Game you never heard of
Remember X-Com? X-Com, also known as UFO: Enemy Unknown in Europe, is like this little box you place in your computer and worship it 16 hours per day, in lieu of sleep, food and all else but work. Haven’t played it? Fine, fine: it’s this little game released in the early/mid-90s about a force of elite human soldiers fighting off alien incursions. You did everything in X-Com – built bases, intercepted UFOs with aircraft, hunted aliens down at crash sites, researched new weapons, armor and equipment – as well as puzzled out the story of the alien invasion. On top of that, the combat was done with the absolutely most detailed turn-based tactical game engine ever. Oh, and did I forget to mention that in order to maintain funding, you had to protect the various nations of the world? In short, it was then and remains to this day, the absolute best game ever. Sorry Civ, sorry Wing Commander, and we love you too, Doom, but none of you can ever compare.
Exit X-Com, enter Silent Storm. Or rather, in this case, the Silent Storm demo. Take all the combat aspects of X-Com and mix them with World War II, throw in an absolutely fantastic graphics engine and you have Silent Storm.
While you can’t build bases or shoot down enemies and fight them over a large selection of randomly-generated maps, you can take your team of elite troops behind enemy lines, engage in the finest turn-based squad combat in gaming history on pre-generated maps and guide their advancement as they level up. Your squad will have riflemen, snipers, medics and machine-gunners. The characters have attributes such as vitality points, action points, strength, intelligence and dexterity, as well as skills like shooting, interrupt, throwing, and special abilities that customize each character. You might want to focus your medic solely on medical abilities, or make him into a real combat medic who’s quite proficient with weapons.
The demo itself
As for the demo, it comes with two small levels. One has the player leading an Axis assault on a British train (we’re confused too, since Germans never stepped foot on British soil during World War II.) The other pits an Allied squad against a German unit entrenched along a ruined street. They have the buildings, you are exposed along a good 120 degrees, with the edge of the screen and a dilapidated car covering the other two thirds.
The levels are also very challenging – a good challenging, not frustratingly difficult. My first attempt on each was an unmitigated disaster, until the need of using planned, determined tactics became clear. Using a simple leapfrogging strategy isn’t going to cut the mustard. Beating either map is a satisfying accomplishment; there’s no blind rushing through on autopilot.