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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Combat Mission Touch (iPad 2+ only)

Before I begin, I’d like to clarify my skill when it comes to strategy games. I’m the person who in Chess, thinks it’s a good idea to take the opponent’s king with an army of pawns. So when it came to Combat Mission: Touch, I was way out of my depth. The Combat Mission series focuses around serious, simulated tactical battles. Touch is a smaller version of the Combat Mission series that you would find on PC.

Each mission sees one side looking to capture an objective, the other or defending it. The objective is fought over between two factions; America and Germany. Both sides take their turns of attacking and defending the objective over a number of missions, however who is doing what is unknown until the battle commences.

For the novices who haven’t played a game of Combat Mission before, there is a tutorial available. It is probably one of the worst tutorials I have ever watched. Rather than guiding players through the game it is a fifteen minute video that dumps what to do on players in one big heap. It did have voice-over to explain the ins and outs, however this was where a major problem arose. There was an unnecessary amount of swearing within the video. Rather than hearing the words themselves, they’re bleeped over. I don’t want to ride the moral train but I question why it was there - I felt it didn’t add anything to the game.

The battles start with a period of preparations. You are able to move any of your units around in the green box that surrounds your starting point. Depending on the map and whether you’re attacking/defending, this may mean you want your foot soldiers to go around the sides whilst your tanks taking the main road, or vice versa. You are unable to see how your enemy is setting up, so either you’re going to be lucky or in a spot of trouble.

Each game has a number of turns in which the two sides have to attack or defend the objective. At the start of each turn, you are able to individually command every unit to move independently. When you are happy with your movements, the movements of both sides will be played out for you in a thirty second video, which you can replay from a variety of angles.

When moving your units, you are able to issue a variety of commands. They can walk, moving them at a steady pace whilst also reacting to enemies efficiently. When running, the move faster however their accuracy will be reduced when firing at the enemy, and they also will be easier for the enemy to detect. You can also hunt, which allows for your units to move at a slower pace than walking, however they will be harder for the enemy to detect and will more easily identify enemies on the battlefield.

The issuing of commands itself is implemented poorly. The menu becomes clutter as you’re unsure as to what unit you have selected. Additionally, you can stack orders on top of one another, but you’re not given an indication as to which command takes preference, or whether they both are carried out at the same time. For wargame veterans, this is going to be a familiar and easy process to get on top of. To novices, it may be easier to implement an option to make movement and attacking easier and more efficient to the player. When issuing attacks, most units can only fire within their line of sight. The camera is put to great use in this area, as you are able to zoom right in to the unit’s sight range and see which enemies are visible and which are hidden behind a small hill.

Within the movement system itself, for novices it may be difficult to judge how far your units will move per turn. The only indication of how far your unit will move is its speed selected and the desired location. You’re not given any information as to how far it can travel within a turn, or how many turns it may take to reach the location that you’ve set it.

During my experience there was a few gameplay issues that saw enemy vehicles disappearing from sight even though were right in front of me. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong, but if they’re appearing randomly and they can attack me, I should be able to attack them as well, but rather I was shooting blind.

The best thing in this game is its replay system. When you finish a game, you are given the option to save a replay of the entire match. You are then able to re-watch the whole match, at any angle you desire. So not only can you look at your own units, you can also watch how the enemy plays the game. Players who find themselves struggling to win matches should greatly benefit from the replay system as they are able to identify their faults and their room for improvement.

The game offers multiplayer, however during my time with it I was unable to get a match. Game Center showed that only twelve players had played online, so I suggest if you are looking for a game, organise it with a friend.

Combat Mission: Touch tries to bring the hardcore strategy warfare genre to the iPad. Although it suffers from difficulty issues and control issues, it is still able to produce a great experience. It would be great if they release a ‘newb-friendly’ version, or at least update the game to make it more accessible to new players. But fans of the series will have a great time here.

- Sam M

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Review: Combat Mission Touch (iPad 2+ only)
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