Rush for Berlin covers the European theater of WWII by placing you in pivotal objective driven battles like Leningrad, Bastogne, Arnhem and many others. I wouldn’t call the Battle for Berlin pivotal in the battle sense but it’s in there too. It is a real time strategy game but one that does not include much building. Most of the time, you have to make do with what troops are at your disposal and even when you have a camp or factory to spawn infantry or armored resources, you will still need to amass resource points; the simplest way of doing so being conquering your enemy’s strong points.
In some ways, Rush for Berlin feels like Close Combat except its damage models and certainly its morale model is not as sophisticated but some of the same concepts hold in Rush for Berlin. First, line of sight is the penultimate factor to your success and the only units that possess good line of sight are your infantry units. Rush for Berlin challenges, no, I take that back, absolutely demands you to use infantry units to screen ahead. Once your men can spot the enemy, you can bring in your armored and artillery units to rain fire on them. Armored units only see a little distance ahead but they can fire much further. This I found a bit exaggerated – after all, that’s why a lot of tank commanders stuck their heads out of their vehicles. Terrain, of course, gives you an advantage in line of sight but most of the game appears to take place in ruined cities and villages which makes using infantry even more important.
Rush for Berlin splits infantry into different types. You can have medics, flamethrowers, mortar crews, snipers, elite commandos and a number of officers who have special bonuses to add to your troops. I like the way the management of the troops work. You can assign your main grunts to a group. Then you can add these supporting roles to follow these troops and not worry that you will accidentally issue a move command to a medic so he stops healing the squad. That said, it might be even more improved to simply have the game recognize these are supporting troops and should stay some ways back when grouped together (for example, the mortar crew).
By now I’m sure you know that this game isn’t one of those where you group all your units together and move them in one mouse click to the other side of the map to attack. Rush for Berlin punishes you when you use the wrong tools to do the job. Infantry are of little use against tanks. Tanks are of little use against a well placed anti tank gun. Vehicles and their crew have separate health bars (indeed you need crew to man the vehicle in order to get it to move) so there is a chance small arms fire will kill the crew allowing you to take the vehicle. Alternatively, before a vehicle blows up, you have a chance to unload your troops so losing the tank isn’t a total scratch.
Because of the limited resources in the game, whenever you get a supply truck or medic, you will have to pay attention and protect it against the enemy. A supply truck can miraculously repair any vehicle, even those ones that are disabled (broken tracks from a mine). Between missions, you’re able to build a small entourage to accompany you to the battle. This lets you tailor the beginning of your missions to fit your playing style (are you an infantry or armor person?). The better you score in the missions, the more variety and numbers you have in selecting your entourage. You can, in fact, overload your entourage with one additional unit but you pay for this by agreeing to less time in completing the mission.
Each mission in Rush for Berlin is separated into multiple objectives with a specific timeframe you need to finish. Capturing points will extend the time available and overloading your initial troop deployment will result in reduced time available. Finishing a mission too late will mean you have to act faster in the next one. In Sevastopol, for example, you have to attack the Germans fleeing in boats but to really see all the boats you have to capture a hill that lets you rain artillery on them. There are also optional objectives, like capturing strong points or factories so you get resources and reinforcements. Some self-made optional objectives are simply better routes to get to your primary goal while the game also sprinkles in some secret objectives. Usually these include killing some sort of tank ace unit amongst the enemy. I don’t recall a mission where the objectives did not change midstream in the game so combat affairs are definitely more than simply slugging it out in a war of attrition with the enemy.
Being a defensive minded player, I have to admit I had a more difficult time playing this game. You can lose crucial parts of your army (supply trucks, armor) and not be able to reasonably progress to the next objective without the game telling you. The quick save and load is anything but quick, although they can get you out of the aforementioned situation. I found I basically had to split my forces up into a screening group, artillery and armored group and the rear supply group. Slowly but surely I would manually move one group at a time up to scout for enemies, use armor to wipe them out and use the supply convoy to repair or heal any damaged units. While the game features some great visuals, exploding effects, trees that can be run over by armor and buildings that can be destroyed by artillery, the exercise can be painful. I’m sure this is what combat was like in urban areas during WWII but missions could last an hour because of this.
Rush for Berlin splits its campaign into the following segments: Allied (English speaking nations), German, Russian, and Free French. The German and French campaigns are only opened up after some missions are completed in the Russian or Allied ones. Rush for Berlin has injected a fake storyline where Hitler is not in the game around 1944, which is supposed to make fighting successfully for Germany all kosher again. Never mind, however, that many from the Third Reich were integrated into Allied forces after the war (intelligence, space/rocketry, even Wehrmacht generals serving in the Bundswehr). Out of all the campaigns, the Russian one is most traditional. You’re given a large amount of units to drive the Germans back in the Eastern Front. I found the German campaign most interesting simply because the Germans seem to have better equipment and you get to use a lot of wonder weapons (wunderwaffe) that never came to fruition in the actual war. The French campaign is simply one that covers partisans which means you are given few troops and the game plays more like Commandos than anything else.
I’m glad to say from a performance standpoint, this final version solves the camera sluggishness of the preview build that I covered. However, there are still some sticking points including random crashes out of the game, particularly when you leave the battles to go back to the menu. The game also has dubious support for dual monitor setups. At least one colleague of mine at Game Over Online has mentioned the detriments of copy protection schemes like Starforce and to some extent Steam. I never encountered it until Rush for Berlin which uses Starforce. The process to validate the CD takes longer than even the long-winded publisher video logos that play before a game (EA being one of the most notorious offenders) and it must be run every time you start up the game.
Multiplayer is diverse. The Rush mode has players rushing to complete objectives. The Risk mode is where objectives for each player are hidden from one another and all the ensuing combat happens because you’ll incidentally meet each other around the map. Interestingly, there is also a co-operative mode but only a handful of maps.
I liked Rush for Berlin and found myself returning to it many times. Unfortunately after about an hour or two, I would grow weary of the slow and repetitive progress I was making across the map. It was either that or I lost crucial units to finish the mission and wasted another ten minutes on the map because the game wouldn’t tell me you can’t use a squad of infantry to take out the wall of tanks at the end point objective. These incidents rather annoyed me, including some pathfinding errors that would result in unnecessary casualties and another trip to the not so quick load. But my infatuation with WWII would somehow convince me to give the game another go.