Games of the Year

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2

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Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 Screenshot 2
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The latest title in the famous Combat Mission franchise of wargames, now on Steam. Shock Force 2 brings you to a hypothetical conflict in Syria between the forces of NATO and the Syrian Army. Take command of US Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT) and Heavy Brigade Combat Teams (HBCT) to fight against Syrian Army Infantry, Mechanized and Armored units in an arid setting. Experience the full range of modern threats to conventional military forces, including irregular combat forces, terrorists, spies, suicide bombers, IED's and other deadly tools employed in the asymmetric warfare of the modern day. Play the Task Force Thunder campaign, more than a dozen carefully crafted battles, or unlimited Quick Battles.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

tl;dr summary: Despite the jank and the decrepit engine, Combat Mission Shockforce 2 is the best military simulation of Battalion level and lower, with only Graviteam Tactics series coming close.
Combat Mission Shockforce 2 says on the storepage it released in August of 2020. In reality, it’s part of a long running series with a dedicated fanbase that started all the way back in the year 2000 with many entries in the series, expansions packs and modules. For years, the developers of the game at Battlefront chose to sell the games exclusively through their own website (and were one of the early adopters of digital distribution) and refused to come onto steam until they entered a publishing deal with Slitherine Ltd. A prolific publisher of niche wargames who offered to help BF market their games on Steam.
The first title to make it over was Shock Force 2….a game released on steam in 2020 but originally released in 2018 and was a remaster of the original Shock Force released in 2007!
I’ll eventually review all the CM games that come to Steam but the following link details my opinions of the game engine (Called CMx2), which is shared across all the titles and won’t be repeated in this review or others to keep it short and fit into Steam. If you’ve read it in any review or are already familiar with the engine, skip the pastebin link below.
Shock Force 2 takes place in 2008 and was developed and released before the Civil War in Syria occurred. In the game’s backstory, Terrorists supported by the Syrian government detonate several “dirty” nuclear bombs in several Western cities, prompting a massive NATO effort to invade Syria. The base game contains the US Army, the Syrian Army (In three flavors: Republican Guard, Regular Army and Reserve army) and Unconventional forces (In two flavors, Combatants. Who are more like local militias and Fighters, who are more heavily armed insurgent groups similar to Al Qaeda and ISIS). Additional NATO armies (UK, Canada, Germany and Dutch armies) and Syrian formations (ie Airborne Troops, T-90 tanks…etc) are available in DLC packs with additional campaigns and scenarios.
Since Combat Mission is a military simulation, the US Army is overwhelmingly more powerful than any of the Syrian factions that oppose it with no concessions made to gameplay balance. This is by design, the campaigns are focused on the Blue forces in all the modules because the Syrians and Insurgents have no chance in a stand up battle. This is a change of pace from many of the titles in the Combat Mission games, such as the WW2 titles or the recent Cold War, which are more focused on near-peer combat with most sides in the game being viable in a 1v1 fight. This title focuses more on unit preservation for the Blue side and sheer survival for the Red side. Taking out one Abrams tank is a huge loss for the Americans and a big victory for the REDFOR side, even if it took dozens of dead troops and 6 lost T-62 tanks to achieve.
Insurgent factions present a problem for the engine though. They are included alongside very built up maps that really break the spotting engine wide open, leading to crap like having vehicles turn a corner and open fire and vehicles placed to ambush them before the ambushing vehicles even get a single shot off or even spot the offending vehicle.
In terms of content, Shock Force 2 is one of the best in the CM lineup. Plenty of scenarios, campaigns and maps to keep you busy. Syria is a nice varied country so you have your desert maps, urban maps, beach maps, forest maps and valley maps. The additional modules probably give the game the most varied unit roster of any CM game outside of perhaps Fortress Italy. Being the first Combat Mission game out on Steam means it has plenty of players willing to play online and also creating unique maps, scenarios and campaigns. Not to mention that the game is completely backwards compatible with maps and scenarios made for Shock Force 1.
Overall, despite my misgivings about the base engine, Shock Force 2 is a deep and addicting game with a plenty of gameplay to be had and an excellent starting off point for a CM newbie. Hell, you can even load up Syria vs Syria matches and play a poor man’s Combat Mission Cold War if you wished to save some dollars!

