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  People's General
.......The 7th Chinese Assault Group stood poised on the road to Petovka. Assembled against the group was the best that the UN had to offer-US, Russian, British and Ukraine forces that had entrenched themselves against an army that had rampaged through most of Asia. The date is December 4th, 2009 and history is about to be made by the People's General...............
Preamble..........

People's General (PG) is the second of the Living BattleField Series but has a close heritage to the 5 Star Series(Panzer General, Allied General etc). When I first saw Panzer General 2(PG2), I was hooked so badly that I couldn't look at anything else until I had played all the major campaigns. Looks like SSI has done it again. Going 10 years into the future, People's General uses current modern hardware plus some possible upgrades to new technology. The Living Battlefield engine is a perfect way to show turn-based warfare for people who live to play war strategy on a computer. Installed footprint is about twice Panzer General 2 at just over 50 Mbs. Taking PG into the future may cause some argument with the grognards of turn-based war strategy. What I see is a very plausible scenario of conflict in the new millenium. When I reviewed PG2 about a year ago, I was very enthralled and explored as many options as possible. One comment I made at the time was "I would think that SSI should consider different time periods other than WWII. Maybe WWI, Afghanistan, Vietnam, or Desert Storm would be nice scenario add-ons for PG2. I think that SSI really listens to its gamers and responds with solid games like PG2." Basically, I felt that the WWII era was being successfully covered by SSI as well as other companies and it was time to look at other eras. PG seems like a good response to that comment and I commend SSI in exploring new ideas. PG has its share of 'new' ideas with some visionary views of what war would be like tomorrow.

Companyline............

June 12, 2005: Taiwan's bold political activities challenge the power of Mainland China. With the fury of an angry dragon, China reacts crushing the upstart and expanding its empire. Soon 19 nations are drawn into conflict.

WORLDWIDE WAR BEGINS!

People's General™ is volume 2 in SSI's Living Battlefield™ Series the next generation of the critically acclaimed mega-hit Panzer General® II. People's General presents a disturbingly plausible, near-future Asian conflict that escalates to involve virtually the entire world. Game play covers large areas of the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Siberia, the Ural Mountains and the Ukraine. Choose from over 200 task forces from 19 nations. Deploy a dizzying array of modern and prototype weaponry and crush your opponents in this strategy epic of global meltdown!

MORE NEW FEATURES-Surface to Air Missles-Counterbattery-Air Mobile Missions -Mobile Rocket Launchers-Extended Ranges: Up to10 Hexes

Gameplay...........

Using the Living Battlefield engine, PG is set to make you conquer the Eastern Russian Steppes and South East Asia. The custom made maps still look as good as what PG2 had to offer. As you traverse the different kinds of terrain, you will notice the movement rates change. Roads and rail give good movement but as the battles move into places like South East Asia, jungle and bush will slow most units to a crawl. Sounds are still good and other than content, haven't changed much from PG2. One improvement that will enhance gameplay are the attachments. These eight abilities enhance a unit with better spotting, attack, defense, movement and ammo. The sheer numbers of units are based on a cost hierarchy with the most expensive ones generally being the best. Attack Helicopters make a debut along with surface to air missiles. Air attack is now available through a menu and is directly affected by the percentage of Air Superiority that you maintain. This means that Air Defense is a very significant part of the game. What I found very interesting was the evolution of some units. The M1A2 Abrams becomes the Powell and the Schwarzkopf and then...... the Stealth! This final unit is hard to hit and is Air Mobile- read as Chopper transport. The Himars artillery is similar though only available as a prototype. Having a Air Mobile group can help you achieve quicker victories and more of the resulting prestige. The Combat Support unit is another handy feature. Deploying these allows you to enable more start locations and bring in better units close to the action. If you can build up a well-balanced army (combined forces strategy), and have these additional units, success will be easier to achieve.

Trigger Hexes are a new feature with PG as well. When a unit lands on one, an event occurs. You will receive one of the following; prototype unit, more air missions, a leader or an increase in experience for the unit. This reward is a neat little bonus for managing to grab a Trigger hex.

Is PG easy game to play though? While the learning curve isn't anything like Steel Panthers, the strategy is no less. The General Series has long been labeled a 'Beer & Pretzels' event where you can install and play with your favorite condiments at hand. But if you think that it is simply jump in and overrun opposing forces, you will likely go sober up and study the situation. PG has evolved much like modern warfare. Utilizing all of PG's features at some point is the best way to get those 'Brilliant Victories'. But the strategy is a separate discussion- see link at bottom for this.

Simply playing PG is a choice of Scenario(Even custom ones through the Editor), Campaign (2 main and 7 mini's), and Multiplayer (Mplayer, Internet and LAN). Supporting all these options shows SSI's commitment to product replayability. Throwing in the Editor takes this issue a bit further and guarantees that games like PG will have a relatively long life.

In the End........

Though the titlebar indicates the weather conditions, would it be possible to display the weather overtop a map. Might be a nice touch. The manual is something that I think that SSI should look at improving in quality. My copy was torn out of the box and I think that is from the binding. I have seen a couple of ring bound styles that lay open easily and can be maintained for much longer- after all, we have to study these things.

*Personal Rant* Why are there no Canadian forces included? Though the Canucks do not have a significant standing army, they have been involved in most of the UN actions in this century. Hell, we even have decent Engineer units. How about a cook squad? *Personal Rant finished*

SSI products are both endearing and enduring to a large number of war strategy fans. My brother phoned me last night, telling me to re-install Steel Panthers I, so we could PBEM(I responded- 'Sorry, reviewers have no life and I have a deadline!). If this is the case with many of SSI's games, they will remain at the front of this genre for a long time.

PG is a pretty decent follow-up to PG2 but the enhancements have upped the system requirements. Ram has doubled along with the need for a 166 minimum (my chip!) Asking for more features means either more upgrades to hardware by players or few players to enjoy the game. Finding this balance has got to be a concern for game companies as they don't make a beautiful game that is unplayable on anything but the most advanced system or something so simple that gamers turn to something else. That is why I like turn-based in general. (Nothing against RTS games -just need a break from mouse-click frenzy sometimes!) Processing is reduced compared to real time play and we can enjoy successive versions without buying a new processor and the like every year. Typically, reviewers will say that PG is not a huge change from PG2 and SSI should do this or that. But I think that SSI has intended to use the Living Battlefield engine for a whole series like the 5 Star Series and when everyone finally gets a PIII with 8Gigs of RAM, they will have developed the next generation of war strategy gaming. Enough said about that.

Once again, I would like to thank the guys at SSI for keeping up the interest in war strategy games high with imaginative and fun products.

Review ID Number: 156
  Product Details
SSI
Review Date: 2001-04-23
Reviewer: Nick Sardy
Rating: 8 out of 10
 
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