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Game Over Online ~ Sid Meier's Antietam!

GameOver Game Reviews - Sid Meier's Antietam! (c) Firaxis, Reviewed by - Colonel Sanders

Game & Publisher Sid Meier's Antietam! (c) Firaxis
System Requirements Pentium 133, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 79%
Date Published Tuesday, December 7th, 1999 at 07:38 PM

Divider Left By: Colonel Sanders Divider Right

Sid Meier’s Antietam! is the follow-up to Sid Meier’s Gettysburg!, one of the most successful Civil War games for the PC. Interestingly enough, Firaxis has decided to offer this title exclusively through their web site, or by calling a toll free number. You won’t find this Sid Meier’s Antietam! on store shelves, no matter how hard you look. Why did they decide to take this route? Your answer is as good as mine. I can’t imagine selling the game exclusively over the web will yield the same kind of success as it’s predecessor. That little piece of information aside, let’s see how Sid Meier’s Antietam! fairs.

Sid Meier’s Antietam! puts you on a historically detailed 3D battlefield, commanding animated Union or Confederate troops as you relive the excitement, drama, and action of American’s bloodiest day. Antietam! is based on Gettysburg’s award-winning real-time tactical battle engine and offers the same easy-to-use interface and menu system. Moving troops is as simple as dragging the mouse and securing formations is as simple as clicking on large marked buttons along the bottom of the screen. Icons are used to indicate the unit’s name, strength, type, experience, and current morale. This interface, which was developed originally for Gettysburg, continues to work on a very simple level. It beckons the old adage, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Antietam! features over twenty new scenarios with historical and speculative variables. For example, there are full and half-day battles. This helps to offer a unique environment every time you open a new scenario. It also adds to the reply value of a game that some might feel isn’t as different from Gettysburg! As it should be. A random scenario generator is also included in Antietam!, with four types of engagements including small skirmishes, minor altercations, moderate engagement and large battles. The generator could certainly use touching up though, as I saw little difference in many of the scenarios it was generating, and even the large battles seemed quite small in stature. None the less, the addition of this generator will certainly prolong gameplay and we’re sure to see numerous scenarios and maps appear all over the Net.

Antietam! features a number of new terrain types, such as plowed fields, bridges, fords, suken roads, and stubble fields among others. As expected, the Antietam Creek plays a major role in the battlefield’s geography and your troops will have to deal with it. Antietam also presents an army of special units, all designed and rendered in historically detailed uniforms of the Union and Confederate armies. One thing Sid Meier’s games have always been, that is accurate. Plenty of Civil War research has obviously gone into creating such units as the Zouaves, Texas Brigade, Iron Bridage, Ragged Confederates and Louisiana Tigers. Artillery now comes in 8 different types.

Graphically, the game certainly feels old. At close to two years in age, the Gettysburg! engine has seen better days and little was done to improve the graphics. We saw Panzer General 3D benefit from hardware acceleration and I think Antietam! could use that same upgrade. Some of small touch-ups you’ll notice include a more dynamic battlefield. Also, units have benefited from a little more detail, specifically to their uniform schemes. As expected when graphics aren’t as spectacular, the actual movement and combat phases of the game suffer little to no lag.

In terms of combat, little has changed since Gettysburg!. Before each scenario, you’re given your objectives as well as tips in terms of which units are more valuable for the scenario in question. Each scenario is timed and must be completed before the clock runs out. After each battle, you get a rundown of the units that fought most effectively.

Just to run down some of the other changes in terms of gameplay, the line of sight for some units has been extended which allow for more realistic fire at long ranges. Artillery can now be ordered to fire canister which is similar to ordering infantry to volley fire. These two tweaks make artillery units much more powerful in the game. Of course, another huge difference between Gettsburg and Antietam is the duration of the battle. While Gettysburg lasted three days, Antietam ran the course of a single day. As a result, you don’t play Antietam in a series of engagements, but rather as an entire battle beginning in the morning, and running through the day until early evening. Worry not though, you can save the game at any time. As mentioned above, there are 20 different scenarios included in Antietam!, so you have the option of playing chunks of the battle rather than the entire thing in one swoop.

In terms of multiplayer support, Antietam! allows up to eight players to take part in a battle over a LAN or the Internet, while two players can go head-to-head over modem and direct links. The game is also playable on the MSN Gaming Zone for those who frequent those battlefields. Each player assumes command of one of the various brigades involved in the scenario, and while the games can last for quite some time, historical war gamers will love it.

Antietam! does just as good a job at recreating the feel of battle as Gettysburg! did. This game certainly could have benefited dramatically from an overhaul in the graphics department, but the gameplay remains top notch. The added refinements and tweaks make for some excellent gameplay and the addition of the scenario generator will add that much more in terms of replay value. Overall, wargame fans won't be disappointed with this latest creation from Sid Meier and company.


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