Review from Steam

Outdated engine and a bit clunky BUT, it's the most authentic RTS money can buy in the civilian sphere. Played on government computers inside a secured compound as a Brigade Training Tool, I played war games while on Active Duty as a US Army Infantryman like this. This is a training tool first, entertainment second. That's the key to understanding this game and why it's priced at what it is. Governments use games like this to train Officers and NCO's in simulated warfare. I spent hours inside Bradley IFV simulation pods that used this style of war gaming but at the first person level. If you have a deep interest in real world tactics then this game will be worth the money.

Review from Steam

A Stryker under my command decided to shoot, with its 40mm grenade launcher, at a hut with both hostile and friendly infantry inside, which caused the hut to collapse and buried 4 friendly infantrymen under the rubble.
I wasn't even angry. I just quit the game and googled "court-martial".

Review from Steam

I will keep this simple (because the game, won't)
Pros :
1) 1:1 metrics. Forget the C&C tanks that their shooting range is like 50 feet. You see your target 750 feet on the other side of the map and your range allows it? You can take it.
2) Realistic approach. Maybe the most realistic I've have ever seen. You will need everything. Cover, ground elevation, obstacles, smokescreen, morale, effective range, everything. Even the spotter, does not spot the enemies right away. He needs time to observe. In the end, the tactic is "find them first, before they find you".
3) Javelin missiles. God I love them.
4) You can play this game real time (with unlimited pauses in which you can order your troops) or turn based "wego" way.
5) Huge variety of custom made missions from a very active community that will keep you occupied for a very long time.
6) In the end, this game can actually teach you realistic combat tactics, more than any other game out there.
Cons :
1)Clunky graphic engine
2)No hold fire button (You can deal with it by assigning your units a very small target area of attack, but still)
3)No dynamic campaign
4)Soldiers get tired quite easily
Searching for an ultra realistic strategy simulator? Look no further. The game however is quite challenging for those who think like C&C tactic. You need to unlearn everything. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Review from Steam

