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Faces of War, a DVD-ROM in English by Ubisoft, distributed with a 22-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a 2 gigabyte Pentium IV PC or better, for ages 16 through adult, NIS 219.
It seems that the farther World War II recedes into history, the more young people are attracted to playing computer games based on the momentous battles. Surprisingly, the numerous WWII titles usually do not cover the same ground, as they vary according to the specific years, types of forces, locations of battlegrounds and the gaming genre. Most are first- or third-person action games in which you are a commander in charge of many soldiers shooting or bombing the enemy.
Faces of War is different, as it is a real-time strategy game requiring advanced tactics and the ability to control a single unit in battle, plus elements of the action genre. Developed by the group that created Soldiers: Heroes of World War II and focusing on the last year or so of the war, the game is very demanding of gamers' time. Those with meager patience will find it maddening. Fortunately, given all the mandatory tasks, you don't have to build military bases or command large armies. You can take the roles of Allied, Soviet and German soldiers, although I personally was loath to play the Nazi side and, among other missions, blow up a bridge connecting entrenched US troops to their supplies.
With its micromanagement approach - requiring the constant moving of ammunition from storehouses to the field, of soldiers from point A to point B, of issuing orders and shooting - it resembles a Sims game, but without having to feed and bathe "grunts" and take them to the toilet. Just going through the training sessions (arcade or tactical for the first shooting and grenade-hurling session and then maneuvering tanks) took more than two hours. Unfortunately, this initial basic training in a huge military base somewhere in Scotland cannot be avoided, even by experienced players, as it is a prerequisite for going to the front.
As expressed by its name, Faces of War presents the battles from the vantage point of individual soldiers, each of whom are given generic names such as "Kevin Crosby." At any time, you can choose a member of the small squad to be the leader by putting a yellow triangle under his feet. His comrades, on green triangles, follow his lead, but controlled by the game's artificial intelligence, calculate the best and safest way to go about it. Commanders must pay attention to their team's morale in addition to protecting them from getting killed. Some of the numerous missions are based on historical events, and you
The game's graphics are excellent, with the design team investing much effort in the details, from the fireworks of tank explosions to the richly embossed environments. You can even drive a tank straight through the wall of a building and watch the bricks fly. But sometimes, you may have the feeling - from all the lampposts, ammunition boxes and traffic - that there is too much on the screen at once and that all these accessories distract your attention from killing the enemy and surviving. The latter is difficult enough, as you often won't have enough ammunition and will have to scrounge around taking weapons and material from those you have killed. And there certainly is a great deal of killing, but no blood or gory scenes to upset younger players' parents.
The audio component is inadequate and will sometimes make you laugh out loud, especially when the Russian and German soldiers incongruously speak English in a British or American accent! Dialogue is often dull and repetitive, and you'll pray for soldiers to stop saying "yes sir!" after every order. As a health reporter, I was also put off by the soldiers' constant smoking before training sessions and during battle. Obviously, there was a lot of tobacco use by soldiers during World War II, but given the fact that numerous other things in the game are not realistic, there was no need for legitimizing smoking to teenage and young adult players; it is so overdone, it looks as if the tobacco companies had paid for covert advertising.
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