Day Of The Jackals: The Brits Invade CMSF

By Tim Stone on June 14th, 2009 at 11:30 am.

As the night sky pales over a dusty plateau near Damascus, two Wolf Land Rovers and two Jackal patrol vehicles parked in the lee of a ruined wall, start their engines and move off in search of the enemy. My first Combat Mission Shock Force: British Forces battle is underway. Wish me luck.

 

The scenario, plucked at random from the 28 available in the preview version of this second CMSF expansion pack, is called Out of the Wilderness and seems straightforward enough on paper. C Company Group – a scratch expeditionary force combining mechanized infantry and light recon elements – has been tasked with taking positions on the south-eastern fringe of the Syrian capital (CMSF models a hypothetical near-future invasion of Syria). Information on opposition strength is sketchy, but the briefing mentions “a handful of second echelon reserves” so I’m anticipating wall-to-wall tanks and hordes of elite Republican Guard cyborgs. First rule of Combat Mission: Never trust the briefing writers.

 

 

 

Turn 1. The bulk of my forces won’t arrive for a few turns, so I’m going to kick things off by using the Jackals and Land Rovers to scout the plateau. As both vehicle types might as well be made from twiglets and moth wings for all the protection they afford their crews, caution will be the watchword for this stage of the operation.

 

Turn 3. The southern area of the plateau appears to be foe-free. Close to the edge, the Land Rovers disgorge a sniper and Javelin missile team who creep forward taking up useful overwatch positions. Perhaps when the sun comes up there’ll be targets visible in the streets and fields below. On the eastern section of the plateau things are a little livelier. The lone Jackal sent this way spots and briefly engages a Sagger ATGM team before popping smoke and reversing to safety. I’ll need to neutralise cunningly sited tank killers like these before entering the suburb.

 

Turn 4. Didn’t expect that. My Jav team decided to have a pop at their freshly spotted Syrian counterparts. The resulting kaboom looked lethal, but being CM I’ve no idea whether the targets are dead or just temporarily cowering.

 

Turn 6. The first half of my strike force arrives. Painted pink by the rays of the rising sun, are a group of three fully loaded Spartan APCs, more Wolf Land Rovers (with another Javelin team and a mortar fire controller aboard) plus a trio of handsome Scimitar light tanks . I’m not going to throw the Scimitars into the fray until I have a better idea what I’m up against, but the Spartans I send scurrying eastward to tackle those pesky Sagger louts (who may already be dead).

 

 

Turn 8. As the Spartan passengers dismount and start advancing, the mortar fire controllers, now ensconced on the plateau edge, call in an artillery barrage on the nearest objective, a fortress-like police compound. Many CMSF scenarios have ‘preserve’ rules in the victory conditions meaning you can’t stonk the sherbet out of urban areas. This scenario has no such constraints so I plan to make full use of the three artillery batteries (1 x 88mm, 2 x 155mm) at my disposal. I hope those Ba’athists down there like the taste of brick dust.

 

Turn 10. As the shells start dropping, the rest of my troops show up. A platoon of assault pioneers in Land Rovers, more squaddy-stuffed APCs (FV432s) and a pair of strange-looking trundlers that turn out to be Sultans. I was hoping the designer might have slipped in the odd Challenger 2 tank or Warrior IFV, but no, it looks like I’m going to have to make do with a fleet of glorified mini-buses.

 

 

Turn 14. The infantry moving up the east side of the plateau have just had a very close shave with a Sagger missile. There looks to be a clutch of AT positions up there, not just one. Time to give the mortars a bell, I think.

 

Turn 16. The police compound is now wreathed in dust, and ringed by rubble rather than walls. A couple of the smaller buildings have been totally levelled. One more salvo and I think it will be safe to move in. Meanwhile up at Sagger Corner, mortar bombs are airbursting over the Syrian trenches yet somehow a few of the defenders are still perky enough to exchange rifle fire with my grunts. Depressingly, at least three of the AK rounds have found flesh. One yellow dot, two red. My first casualties of the battle.

 

 

Turn 17. Pricked into boldness by last turn’s losses, I send a Scimitar scampering towards the action. The boys up there need support. I just hope all those Saggers are kaput and none of the Syrians thought to bring RPG-7s.

 

Turn 19. The police compound may be a cratered ruin, but I’m still worried about crossing the open ground in front it. Possible solution? Lay a corridor of smoke from plateau to compound and race my FV432s in under its swirling veil.

 

Turn 21. That Scimitar together with further shrapnel showers seems to have turned the tide at Sagger Corner. Time to shift attention to the police base.

 

 

Turn 22. With the curtain of smoke in place, a quartet of squat FV432s storm down the plateau slope and make for the shelter of the compound. As they slam on the anchors and start spilling their soldier cargoes, one catches an RPG in the side and is instantly immobilised. Despite the fierce bombardment, it seems there are still fighters alive inside the complex.

