Tuesday, 1 July 2003

Archive Review: World War 2 Online

(PC review)

In the glory days of Ultima Online I made many an online pal. When I moved on from this classic online rpg I kept in contact with many of them via ICQ or MSN messenger. One day I asked one of them what game he was currently playing: "I'm playing the only game worthy of internet gaming other than UO. WW2 Online!" I asked him what this game was since I had never actually heard of it: "It's an online war game. It's an FPS, a tank sim, a plane sim, all set on a map half the scale of Europe!" I was interesting and he suddenly sent me a link for a free 7 day trial of the game (120mb). I got downloading.

After I had created my account and updated the client to the latest patch (1.9) he wanted to meet up with me in a town called Eghezee. Like everywhere your be fighting in ww2 online Eghezee is a real French village that may or may not have seen much action in the real war. I asked what server he played on? He laughed: "my friend, ww2 online has only one server where everyone plays :)". This is a brilliant feature of the game. My first sight of the game was the talk bar which is split into channels such as "side" - everyone on the side you are on sees it, "mission" - those involved in a common aim, "objective" - those involved in a more defined goal. As well as this you can create your own channel. The amount is infinite. You can create channel 3343 (which will be the number you stated) or join channel 1 and annoy those that are in it talking about fishing and Star trek instead of battling the Hun! The initial interface has a large, live, map of the battlefield. Each town has a flag next to the name representing who currently is in control (Axis or Allied). Along with this there are warning icons where recent enemy activity has been spotted. A red tank represents an enemy armour presence and a red soldier, enemy infantry. Eghezee had both! I was heading for the action...


Karador-uSm- was my old uo bud. He told me to tune to channel 32 where we would communicate. I remembered him as a somewhat eccentric old mage in uo, he wore green everything and loved his llama, but now he was a soldier. I spawned into a shed in the town and he stood in front of me waiting. His avatar waved and we ran out of the devastated village and into the woods like a pair of elves charging into tolkienien forests. My first reaction to the game was hardly positive. I laughed. I didn't want to say anything to Karador but... I gave it patience.

The graphics are strange. On the one hand the landscape looks great with the best draw distance I have ever seen. The horizon is completely like real life and as distant. It's not like operation flashpoint where terrain appears either, everything is placed and visible from insanely long ranges. The sky was bright blue with nice cotton wool clouds... it was good. But then there were the player models. Initially I thought it was a joke. They looked terrible, but as I slowly became aware of what this game was all about I realised they were actually just fine for what they were. They don't need to be anything more than what they are. They look like soldiers of the era and that's it. The animation was pretty average but acceptable. It was lucky I was on 1.9 because this update was a huge one that resolved many issues. Before this version player models ran like lego men mincing around the fray. Thank Christ this was sorted before I turned up with my l33t skillz.

Karador and me sneaked around the bushes, heading east out of the village, I was very impressed to see proper grass and bushes with no flat green fields. They were all grassy and I then realised the graphics were actually very good. My gripe which didn't go away though, and never has, was the mouse cursor which was on screen and could be moved around with the mouse. It's a bizarre problem the game seems to have with Windows based computers. It is apparently not an issue on Apple-Macs for this game works on both. The cursor is there so you can scroll down the history of the talk bar incase you miss anything. Fine... but why can't you hide it, like you can in Planetside? It just seemed strange to me. The gun itself does not have an on-screen crosshair. You right click and this zooms up the gun and puts you into a view of the weapons iron sights. This was a feature I immediately loved.

As we ventured deep into undergrowth I suddenly begun to realise quite how much was going on in this battlefield. Aircraft raced overhead with a large dog fight visible between German fighters and bombers and the good old British Spitfires and Hurricanes. Every plane has an icon next to it telling you it's type. If the icon is red, it's an enemy plane, if it's blue it's a friendly, I really liked this aspect. I knew what everything was and who it belonged to. Tanks roared up the country lanes, artillery was positioned around the area with players firing the odd shell deep into the horizon, and infantry lay in the long grass waiting for the enemy or sniped from the rooftops of the village. I really felt like I was a part of a huge defensive force. As we headed further up the roadside I asked ignorantly: "Where is the enemy?" Karador swiftly replied, "look to your east as we pass this tree line". I did... O...M...G!

For those of you unfamiliar with internet slang the abbreviation I just used means "Oh...My...God!". I was met with the sight of an army of the infamous German Panzer tank charging towards our position. The tanks varied in their forms, and enemy infantry raced to keep up with them. Yet more German aircraft swept over our heads, I heard the whistling of a falling bomb. Was this my calling? Was death to come so soon? No. The bomb exploded in a huge fireball just beyond our position, making mince of a played called "Derek_32".

Suddenly a spitfire mk iv flew over our head and dropped a heavy bomb onto the incoming German axis of advance. Then an array of machine gun fire opened up on them from our tanks. "Fire your weapon phonesis! Fire! They are coming!" Karador yelled. He had obviously seen the 3rd episode of Band Of Brothers one too many times but this didn't matter. I brought up my rifle scope and aimed through the sites. I placed my aim firmly on what looked like a German solder crouching behind a certain configuration of a Panzer tank and let rip a shot. He fell into a grassy grave.