Intro:
Combat Mission is a tactical battle simulator franchise that aims to simulate real world equipment, battle doctrines, and soldier behavior in the context of various real and theoretical conflicts. Currently the three games available on Steam (at the time of this review) all cover eras between the end of the Cold War (CM: Cold War) The War on Terror (This Title) and a theoretical 2017 intervention in the Ukraine (Black Sea). On Battlefront.com, they also offer several titles set during the WW2 era which are just as in depth and intense to play but with a quite different flavor. These are set to come to steam throughout the year of 2022 (hopefully).
HOW TO PLAY:
Combat Mission has two primary modes of play, WeGo Turn by Turn. Where the player issues orders to the AI and then the AI plays out your orders over the course of a minute(turn). And Realtime which is similar to many other RTS's with the ability to give orders on the fly and stop time whenever you please. Turn by Turn is great for managing larger forces and allows you to rewind time up to a minute and watch every aspect of the battle in detail at the cost of having no control of your troops while a turn is played out. On the other hand, Realtime is a lot more conventional but has a difficulty curve of trying to keep track of everything as things develop in well, REAL TIME. Ultimately it's up to you which you prefer.
THE BAD:
GRAPHICS:
Combat Mission is by no means the most graphically complex game. It's not going to wow a vast majority of people with the spectacle of a modern battlefield like some games out there. That being said, the principle focus of the game is on the insanely accurate modelling of the vehicles, weapons, unit formations, and most notably the Tactical AI that does a lot of the dirty work and controls your soldiers at the most basic level. If high graphical fidelity is of utmost importance to you, then this ain't it chief. The game also abstracts a number of elements for simplicity's sake such as interiors of buildings which look completely barren to the player.
PERFORMANCE:
Combat Mission is designed to cover a maximum battle size of about a Battalion sized force (~400 men) on each side. However, once you start getting past that scale things start to break down and get laggy. The game is limited by the engine being only 32 bit (on PC), which means that it can only see a maximum of 4gb of RAM. That being said, most of your battles are going to be ~Company sized or smaller, and there are few issues here. It's only with the truly massive battles that things start to get out of hand.
MULTIPLAYER:
MP for a game like this was designed back in the days when internet connections were not fast enough to permit a smooth multiplayer experience (some would argue we still aren't there). As a result, it uses a Play By Email system or PBEM. With Combat Mission: Cold War, Slitherine games developed a new PBEM+++ System which handles this process automatically, but this system is set to come to Shock Force 2 at a later date. At its most basic level, PBEM works by sending save files back and forth between two players. There's a video tutorial which explains the system in full here:
Needless to say it's outdated but it does work. Also there's no easy way to do coop against the AI. It IS possible but it requires some rather roundabout workarounds to get it to function correctly.
THE GOOD:
REALISM
You've probably read through a number of reviews and everybody comments on how realistic the game is. But what does that actually mean here? Well it means a number of things. Every single vehicle or piece of equipment has its full capabilities such as Optics, fire control systems, and protection values (that aren't classified of course) modeled within the game. You can even destroy the ramp controls on various IFV/APC's so the troops have to get out via backup doors or hatches. Modern combat is scary fast and extremely deadly which leads me to gameplay:
GAMEPLAY BALANCING & MODELING
CM titles are unique in that the game actively avoids modeling vehicles and forces to make them perfectly balanced against each other. To put it simply, the Syrian Army and Unconventional forces in Shock Force 2 stand absolutely no chance in a stand up fight against the NATO invasion. NATO forces are extremely well trained, have some of the best equipment, and feature Command and Control capabilities the Syrians can only dream of. For Redfor, the goal is not to win, but to F*cking SURVIVE. A single Abrams platoon is capable of wiping out entire Battalions of Syrian Armor (30-40+ tanks) without suffering a scratch. Syrian command structures actively discourage initiative so only a certain # of trusted units have radios and can call for artillery, which is often inaccurate and takes forever to call in. THIS IS NOT A FAIR FIGHT AND ITS NOT DESIGNED TO BE ONE.
How is this fun then? Well NATO Forces are often given extremely tough objectives and Rules of Engagement which limit their tactical options. For example, you may need to have postively Identified an enemy unit in a building before you can destroy it. In addition, you often need to keep your casualties extremely low (sometimes as low as 5-10%).
REAL TERRAIN
Terrain and how you use it plays a HUGE factor in whether or not you succeed. Essentially, look at the terrain as you would in the real world. If a ridgeline/wall is just a little too tall to keep units from seeing over it in the real world, it's likely that way here.
REAL WORLD FORMATIONS
Ever wondered how all the various pieces of equipment in an army fit together on the battlefield? Well with Combat Mission titles, while it is possible to attach individual units, a vast majority of the time you will be utilizing real world formations. Stryker Infantry Battalions, Combined Arms Battalions, and Soviet Style Motor Rifle Brigades are not just names here to cover up heavily gameified formations for balance sake. When you buy a Stryker Infantry Battalion, you get a formation of roughly ~400 guys with a Battalion HQ, an HQ Company, and 3 Rifle Companies. Each Company has its own HQ units, and 3 Rifle platoons + a Weapons platoon. Each Platoon also gets a Platoon HQ and 3 squads or various heavy weapons in the Weapons platoon. Get the gist? You aren't buying a single squad like Wargame or Men of War, you're buying the entire formation with all its assets. And it's up to you to make sure those assets are used most effectively.
REALISTIC SPOTTING & INFO Sharing
Units in CM do not instantaneously see things that are in front of them, units need to spot enemies through a combination of many factors. Eyeballs are great at seeing things close up in a wide field of view, but struggle at distance. Vehicle optics are often great at distance, but struggle with field of view and close range. Thermal sights are amazing at spotting but also have small fields of view. Also, just because a unit sees something, doesn't mean everybody sees it. Which is why you have HQ teams to pass that spotting information to your units so people know what to look at and or roughly where something is. Distance and radios also play a huge part in how your units share information.
CONCLUSION
CM is the Dark Souls/Arma of RTS's, but if you want the most realistic representation of how real world forces fight, combat mission is as good as it gets for Battalion sized units or smaller. While it is very expensive, there's tons of content and a very active community. I cannot recommend this franchise enough. BUY IT

Review from Steam

Severely overpriced and to get the whole experience you need to purchase all the DLCs, I couldn't because I'm not rich but the game is fantastic in every other aspect of it.

Review from Steam

horrible game, buy it

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