 

 

Turn 24. One of the two Jav teams I’ve now got positioned on the plateau rim, spots a T-72 lurking in the fields at the back of the map and takes a shot. Watching one of these missiles soar skyward then plunge onto its prey like a stooping raptor, is one of CMSF’s most satisfying sights.

 

Turn 25. Seconds later I’m remembering why CMSF still gets my goat at times. The assault on the police compound went rather well – just a handful of light casualties plus that immobilised APC. However, as the troops advance, clearing the remaining buildings, one section decides to route outside the compound instead of inside it. Within seconds an entire eight man section is laying dead or wounded, cut down by the same gleeful MG. Yes, I probably could have avoided the carnage by using another waypoint or movement type, but blimey, shouldn’t the TacAI have helped out there?

 

 

Turn 29. As the light improves, my troops spot and engage more and more targets. The Syrians also seem to be seeing further. Without warning both of my Jav teams are shaken by sizeable explosions. Some men don’t get up. Was it artillery? Tank fire? It’s hard to tell. Up at Sagger Corner, the last of the ATGM team survivors is wiped out and, moving up to occupy their corpse-littered positions, my men find themselves looking down on a second T-72. This one loiters menacingly in a field behind the mosque.

 

 

Turn 33. Time to pull back the battered Jav teams, load them in a Land Rover (thanks to the losses they’ll now fit in a single vehicle) and send them along the plateau to Sagger Corner to take on the newly sighted steel beast.

 

 

Turn 35. It’s all over in a second. The T-72 perishes in a flash of fire and smoke. Rather implausibly three crewman clamber from its carcass and dive into a nearby ditch.

 

Turn 40. Time is marching on. Must start tightening the vice – pushing eastward from the police compound and west from Sagger Corner.

 

 

Turn 42. Dust trails pluming behind them, the assault pioneers sweep down from the plateau in their Wolves. The safe ground behind the police compound is becoming quite the taxi rank.

 

Turn 50. Despite brutal artillery bombardment the enemy clings stubbornly to positions in the suburb. Around the police compound progress is painfully slow and not without cost. Frustrated I move a Scimitar up a narrow track on the western edge of the map. It’s greeted with a rocket-propelled ‘hello’ that, thankfully, misses by a whisker.

 

 

Turn 52. The same tank has just been shaken by a near miss from a wayward round fired by one of my own 155mm guns. Calling in artillery in such claustrophobic fighting is a risky business.

 

Turn 54. Third time unlucky. In my haste to grab the two remaining victory locations (road intersections on the northern edge of the map) I put the western Scimitar under the crosshairs of a previously undetected enemy grenadier. Result – one dead AFV and three crewman pinned by MG fire in the middle of a road. Damn. By the time one of my HQs has used its squad mortar (yep, they’re back) to lay down a protective smokescreen, two of the tankers are no more.

 

Turn 55. That lost Scimitar is the final straw. From now on I’m not taking any more chances with the lives of my men. Let the 155mm Sky Gods carve a path to victory.

 

Turn 57. CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMP

 

Turn 60. CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMP

 

Turn 62. Syrians fleeing from the hard rain are cut down as they run.

 

Turn 64. CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMPITY-CRUMP

 

Turn 67. God. This is murder.

 

Turn 68. CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMP

 

 

Turn 70. With the clock ticking down and desultory fire still coming from scattered Syrian positions amongst the craters, I realise I’m going to have to end the battle with an ignominious VL grab. Two Scimitars race along the back road, slewing to a stop on the all-important intersections then surrounding themselves in smoke. It’s a shameful, gamey way to end a battle, but hey, if that’s what it takes to keep my casualty figures down, then so be it.

 

 

The debrief says I achieved a ‘Major Victory’. Looking at those accusing ’17 Men Killed’ and  ’23 Men Wounded’ statistics I honestly don’t feel very victorious.

 

GG though.

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61 Comments »

  1. Bardie says:

    GG indeed!

  2. Barky says:

    Those poor 17 men.

  3. Lack_26 says:

    I’m sure that if that skirmish was real, with the 30% casualties, would not be regarded as a major victory.

  4. MrBejeebus says:

    game looks interesting, id never even heard of it till today…

    brilliant article though, you have piqued my interest…

  5. SlappyBag says:

    I still find it amazing that only about 170 have died in the current “war”, it really shows the training of our troops pays of. You on the other hand, fail. =)

  6. Inigo says:

    Is it just the timing on these screenshots or are the people in Land Rovers paralysed from the neck down?

  7. James Hsieh says:

    Devs have a way of showing the best from their game. Reviews don’t. Screencap in reviews are for helping to tell the story.