I won't bore you with a prolonged battle story. This early experience hooked me. It is a bizarre game in the way your initial reaction is so negative yet this changes to that of being in love! I recently convinced, after much effort, a mate of mine to try this game out. I met up with him and after 10 minutes of sneaking around a field he stopped, out of cover, yet I doubt he cared: "I can't believe they charge money for this game!" He said and abruptly left the server. He had not seen the light!

Graphics and Sound

As I have already mentioned the graphics are rather hard to review. They are good and perfect for the job - to recreate a half scale map of Europe! The landscape has a European, lush, feel to it with amazing draw distances and no fogging! You can see feint battle in the horizon with flashes of explosions and distant anti-aircraft fire racing up into the air. The operator of that battery could be anything up to 25 miles away, literally! Yet the player and gun models could do with work. But the vehicles look great! Especially the planes. I actually think the explosions in this game are some of the best I have ever seen as well. The sound is very good. One of my initial reactions to this game was how good the sound was. Everything sounds realistic and like how you hear things in a war movie. Whether it be the incoming whistles of stray bullets passing overhead or the engines of a Hurricane airplane.


This game does have it's flaws. The mouse cursor issue needs addressing and I think there is still a lot of room for improvement on some of the graphical sides. But this review has only touched on the games surface! One thing I want to say right now though is that this game is best for those of you that want to man a vehicle. The infantry aspect is great but you don't get very many weapons to select from (smg or rifle) and your standard kit of grenades, a knife and pistol. This game shines when it comes to vehicles. The amount of tanks, armoured cars, artillery pieces, transporters, boats, and planes for either side is immense. I think that most stuff from ww2 is accounted for in this game! The overall amount of vehicles actually runs into 3 figures!

I have recently got into flying in ww2 online and must say this is the jewel of stuff to do. I take my Spitfire off from Dover and fly across the English Channel to where ever my services are needed. The journey takes as long as it would in real life too (assuming Europe is half the size) and this is an aspect I love. You feel like you are really making a journey. There is nothing funnier than finding a bunch of axis players huddled up for a group screenshot session and casually flying over and dropping a bomb into their party :) You can also hop into a bomber as a tail gunner and another player will pilot the craft. This is a great way to introduce yourself to air combat. Many have made comment that in reality this game is an air combat simulator with ground elements. I disagree with this since the ground war is so detailed as well as the air war. In fact the air war side of this game is probably more detailed than a game like Microsoft Combat Simulator 2003! And ww2 online also has a raging ground and sea war to boot. I was amazed whilst chatting on the games forums. Sometimes it feels like you are playing an entirely different game to the one other people are talking about. A few players recall a naval battle they were involved in north of Scotland and your chasing after a German Sapper in a remote French wood who is trying to place bombs around your line!

This game has suffered in my view due to an image it has. This developed due to it's bad release which was, I have to admit, particularly terrible with so many bugs players were left thinking "Have the devs even play tested this?" This is all now a distant memory and the community is vast and growing. Many see ww2 online players as Dutch or Swedish students who love their Apple-Macs over Windows PC's and deep down wish Germany had won the war! This is complete bull crap. This game has the most friendly community I have ever seen. My most recent experience of this was when a player asked on the "objective" channel (where everyone talks who is involved in a set objective within an overall mission) if anyone wanted to tail gun for him. I said I would and logged out and re-spawned in Dover where we departed in our Blenheim Bomber. As we flew over the English channel, heading for some newly discovered German power station, we got chatting. It turned out his name was Walter and he sold mobile homes to much ado American householders. He then wanted to know if I wanted to buy a mobile home and begun trying to sell me it with small talk. For a moment I thought he was going to hand me a virtual business card. He then asked me what I did but I didn't need to answer. My screen name was phonesis so I was obviously a door-to-door phone salesman. "I need a good phone," He said. "I need a stiff drink," I thought. I was invited to join a clan within 20 minutes of playing this game and have never looked back from the 9th LAG since, even though our commanders often take our formidable tank convoys on routes that make them end up barbecued road blocks.

This game has so much to offer. If you want realism... this game boasts a map which consists of all of Europe, halved in scale for gameplay purposes with the most realistic and large selection of ww2 equipment ever! If you want dog fights... this game has every single allied/axis aircraft you can imagine and the physics for flying are ultra realistic as are the plane damage models. Fancy tank action? This game has more tanks than I've had Pot Noodles, now that is a lot of tanks! The infantry aspect is there... but in my view is in need of additional equipment. Like Karador had said all those... many days ago, this game is a true virtual battlefield.... I was hooked.



The only virtual, persistent, online battlefield, many things to do and learn, you feel like you are involved in something as large as World War 2! No Lag issues whatsover!


Get rid of that bloody mouse cursor! Could do with graphical improvements in some areas, infantry need more equipment to select from, the game has a monthly fee - this may put many a potential soldier off.


Like hair, this game will grow on you

by The Critical Alien
© 2003

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