Combat Mission: Shock Force Recon
…The Panther was damaged. Its engine was rattling viciously as if to protest its continued abuse after the near hits by no less than 6 T-34s and untold AT guns. The driver had blood splattered all over him from his dying commander – and the rest of his platoon was KIA. Yet this battle must be won, and he was part of a huge armada of Panzers pressing into the Kursk salient in the greatest tank battle of history.
(fast-forward 70 years)
…The Heavy Brigade Combat Team lead elements sliced through the desert in the early morning hours with a feeling of invincibility. Only 15 minutes had passed since engaging a major blocking force of Syrian armor and support units. The clumsy fools had no idea what hit them and the US units barely needed to slow down to eliminate the threat. They continued pushing on to the small city on the horizon where things could become much more interesting.
Warfare has evolved greatly in the last 60-odd years since the heyday of armored warfare in World War II. It should come as no surprise to anyone when I say that Battlefront’s upcoming title Combat Mission: Shock Force will have little similarity on the ground to its antiquated (yet still venerable and playable) siblings in the Combat Mission lineage. For some this will be a blessing, for others…they may not take it so well. It may simply depend on how entrenched you are in either of the two timelines sampled above.
Anyone who is familiar with Combat Mission will be able to sit down and play this title right away. Units move in the same fashion, and a whole host of recognizable orders are readily available to command a modern strike force (or insurgent/Syrian defenders). There are some differences in HOW the commands are given (there are more hotkeys than fit on the keyboard!) but most actions are transferable from the previous titles even if the exact keystrokes are different. There are new features on the interface detailing units and individual soldiers, but again this basically just a beefed up version of the earlier games…
So then, what is the big change now that the game has an updated interface and has moved into the modern era of combat? Well, to put it plainly, this game is a killer. Men and equipment DIE with alarming speed on the modern battlefield and the days of carefully arranging your units and then stalking enemy tanks are all but over. Modern warfare is simply getting the enemy in your gunsights with as much firepower as you are able – and wiping them out – or be wiped out. In one meeting engagement scenario between Syrian and American armor, the T-72s simply melted into oblivion as shots from the M1A1s hit from far out in the desert. Yet in another scenario, my Strykers were completely wiped off the map by Syrian gunmen holed up in buildings with rocket propelled grenades (and the know-how to use them). It became clear rather quickly that whatever skills I learned with the troops and equipment of World War II was lost on this new battlefield…
In discussions with Battlefront, I’ve learned there will be a wide range of Soviet-era armor such as T-55s, T-62s, and the gamut of APCs and other light units. This represents decades of armor evolution from the Soviet side. Conceptually it would be possible to create scenarios from much of the modern era including the more epic scale tank engagements from any number of the Arab-Israeli wars, although the complexity of physically modeling the actual 3d tanks mean that this first release will not have many of the allied tanks which would be necessary to play these sorts of scenarios. They may find their way into future expansions however.
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