  8. Owen says:

    Really enjoyed this Tim, so thanks for the write-up. Where’s the best places to get hold of Combat Mission (vanilla or otherwise) as this has really gotten my attention.

    Cheers
    Owen

  9. autogunner says:

    also that and the game shows a fight against a well dug in division with all kinds of armour support. Still you are right our troops are second to none.

    i tried playing the orginal and ended up getting a whole batallion slaughtered for no good reason, i then gave up and went back to men of war, which is about as real as i can handle

  10. Tim Stone says:

    The frozen Land Rover gunners might be a beta issue. I was playing a preview build.

    CMSF can be picked-up cheap in lots of places. GamersGate are doing it for £8.99. I believe only Battlefront.com sell the add-ons (Marines and British Forces).

  11. Tim Stone says:

    And for the record… I still prefer CMx1 (the three WW2 Combat Missions) to CMSF.

    CMSF has some fantastic features – the ability to play real-time being the obvious one – but the scripted AI, hypothetical setting, and hobbled skirmish mode (no random maps or PYO forces) means I’ll never love it the way I loved Beyond Overlord, Barbarossa To Berlin, and Afrika Korps.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    Got cmsf for $3 bundled with another game from gamers gate a few months ago. I found it impenetratable, gave up. Maybe i should go back.

  13. Weylund says:

    I’m a tester for CM:SF. Tim’s got some good points – but for me the hypothetical setting is incredibly well-realized and therefore worthy of immersing oneself in. If we were all worried about replaying campaigns that have already happened it’s unlikely we’d be playing sci-fi wargames. The armor and equipment is, on the other hand, VERY real and amazingly well done (and kind of scary – they have information that stumps even current crewmen on the systems).

    The scripted AI can be “scripted” but it only needs to be told what the objectives are; I’ve built some amazing and atmospheric scenarios with nothing but the simplest of AI setups – basically point out objectives and say GO.

    And for the random maps, there is a gigantic pack with hundreds of hand-built (with AI setups) maps specificially for skirmishes. They are great maps, far superior to anything a random generator could throw out (I’ve built a few of those in my time), and it’s unlikely you’ll see the same one too many times unless you play lots and lots of skirmishes.

    Regarding impenetrability – I’m not a military genius (of which I am often reminded by my much more capable tester brethren) but I do all right. Pick smaller scenarios, play skirmishes, or roll your own until you get comfortable. For me, that’s still my level of comfort. :-) The fact that I can gin up a small assault on a Somali pirate compound using the forces and map editor provided in just a few minutes, and then spend HOURS playing through it… well, you get a lot of bang for the little time it takes to learn, and for your buck. If you’re truly stumped, stop by the forums – there are lots of old hands that can help you learn, and you’ll be a better player of military strategy games for it.

    Lastly, CM:SF is definitely a labor of love and it’s worth buying it from Battlefront just to continue to see them make great games.

  14. Josh Mesmo says:

    70 minutes? Most tactical games play out a platoon sized battle in considerably less time – like 20 minutes or so. The original Combat Mission topped out at 60 minute missions, even though the forces were much larger. I tried CM:SF but the total lack of an AI with enemy troops just sitting around waiting to be killed was horrible. This game is a big “bug hunt” and I see no evidence anything has changed here – just a bunch of new vehicles and different colored uniforms.

  15. Weylund says:

    @Josh: That’s a lot bigger than a platoon-sized fight. Even a platoon-sized battle can take a long time, though, depending on your objectives and mission, especially if the “battle” includes movement to the fight instead of plopping you down with guns blazing. “Most tactical games” aren’t making much of an attempt at realism. Pretty much every scenario in the game is designed or tested by veterans or active military folks… they know better than most how battles play out.

    The initial release of the game was full of bugs – it was released early due to publisher pressure. I became a believer – and a tester – after six months of thoughtful patches that actually drove the game forward, and those have only kept on coming. Battlefront really supports their games – at least you know if there are bugs they’ll be fixed.

    I haven’t seen any enemy troops waiting around to be killed in a LONG time. You might want to revisit. It’s worth a look.

  16. bom says:

    Should’ve used that artillery earlier, and on the ATGM positions.
    If you have the hardware, make it your policy to whack all potential ATGM sites on sight. Also, concentrate your artillery instead of spreading it – if it’s worth hitting, it’s worth hitting hard.
    Oh, and remember: Infantry is the first arm of decision, artillery is the second – Armor (besides performing badly against entrenched troops) is merely support unless you can use them for deep penetration (which is exactly what you did in the end, and not at all gamey)

  17. Josh Mesmo says:

    “Bug Hunt” as in Starship Troopers – you go and root out unthinking enemies and kill them because all they do is die in their holes. They don’t use tactics to fight back.

