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Publisher:    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 603 @ 133 MHz    RAM: 32 MB    4x CD-ROM

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord
December 1, 2000 | Ruffin Bailey

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Somewhere between Axis and Allies and Team Fortress 2, Combat Mission is a surprisingly innovative and an impressive hybrid release for Mac gamers. Certain to be viewed as a tour de force by the war-gaming purist, Combat Mission offers great game play and insight even for those who might think that they would only be passively interested in the war-gaming genre.

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord (CMBO) seeks to present post D-Day (aka Operation Overlord) ground battles from World War II as faithfully as possible. By limiting themselves to the time period between June 1944 and May 1995 (and to battles that occurred on the European peninsula), Big Time Software was able to spend more time getting a narrowly focused arena perfect rather than a large arena reasonably well done. Simply put, the attendance to detail is outstanding.

First impressions
The first clue to the care that Big Time put into creating Combat Mission is the 171-page manual. Many modern games have skimped on printed manuals, sometimes just including them on the game’s CD-ROM as a pdf file. CMBO’s extensive detail precluded Big Time from such shortcuts; for any beginner to be forced to learn this game from scratch would be a huge undertaking. The manual also gives the gamer an appreciation for what’s going on behind the scenes when they’re playing CMBO.

As a specific example, not only are CMBO’s tanks impressively displayed on the screen, their flaws are taken into account. Often tanks were made with highly-sloped armor to help enemy shells glance off without causing damage. CMBO not only takes this into account, but also incorporates many design flaws of the historic tanks. If there was an area in the armor that might propel a shell towards (instead of away) the tank’s hull, essentially catching a well-placed projectile like a catcher’s mitt, you’ll find that defect in CMBO’s tanks as well — and you’ll find it noted in the manual. Everything from the quickest overview to get you playing quickly to the most detailed minutia is well packaged in the 171 pages.

When it comes to the game itself, how a gamer will initially perceive CMBO’s graphics will probably be determined mainly from their genre of choice. A first-person shooter player might think Combat Mission’s graphics somewhat dated, and in all honesty the graphics are quite a bit behind the bleeding edge. But from the old-school, hex-based war gamer’s point of view (the freeware game Xconq is a good example), CMBO is a quantum leap. Each squad of foot soldiers is represented by three, fully polygonal soldiers, and each piece of mobile weaponry is likewise fully rendered. The trees and houses are fairly obviously two-dimensional textures, but that’s a forgivable transgression.

CMBO is bridging the gap between more traditional games like Risk and fps’s like Quake and, even from a graphics standpoint, the convergence is obvious.


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