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  Pigs flying, hell freezing over, Battlefront teaming up with Matrix Games to put Combat Mission on Steam. Which of these things were you l...

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 Combat Mission: Shock Force 2

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Combat Mission Shock Force 2


Pigs flying, hell freezing over, Battlefront teaming up with Matrix Games to put Combat Mission on Steam. Which of these things were you least expecting to see in 2020? 

After many years of being competitors, two of the pillars of PC wargaming have established what appears to be a direct business relationship. Shock Force 2 is now available for purchase from a variety of digital stores across the net, including Steam and directly from Matrix's website. Other Combat Mission titles will follow, according to the press release. In addition to being available in new places, you can now expect Combat Mission titles to go on sale on a more regular basis, in line with Matrix Games titles. Battlefront has long resisted this sort of thing, preferring to sell exclusively from their own website, with price discounts few and far between. Matrix made the switch to Steam style sales several years ago and the decision seems to have paid off, with the prolific publisher dropping new titles and DLC's one after another. One can only hope this decision will lead to new cash flows for Battlefront, and more Combat Mission down the road.

I'll get this out of the way first thing: Yes, if you already purchased Shock Force 2 from the Battlefront website, you will get a Steam key for free. Now, on to one of my favorite gaming moments of the year: Downloading a Combat Mission title directly from Steam, then clicking play and watching the game fire up. No tracking down serial keys, no license activations or limits, just click play and go. Marvelous!

Shock Force originally released way back in 2007. After the critical acclaim of the first generation of Combat Mission titles, I and many others eagerly awaited this jump both to a completely different setting, and a new engine. If you were around then, you probably know how things turned out. The game was a mess on release, bugs abounded and a lot of momentum for the series was seemingly lost. Fortunately for everyone involved, Battlefront got to work and eventually hammered the game into a much better state. The next game in the series, Battle for Normandy, released in far better shape and was followed by several other games and modules over the past decade. Controversially, the past decade also saw four "engine upgrades" which improved the engine and made fairly significant changes to the visuals, performance, and more, for a nominal fee. I won't dive into the debate over these updates, but only point out that none of the updates applied to Shock Force. Being the oldest game on the engine, it was left behind for many years. In 2018, Shock Force 2 catapulted the game to the newest version of the engine, it also included touched up and tweaked versions of all the original scenarios, to account for the multitude of balance and mechanical changes in the intervening decade.

Although we covered Shock Force 2 back when it originally came out, I think the arrival of Combat Mission on Steam, after so many years of people yammering and arguing about it on forums, is worthy of taking the Strykers out for another spin around the battlefield. 

Like every Combat Mission title released after it, Shock Force attempts to model tactical combat down to the level of individual soldiers. The game can be played in two modes, either real-time with pause, or WEGO turns where orders are given and then the action plays out for one minute before you can take control again. Although I prefer turn-based for the WW2 titles, in Shock Force I've always been a fan of real time with liberal pausing. Given the more lethal nature of modern combat, a single errant order can get an entire squad wiped out in less than a minute, and when playing as the NATO forces you must almost always been extremely cautious about taking casualties. Unlike the WW2 games, the fighting here is often very asymmetrical. The NATO factions have all the nice weapons, vehicles, and well trained troops, but they are usually outnumbered and forced to take difficult objectives. The Syrian and other opposition forces range widely from units that represent ragtag militias, on up to mediocre regular army forces and the occasional elite unit. Given the wide variety of "red" forces available, there is also a huge amount of user made content out there depicting interesting red vs red scenarios and campaigns where the forces are more balanced in ability.

The stock scenarios and campaigns contained within the game depict a fictional NATO intervention in Syria to contain a civil war. As we all know, the civil war part was sadly destined to become a reality several years after the original release of Shock Force. Scenarios based on real events in Iraq and Afghanistan are not part of the game, but can be easily modeled using the units available. There's plenty of user made content depicting such actions if you are interested. 

Now, all of that aside, how does the game actually play? For veterans of the series who might have skipped Shock Force, you mostly know what you are getting into, with the primary differences from WW2 being that anti-tank guns are replaced with ATGM's and infantry combat is far more lethal with automatic weapons and urban combat galore. For newbies, what you are getting is something I still haven't seen bested by any other game. A detailed simulation that allows you to command realistic forces into modern combat scenarios just like those that have played out a thousand times in the War on Terror. Although infantry are controlled as squads and fire teams, each individual reacts independently of the others, spotting and engaging enemies, reloading, taking cover, or breaking. Vehicles are all controlled individually, with each crewman inside modeled in similar detail. Vehicles can be damaged in a variety of ways, losing their weapons, equipment, and mobility, being knocked out or simply exploded. 