  18. David says:

    Josh,
    What was the last version that you played? Its now up to 1.11 and, although it still has its faults, the gamebreaking bugs have been ironed out, making it a fantastic beast to play vs another human. If you want a match up, try a Red vs Red battle like “The Eid Offensive” (downloadable from BFTs repository).

    If you gave up with the earlier versions, now is the time to take a look at it again, especially as 1.20 will fix some of the annoying bugs left (but yeah, hopefully without introducing new ones).

    As for the other points you mention, the maximum battle time is 2 hours. The game plays out slower than CMX1, and this is not surprising due to the extra caution necessary with lethal modern weapon systems.

  19. David says:

    I should add, that since playing vs humans in CMX1, I’ve never been able to take the AI of any game seriously.

    Serious AI is not possible. Play humans – its so much more satisfying when you win!

  20. Buch says:

    I didnt see one spartan in any of those screenshots the spartan is a recce vehicle not an apc. I did on the otherhand see a AFV 432. I dont know why im picking holes maybe its because i lead a boring life :D

  21. Nick says:

    It’s a recce APC.

  22. Weylund says:

    @Josh – Ahh. That use of “bug hunt”. Yeah, that’s not an issue I see, and I play a lot. Believe me, we testers (who dedicate a LOT of time and energy to playing, testing, and designing scenarios for the game) would be pretty pissed if we couldn’t get a good game out of the AI, since we play far too much for any humans to keep up with us. :-)

    David’s got the right of it, though. I build AI (NOT for CM:SF, but in other industries) and no extant AI holds a candle to humans. The multiplayer support in CM:SF is killer – again, worth a try. :-)

  23. Tim Stone says:

    Yes, my mistake Buch. There are Spartans and FV432s in the scenario. The vehicles that rushed the police compound were FV432s. Corrected.

  24. me, ehem. says:

    Ah, neat, I guess this means it’s getting closer to release? Certainly enjoyed the previous games (after a bit of patching, but well, whatever) and playing with UK equipment ought to be interesting. I wonder how long it’ll take someone to start complaining about Challenger vs. Abrams performance, though?

  25. Michael Dorosh says:

    Weyland seems awfully keen on singing the praises of CM:SF testers, not a surprise, since he is indicating that he is one of them himself. I am a former beta tester and scenario designer for Shock Force; in fact, about 15 to 20% of the scenarios in the TF Thunder campaign were my designs, so I guess I can speak with a little bit of authority here. I also had scenarios published on the CM:BB and CM:AK Special Edition discs. I know – all that and they still make me pay full price at Tim Horton’s. Not trying to claim that I am a great player, or anything but a passable scenario designer, but trying to illustrate my own bonafides when I state that it is very possible for testers to play CM and, despite Weyland’s assertions, “not get a good game” out of the AI. The Tac AI was gibbled in the new engine from day one; still is. Playing other humans is ok, but what do you really have? The game is entirely make believe as far as current military tactics go; the 1:1 representation is a red herring thrown in for the whiners who complained in the initial series about the level of abstraction in the 3D game world. So now you have all the little army men in the world, but they don’t do anything remotely realistic, nor can you command them to do half the things soldiers in an infantry company would/should be doing in a fight.

    I won’t tell anyone how to suck eggs, and if all they want to do is order units around the map – for up to TWO HOURS! – and watch things explode, knock your socks off. The visuals are absorbing – sort of like electronic whittling. I just don’t understand why BFC is still marketing this as a realistic simulation, given the really strange mix of abstraction (no building interiors, prisoners, close combat, infantry formations, wall and window crossing, etc.) and heavy duty data simulation (1:1 ammunition flight path tracking).

    I think this AAR kind of highlights all of that; it also suggests that, like MARINES, the British module will offer very little in the way of new content besides a few new vehicles and US Army men dressed in different clothes and talking funny. I see no mention of new tactics being employed, for example. Certainly no new terrain types, no new enemies to fight or capabilities to be wary of. Just another case of outmaneuvering the hapless Syrians out in the same old desert. Love that picture of the brilliant RCL position on the side of the exposed hilltop, for example. That’s brilliant soldiering, right there. :-)

    And I quote:

    “Turn 62. Syrians fleeing from the hard rain are cut down as they run. Turn 64. CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMP-CRUMPITY-CRUMP. Turn 67. God. This is murder”

    Are you the guy who writes BFC’s ad copy? :-)

    Sounds about right as far as typical level of challenge, though; most scenarios rely on some “gimmick” rather than a fair fight between two evenly matched forces, and the “fun” is measured in how quickly the US (or their allies) can gun down the Syrians when they start to rout. Again, if that’s your cup of tea…go for it. Most games are like that now – if you make them “too hard” no one will buy them. Look at the dumbing down of Medal of Honor, or even LOTRO.

