I never thought this day game would come! Battlefront has yielded glorious ground to wargamers by releasing their highly-acclaimed wargame series on Steam! Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 and the rest to follow suit!
Combat Mission was the game that started me off on this journey more than three years ago. I remember how awful the graphics looked to my eyes, coming from a past of AAA high-fidelity games. I was utterly spoiled and could barely accept the 2000s era graphics presented in most of the Battlefront series. I simply could not stand it.
Then I gave the demo a try. And it was the best decision I have made in my entire gaming life. Seeing my squad of men intelligently navigating through the forest, while a heavy machine gunner team lay a torrent of suppressing fire on the opposite buildings was the most amazing experience I’ve had. I could not believe what I’ve just found. A true gem and my first wargame.
Enter Shock Force 2, the only title in the series that has a direct sequel. Now, is it a real sequel in a traditional sense? Honestly, I don’t think so. You see, Shock Force was the first title released back in 2007 with the brand new combat mission engine featuring full 3D graphics and simulation compared to their first series, such as Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord and Afrika Korps.
Long story short, after releasing several other titles with the same new engine and many improvements. Shock Force was the only title left in the series without receiving any of the later iterations and improvements, instead of upgrading it little by little like the other titles. Battlefront decided it was too much work for them and instead recreated the game using the new engine. Of course, don’t tell them this. Likely they will argue that it’s a brand new game. With that all said. This review will be written from the point of a new game and not an improved one.
The base game includes one campaign and more than a dozen handcrafted missions for you to test your skills on if the extensive campaign daunts you. There is also the addition of “Quick Missions” that generates random missions based on preset settings you choose. It’s an excellent way to test out forces or dabble in Combat Mission for fun, but by itself, it lacks the narrrative element of premade battles.
However, what will come as a total shock to new players is that Shock Force 2 is set in a “fictional” war between Syria and a US-led coalition. Sound familiar? No, they did not design this after the Syrian civil war but before. What makes it even weirder is that after the first Shock Force, they went on to create the second modern warfare title, Black Sea, covering yet another supposed “fictional” invasion by Russia into Ukraine. Lo and behold, it came through like the war oracle they are!
Graphically the game isn’t much to look as I have said, but it’s serviceable, and you always have the chance to leverage on some of the graphic mods available to enhance the game to your liking. Animation on your soldiers can look wonky and weird, sometimes even running on ice. But remember that every bullet is simulated, and a stray shot can take out soldiers from another squad even when the enemy is engaging a different squad. And if you reload the same save game and simulate the same turn, that stray bullet may not have hit the wrong guy!
Militaries around the world have contracts with Battlefront, utilizing the game with some minor changes to train their officers in the art of modern military command. Smoke contrails and wind direction will affect visibility from both sides. Even electronic warfare is taken into account. Consequently, your men may fail to communicate enemy movement to their higher echelons due to increased electronic interference. It’s amazingly realistic and gets me all excited.
Let’s talk about C2 or command and control that happens between your forces ane you enemy’s. Relaying enemy locations is vital to winning any battles, and it’s very well represented here in Shock Force 2 as in other Combat Mission titles. There are several means of communication. Radios are the most common ones in modern settings. You also have the classic verbal communication.
Whatever you do, do not ever underestimate the power of communication; it may be the difference between calling in precision airstrikes on enemy location to soften up before an assault or your squad getting decimated by enemy fire because you fail to spot a machine gunner hiding in that nearby apartment.
In terms of toys you get to play with. You have your tried and tested Bradleys, Abram tanks, and a myriad of modern equipment you can expect from any conflict since the Afghan invasion. The only thing lacking here is unmanned drones or UAVs to help your recon. This was the only new addition type to the Combat Series in Combat Mission: Black Sea since UAVs were not so widely used in the early 2000s as it is now.
I was also provided with three different DLCs for Shock Force 2. I won’t go into too much detail in this review, as I feel they do deserve their reviews. However, I would like to point out several highlights from the DLCs that may scratch your itch. For me, it was playing as the Germans from the NATO Forces DLC, other national forces like the Canadian and Dutch armed forces are available with a dictionary load of vehicles and equipment unique to their real-world counterpart. You also get three campaigns worth of gameplay plus 24 additional custom missions. Hence, giving this the highest value DLC when compared to the other two.
My next personal favorite DLC is the Marines module. As you can figure out, it’s mainly focused on the US marines forces. They are an exceptionally well-equipped force and are deadly at all ranges. The Syrian force also received two new formations to balance this out somewhat with their new equipment, albeit inferior to what the marines have. You’ll be introduced to a lot of amphibious assault battles that are the hallmark of the US marine combat experience. It also comes packs with one new campaign and 16 custom missions.
The British Forces DLC adds the modern British forces at your disposal. You’ll also receive additional US forces such as the – infantry battalion, recon squadron, engineer company, and truck platoon to supplement and complete your US army. The highlight for me was the introduction of the British forces into the modern setting, bringing in M3 Bulldog, Spartan, Challenger 2 & 3, and many more. If you want to make things interesting, you can pit the British forces against the American forces to see which army and equipment perform better and maybe level the playing field.
If you have some money to spare, now it’s a good time to grab the complete bundle that includes the base game plus all the three DLCs. You’ll also get a 30% discount for the base game or 37% for everything before 8th September 2020. For your information, this is not a paid sponsorship or advertisement for Slitherine or Battlefront. I only received the review codes for reviewing purposes. And as a wargamer, I can sincerely recommend any of the Combat Mission titles to anyone with even a fleeting interest in war and military. If you are unsure, you can always download the demo here, which includes a mission from each of the three DLC modules and maybe experience what I had a few years ago.