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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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Scenario creation
Combat Mission comes with a good number of well thought-out scenarios. Many are relatively quick 15-turn affairs, while others can take 75 turns or more. Gamers might find themselves trudging through snow or battling in open fields, while in other scenarios things move towards repatriating downtown Paris on a building-by-building basis. Some scenarios are based on historic accounts of battles and name their officers with historic names from the men involved in the war. Others even include bibliographies of the references from which the scenarioís author created the battle (and sometimes even the authorsí emails).

But for any war-gaming purist, the one battle you wanted probably isnít there. Or the way the stock scenarios treated it just wasnít quite up to snuff (though Iíd doubt that). For those, Big Time has provided the same scenario creation tools Iíd imagine they used themselves to create the gameís stock battles. Again, historical names can be used and military units can be customized to a great degree. Even air support can be added for forces in battle (will it be long before Warbirds is talking to this game?).

Admittedly, recreating vast battles across Europe from scratch isnít my cup of tea. I found the scenario creation tools to be a little tiring at best, but using them gave me that much more respect for each scenario that I did play. And if youíve got to recreate the often-overlooked Battle of Verdien, youíve got the tools waiting for you to deliver the experience to a world of Combat Mission gamers right there on your hard drive, free of charge!

Possible improvements
CMBO is a wonderful game, but could stand a few improvements. As stated above, the AI could be a bit more intelligent, but thatís a minor problem. It would be nice to be able to have more than two players play over the Internet or by email (both are available for two players in Combat Mission as things stand). Since this is not a connection-intensive game (you put down your orders before the round begins ó if it takes 120 milliseconds or 120 seconds to get to your opponent, it doesnít really matter), it would be fun to get large numbers of human players together at once.

Combat Mission is also a bit aggravating to play without fairly top-notch hardware. I did most of my testing on an iMac DV (Lime, for those of you wondering) with a 400 MHz G3 and 196 MB of RAM. On the iMac, Combat Mission ran beautifully. I did fire the game up on my old, 240 MHz G3-upgraded StarMax with its one MB of VRAM, and things went fairly well at 640x480. The software renderer had a few white flecks appear now and again (much like Tomb Raider II, if youíve played that in software), but ran impressively well for such underpowered video.

But take away that G3 and leave me with the StarMaxís stock 603e processor and, well, things were quite a bit rougher. Small scenarios were tedious, and large ones were impossible. With all the units on the screen at once, and with the delay between clicking somewhere and having the commands draw to the screen, I went crazy. Furthermore, thatís with 96 MB of RAM in the StarMax. If one had to use virtual memory (as I did trying to play the Windows version on my laptop), they might as well use the CD as a coaster. As painful as it might be, Big Time should up the listed minimum requirements for Combat Mission, if only to save players with lesser machines a little frustration.

My final recommendation is a strange. The demo is just plain too good and reveals too much. If youíre on the fence about whether you should order the game online (and Big Timeís web site is the only place to do that ó, download the demo and check things out. But Iím afraid Big Time might lose a customer when you do so. The demoís a full (albeit small) scenario, and after playing the demo a few times to get things right, a lightweight, on the fence gamer might have been not only duly impressed, but, after those hours of demo play, ready to move on to something else!


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