  26. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    I think write-ups like these are as close to the whole combat mission series as I can get. But it was a very good write-up.

  27. an interesting observation? says:

    aren’t you banned from their forums, dorosh?

  28. Rob says:

    “I still find it amazing that only about 170 have died in the current “war”, it really shows the training of our troops pays of.”

    No. It shows they’re fighting villagers armed with offensive language and pebbles.

  29. Tim Stone says:

    Michael, I’m with you on many of your CMSF criticisms, but is it really fair to keep battering the game on realism grounds. No other PC wargame, with the possible exception of CC, is offering the stuff you seem to be after (detailled building interiors, close combat, window crossing etc). yes, it would be lovely to have thse things in a 3D wargame, but right now the best we have is CMx2 (or CMx1 depending on your taste).

  30. burntfork says:

    I’m not sure how much tactics can be determined from a brief AAR, or how much the fundamental tactics can change between any two similarly trained armies since the end of WW1.

    While CM:SF may lack some of the refinements that we all dream about, it is in my mind without doubt a superior simulation than the CM:X1 series. It’s probably worth noting that CM:X1 was pretty much make-believe as far as WW2 tactics were concerned, but that didn’t stop people playing it, enjoying it and considering it the most realistic wargame available. It was. Not being very realistic doesn’t stop it being the most realistic. Perhaps it’s a savage indictment of the state of play elsewhere.

  31. Michael Dorosh says:

    Hi Tim;
    I absolutely think it’s fair to at least mention the realism aspect since the game is marketed on the back of the realism question. Moreover, there were fundamental changes to the game design which have had dramatic impacts on game play – just look at game length alone for one example – where playability was deliberately and explicitly sacrificed on the altar of realism. An average CMX1 game played out in 25 minutes of game time or so; your average CMSF mission is over an hour. The number of usable commands has been slashed by half to accommodate RT and keep a lean interface, but to obfuscate this, we hear that ballistics tracking is the most realistic ever. And yet we still see these guys running into buildings and standing around staring stupidly at enemy soldiers three feet away.

    This is all personal opinion – but my opinion is shared by more than a few; the question was asked about why my opinions aren’t raised on the official forums. There are many people who don’t post on the official forums anymore. The CM line has gone off in a different direction than the original – and you know, that’s ok. If there are those who are enjoying it, knock yourself out. But there will be a sizable segment who feel that the boat was missed as far as dividing the line between playability and realism, and BFC made those cuts in the wrong areas. We’re all watching to see what happens with Normandy – maybe it was just the subject matter, who knows? They’ve backpedaled on more than a few of the ‘missing’ features, so perhaps they’ll salvage even more when they move back to 1944. It still pays to express the dissenting opinion in public, even if they are not always acknowledged by the developer directly.

    I should mention, though, as I neglected to do so earlier, that your AAR is well written and a welcome glimpse into this title that has received little mention in recent weeks. So thanks for that. I’ll look forward to reading more of your adventures in future.

  32. [hirr]Leto says:

    What does Dorosh’s status at the BFC forums have to do with his excellent, well thought out and fair response to a well written AAR and both criticisms and kudos for a new CMSF module?

    Let’s keep the sand in the sandbox, people.

    Cheers!

    Leto

  33. burntfork says:

    The status is less relevant than the reasons for the status, but I agree that discussion of it adds nothing to this.

    When CMBO came out ten years ago, there are plenty of people who thought that BFC had missed the boat on improving realism when they adopted 3D graphics. Now they have moved on, new people have popped up to decry the change. What I find surprising, although is speaks volumes about how strongly the earlier CM games spoke to them, is that they will pursue it across the internet in order to be negative about it.

    Personally, I like the realism with the shiny graphics. This opinion is also shared by many others

  34. [hirr]Leto says:

    There are probably hundreds if not thousands of people that do not share your opinion… that is the great thing about the internet: everyone can have their opinion, be it positive or negative… well at least on some websites.

    I myself appreciate both positive and negative criticism and find either useful to help me dedicate my valuable hobby time to games that fit my criteria.

    Ad hominem acrimony being hurled about due to differing opinions is not useful, whether it is bluntly or subtley delivered.

    That being said, I find the usage of artillery in this scenario to be spot on with historical effects and outcomes. There was an awful lot of it on the British side. The problem being: sometimes war is not very fun, and the tactics blunt and individually devoid of any real skill other than the pushing of a button…. specifically in modern warfare. Perhaps this is a case for poor scenario design (or for what I know, is specifically intended to model this type of engagement: shock and awe type stuff)

    I would like to see more infantry on infantry fights that level the playing field a bit. Yet you have to admit, the new Brit units are much more exciting to use… diversity from the US forces and Marines modules may be a real selling point for people who do like this game…

    Cheers!

