMSF manual does, so if you do print it out, make sure to have plenty of ink available, or be ready to spend some time making it printer-friendly yourself.
Frankly, there’s not much at all at fault with Marines. To be nitpicky, more use of tooltips could have been added. The camera, while able to pan anywhere across the battlefield, could have done so a tad bit smoother. A detached reference card listing hotkeys, command keys, and icon meanings would be a handy item, as well. For some still unknown reason, the program used to take screenshots, HyperSnap, didn’t work with Marines, or possibly vice-versa. HyperSnap continues to work for every other game tried on, so it’s a puzzle which remains even after this review is finished.
The recommendation here is that, if you have even the slightest interest in playing an excellent wargame involving the U.S. Marines, there’s currently only one game of choice: Combat Mission Shock Force: Marines. Though the game isn’t affiliated with nor endorsed by the United States Marine Corps, it just may be the best representation of them ever put into a wargame. CMSF: Marines is without a doubt the finest computer combat simulation this reviewer has had the privilege to play.
(A second expansion, CSMF: British Forces has been released. See the ACG review. – Editor)
ACG Rating: 95%
Jim Moreno began life much like everyone else – upside-down, naked and screaming. Life on a few Army bases sparked his interests in all things military & historical. He has served with the 82nd Airborne Division, including Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and with the North Carolina Army National Guard, where he was trained to be a journalist / photographer / military historian. He has been with ArmchairGeneral.com since it before it went online, and has carried on many various duties, which currently include editing and article management, contributing author, social networking / media relations, (super) forum moderator, and Alyssa Milano guru, among others. He also enjoys fine cigars, books, movies, (disco) music, and exercise. Military history TV shows and the SciFi Channel just about round out his daily life. Jim currently resides in Decatur, Alabama, where you may on occasion find him upside-down, naked, and screaming.