    Leto

  35. Serondal says:

    What game is this? This looks INSANE! Is it turn based or real time it is hard to tell with the graphics and the description yet it says Turn 1 turn 2 ect.

    I’m American, you may know that :P That having been said I am DIEING for a chance to play British troops or Canadian troops. I’m tired of EVERY F@##@ GAME being about American soliders like we’re the only freaking army in the world that ever fights.

    It’d be neat for a change to play Israeli special forces chasing down terrorists or French . . . eh to be honest I know next to know about the French army :P

    Would LOVE a game all about German army and their Leopard tanks (isn’t that the name of their current MBT?)

  36. Wisq says:

    @Serondal: It’s sorta both.

    There’s two modes in CM:SF: Realtime (new to the series) and “turn based”. But keep in mind that “turn based” isn’t really that, it’s more like “real time action with turn based commands”. That is, you units all operate and react in real-time, but you can only issue orders once a minute or so.

    That’s both good and bad, IMO. On the one hand, it gives you all the time in the world to decide what should go where, and prevents you having to micromanage in real-time. (I hate most RTSes, for the record.) On the other hand, it also means that if you tell your unit to do something and the dodgy AI decides to do something else (as seen in this article’s AAR), you have no way to abort and call them back.

    It also lacks the predictability of turn-based games. Sure, most TBSes are going to have a random element, but it’s typically a die roll (invisible or otherwise) where I know exactly what I’m telling my unit to do and the approximate likelihood of success or failure. If I screw up, it’s either because I got an unlucky roll or because I put them in a not-very-winnable situtation, not because the AI went wonky on me while trying to vaguely approximate what I explicitly told them to do.

  37. Wisq says:

    Also (since edit is broken), I second the sentiment about being glad to see non-US forces in video games.

    WW2 titles were the worst for this. If you were to learn your WW2 history from video games, you would think that Americans singlehandedly saved Europe from the Germans.

    With modern warfare, it’s a bit more understandable, since the U.S. is currently the most active western military force (I would think?), so there’s a certain synergy between what’s likely to happen in today’s world (U.S. fighting someone) and what sells well with the mainly American audience (playing as U.S. forces).

    Even so, it’s refreshing to see titles like CoD4 having you play primarily as SAS, even if they put in a few Marines segments near the start.

    (Also, is it just my imagination, or did CoD4 subtly condemn the stereotypical gung-ho U.S. approach by having their side of the campaign fail so badly? And perhaps even condemn the “no man left behind” approach by having your pausing to rescue a single downed chopper pilot cost you an entire chopper of troops, including said pilot?)

  38. Josh Mesmo says:

    @hirrLeto – “I would like to see more infantry on infantry fights that level the playing field a bit. Yet you have to admit, the new Brit units are much more exciting to use… diversity from the US forces and Marines modules may be a real selling point for people who do like this game…”

    The infantry game in Shock Force is the weakest point, though. How will these British be any different than the Americans, in game terms? They are equipped with 5.56mm small arms, the same as the Americans. There are no individual squad formations or orders other than run, shoot, hide, etc. What will the difference in practical terms be? I don’t understand your comment in the least? This can only be more of the same. And Shock Force is just like any other tactical game at this level – Squad leader, assault, MBT etc. – so completely overshadowed by what the tanks are doing that it doesn’t matter what the infantry does. Even the original Combat Mission had more options with what the infantry was able to do (Ambush, split squad (Syrian cant), melee, etc.) than the new CM does.

  39. burntfork says:

    Interestingly, the third module will include German units, including Leopard 2s. The scope for varience in terms of infantry is limited and vehicles tend to dominate any of these games. That is kind of their point though. The different vehicles and capabilities would make the British different to the US forces, as should the slightly different TO&E (Establishment in British parlance). There is definitely a distinct difference between US Army and US Marine Corps.

    I have played a number of infantry-centric battles in CM:SF and there is a great deal of depth there. (Scenarios by “Paper Tiger” are rather good) The lack of commands is sometimes a bit annoying, but only rarely. It gets better with each patch though, just like the earlier series of games.

    I do not doubt that a few hundred or maybe thousand people disliked the turn that CM:SF took, (or rather the continuation of the established theme) but I would have thought that two years was long enough to get over it. In the mean time, tens of thousands of people like and play CM:SF. There is a demo available to try to see if you like it or not, and you can make your own decision from there.

  40. Serondal says:

    Is this game related at all to Close Combat?

  41. burntfork says:

    There may have been early comparisons, but no it isn’t.

  42. Josh Mesmo says:

    burntfork – you said that “while CM:SF may lack some of the refinements that we all dream about, it is in my mind without doubt a superior simulation than the CM:X1 series.”

    Now you say that the game’s differences are based on the tanks that are included, and that the infantry are all pretty much the same. (“The scope for varience in terms of infantry is limited and vehicles tend to dominate any of these games.”)

    Read what Steve himself said about the research on tanks:

    http://www.battlefront.com/community/showpost.php?p=953720&postcount=12

    Problem with all this stuff is we can only guess at what the values should be since nobody knows what the real values are. The information is classified and there are hardly any battlefield examples to draw upon and most of those are on much older models of Abrams. There are also no materials tests like those conducted during WWII to glean info from. It’s all “best guess” stuff.

    I think it is interesting that the “reality” you are so sure has been modelled “superior” to that in CMX1 (which drew heavily on the work of experts like Lorrin Bird, who studied WW II ballistics for decades) is really just science fiction. It may be good science fiction, but in the end – still fiction. And that’s from the developers’ own lips. That doesn’t mean it has to result in a bad game but don’t try and fool anyone into thinking that CM:SF can ever be any kind of realistic simulation of modern battlefield ballistics, since the developer himself stated flat out that it is impossible to do that, whereas CMX1 had far more data to draw on.

  43. burntfork says:

    I would maintain that despite the lack of data it is still a better simulation. Shot paths and where on the vehicle it impacts are modelled in more detail than they were in CMX1, where all tanks were made of 12 plates.

    Given the estimates, it is a better simulation. When the series returns to WW2, it will be a better simulation with better data (more fidelity). Ultimately is is always going to be a game. Even if you had every pertinent bit of data modelled precisely it would still be a game because no-one save training soldiers would use it if it was 100% realistic. However, if it is only 1% realistic but everything else in the field was 0.005% realistic, it is still the most realistic game or best simulation whichever you call it.

    I wouldn’t try and claim that CM:SF is a 100% accurate simulation of modern ballistics but that the simulation of modern warfare (1917 to present) is superior than those based on the previous CM:X1 engine.

    The infantry in real life all have assault rifles firing the same ammunition, with roughly the same mix of similar special weapons, wear similar body armour and have similar ancillary equipment. Therefore if the game indicates radical differences then that would be an indication that it isn’t a good simulation. The differences in establishments (TsO&E) should make a difference to the playing style.

    Where there are tanks, these always dominate, from WW1 to the present day. Expecting otherwise is silly. If you want infantry, play an infantry game.

  44. MikeyD says:

    burtfork writes:
    “Where there are tanks, these always dominate”

    Heh heh, spoken like a man who hasn’t had his Abrams clobbered from 2000m+ by an unseen Kornet AT missile, or his fancy T90 whacked by a Javelin. ;)

    M. Dorosh writes:
    “The Tac AI was gibbled in the new engine from day one; still is.”

    “Day one” was two years and eleven (coming on twelve) game engine updates ago. CMSF players have been singing the AI’s praises ever since the changes that accompanied the very succesful Marine Corps module release last year. But a few die-hards insist on making “Best” the enemy of “Good”. If the game’s not up to their entirely imagined standards of perfection it stinks. Which is too bad for them, they’re missing a unique modern combat sim.

    Judge for yourself, if you’re able to download the HUGE CMSF game demo. It uses the current v1.11 game engine and highlights both Army and Marines. Its up at http://www.battlefront.com

    In the interest of full disclosure I did design the Brit module scenario that was randomly picked for play testing. :)

  45. JC says:

    As far as I’m concerned, this so-called “module” is just a mod, with new scenarios and a few cosmetic enhancements (all the regulars at BFC are drooling at the new wall-jump animations … you gotta be kidding me).

    Game wise this is going to be the same old un-challenging CMSF with non-existent TacAI.

    You CM old timers keep your hopes too high for a renaissance of the series with the future CMx2 Normandy game. I think you are in for a big disappointment.

    Cheers,

  46. Lethaface says:

    ‘Oh dear’,

    It’s just like a soap series here only then between them Grogs :D

    (must add that the BF.C ‘side’ usually reads more pleasantly then (generalizing, sorry!) those manipulating ‘haters’)

    I never played CMx1 because i never had the patience for true turn based gaming.

    I picked up CMSF after I found out about Battlefront from the ToW title.

    People whining about unrealism should go in the army; only there you will ‘enjoy’ 100% realism. Have your arm shot off and complain about realism ;)

    CMSF is far more ‘realistic’ then most other ‘Strategy’ or ‘tactic’ games. It however, luckily, does so while still keeping it fun (for me).

    Im not going to write a review for the game here so my story isn’t complete; CMSF will force you to use a lot more of your (few?) braincells for tactics then, for example, CoH. There is no resource gathering or building construction, it’s pure warfare. And the warfare is well done. F-16′s, Apaches, Abrams, T-90′s, DSHK, the never missing AK, VBIED, IED’s, Snipers, Javelins, RPG-29′s, insurgents, name it; its all there. There is built in c2 and no borg spotting, meaning that not all of your soldiers see and can engage something one of your soldiers can see. Damage modelling is pretty well done, although not allways visible unfortunately. The sound of an A-10 Thunderbolt roaring its GAU 8 is …. GUD :D (unfortunately no A-10 to be seen either).

    There is nothing above lasing a bunch of tanks from a distant mountain pass with your FIST(or whatever forward observer) team and having an Apache firing hellfires on ‘em while the rest of your forces wait in ambush positions. Some scenario’s are larger then 2km x 2km; the first time I really felt like I was fighting in a real world (Thanks GeorgeMC for your amazing scenarios!). My favourite however still is to hide a nice ATGM (like AT-14 / AT-13) in some bushes and wait to flank a few ‘invincible’ M1A2 Abrams and torching em up :) It is great to be like a real underdog in this game. Guerilla tactics do work in the game.

    AI could be better indeed (graphics as well ofc, but this is not a high budget dev), but excellent scenario design can make for a challenging fight while poor scenario design will lead to a frustrating battle. Especially the earlier scenario were ‘less well’ designed. PBEM or TCP/IP multiplayer will kick the shit out of you. However, all of this will only happen if you want to be entertained by the game and if you give it a chance. If you want to nitpick the negative parts like some are in my opinion, just stay away from the game! It will be like everything else; a self-fullfilling prophecy. If you now you wont like it and its utter crap, why even waste your time by posting about it? I mean, you are free to do so because its a free world, but dont you grow tired of your own negativism? Why people are trying to convince others it is a shit game? Let them find out for themselves. I like it, others don’t. See for yourself. Now constructive criticism is good, but negative criticism is boring, it’s wasting time. Precious time.

    If you dont like the game, dont play it. See for yourself and download the demo.

    (Im no tester and at the moment i haven’t played the game for some months to be honest. However I had a good few hundred hours with it so I decided to give it a rest until the new module. A few hundred hours is well worth the investment for me.)

  47. MikeyD says:

    Non-existant TacAI? What a crock. Try playing the game.

    That line about old timers hoping for a ‘CM renaissance’. That’s the nub of the situation, a tiny cadre of stubborn hold-outs have fetishized creaky-old CMx1, the same way they fetishized WWII. I recall the initial cries of HORROR when it was announced the game would NOT involve jack-booted Germans! Like their world was coming to an end! Ever since a few lost souls been trolling the game boards bad-mouthing BFC as a part of some perverse vedetta.

    Every once in a while I go back to my old pal “Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin” and *try* to give it a spin. Yikes! THIS is the ‘Holy Grail’ tactical combat sim you’re holding up in comparison to CMx2?

  48. JC says:

    MickeyD,

    The only way to make CMSF challenging for me is to drink heavily beforehand. Seriously. Only scenarios I had some sort of challenge were the ones where the scenario designer made the odds for the US so slim that a whole damn brigade would have been used in real life. That is a nice trick, throwing gobs of Syrians and irregulars towards the player, zoombie style (see below), and then call it “challenging”. Give me a break.

    TacAI: the bots still happily walk straight into a kill sack, even when they are seeing the mangled remains of fellow soldiers. No solution after how many patches?

    TacAI: bots are unable to choose a covered or concealed route for their approach. This TacAI would have been great for zombie games where all that matters is to have them coming at the player. No solution here either.

    TacAI: the options in the editor for the bots being “cautious”, “active” … whatever … they are all the same. There’s no freaking difference between the behavior anyway. Why you guys even have the options there? Also, did anybody had the delicacy of explaining what these options really mean? I searched the forums head to toe, and couldn’t find an explanation of what these options REALLY mean.

    By the way, armored warfare in CMSF is a joke. There is no way to rescue this game in that regard. Try playing Steel Beasts ProPE for a change, so you can learn what a REAL simulation of modern warfare play like.

    Cheers,

  49. burntfork says:

    AI walking into kill sacks? No solution after four games, twenty to thirty patches between them and ten years.

    Cover and concealment? I suspect that it became prohibitively expensive with the increased terrain fidelity so it was farmed out to the scenario designers.

  50. Homo Ferricus says:

    Grrr. Game make Ferricus mad. Ferricus go destroy! Everyone will know just how angry Ferricus is!!!

    But seriously, as someone who’s been playing occassionally since the game’s release, it’s a load of fun, and an absolute can’t-miss if your a military/warfare case. If you are, MAKE SURE to at least make an inquiry. For me, and I think most people whether they’ll consciously agree or not, the investment has been more than worth it. And I haven’t even tried playing a human yet! it’s hard to find the kind of realism-bent folks that it takes to really get into this game.