Understanding exactly what kind of firepower you have and what you are up against is key to victory. A decades old BMP-2 with a 30mm cannon can wreak havoc on an unwary US mechanized platoon rolling down a road, while a single US rifle squad packing a Javelin can take out that BMP-2 from across the map without breaking a sweat. It's all a matter of maneuvering and positioning your forces correctly. Group selecting your best forces and sending them straight at the objective will never work in this game. Scouting, careful advances, focusing of firepower, and the occasional lightning fast assault are what will carry the day. 

While there have been plenty of gradual upgrades to the engine over the years, making the graphics and shaders easier on the eyes, as well as improving the AI and mechanics, some of the perpetual issues of the series remain. Ordering around a large force around can be fussy, with every single unit needing it's own specific waypoints for all but the most general of movements. LOS can be finicky as well, with units occasionally unable to see something because they are an inch out of position. It must also be mentioned that although the engine runs the best it ever has, it still has issues maintaining a smooth experience on larger maps, no matter how beefy your gaming PC might be. That said, if you're a fan of the series and missed Shock Force the first time around, Shock Force 2 is well worth your money. If you have the original you can upgrade to the new version for a moderate fee. 

There are three add-on modules available for the game, US Marines, British Forces, and NATO Forces. All three are quality products that I have played through over the years. The different sorts of equipment each nation has can really mix up your tactics. From the extremely heavily armed Marines to the light but mobile Dutch forces, there is a lot of fun to be had between all of the additional campaigns and scenarios. The add-on's are pricey at $35 a pop, but if you get them in the big bundle you can get a pretty good discount. 

I'm excited to see this new era for Battlefront, and I hope that it works out for them so we can see more Combat Mission in the future. Hopefully at some point they will be able to move to a completely new engine that leaves behind the lingering issues of the current one. Combat Mission still offers an experience that is unique and well worth a look from any wargamer.

Shock Force 2 - Now available on Steam!

- Joe Beard

Combat Mission Shock Force 2 by Battlefront  So I was given Combat Mission Shock Force 2 to review. I was a...

Combat Mission Shock Force 2 by Battlefront Combat Mission Shock Force 2 by Battlefront

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Combat Mission Shock Force 2


 So I was given Combat Mission Shock Force 2 to review. I was absolutely horrified. The last time I installed one of Battlefront's games my life changed. My ride to hell started out slow. First I bought one of their games, and then it came time to install it. Oh, I had read the different posts about Battlefront, but I figured how bad could it be. I mean if the game doesn't work I'll just get my money back, right? So it started. I couldn't get the serial to work. Then I opened the portal. You see, I just hadn't believed that any contact (be it phone or electronic) would place you in Battlefront's clutches. Much like the word Beetlejuice it opens the gates of hell. First my bank account was drained by those sly devils. It was kind of amazing because the card I used was not attached to it. Then I noticed their were a ton of flies in the house. Now, I was starting to get worried. Then I got the email from Battlefront about the serial. The moment I clicked on it to open it two draped figures appeared in my computer room. One announced himself as Mephistopheles, the other as Dante Alighieri. Okay now I started to panic. The flies were starting to get thicker. I cannot express in words the horrors I had to endure. I would need the skills of Lovecraft to even start to explain them to you. I can tell you that much like a country song, my dog died, and so did my pickup. I have never gotten the game to work, but after having a priest bless the CD case and wrapping it in garlic it is now buried safely in the backyard.

 So, now back to reality. I believe I have purchased at least eight different products from Battlefront in total. This does not count the different upgrades that I have also purchased. The work that goes into their games is pretty amazing and while it would be nice to get a bone from them now and again those coders have to eat too. I believe I had one problem with a serial number with an installed game, when their DRM was somewhat draconian. The problem was taken care of in one day by Elvis C., so I am at a loss over all of the hubbub at times. 

 So here we are with Combat mission Shock Force 2. I will admit that compared to the other titles I have purchased, the original Shock Force did not grab me and I did not play it much at all. Shock Force 2 is a different animal for me. Is it because of all of the upgrades to the engine in between, or is it just something battlefront did differently this time? I don't know. This version of the game is very engrossing to me. This is pretty amazing, because I am usually pretty blase about gaming after World War II. The visuals in all of the Combat Mission Game Engine 4 environments are pretty stunning.

 As far as game mechanics go I will go through the rundown, but if you are not new to wargaming, or haven't been living under a rock, it should be familiar. The game can either be played real-time or in WeGo 60 second segments. It is a tactical game that is played in the modern Middle East. Rather than rewriting it, I will list the games salient points from their website here:

  • Tactical warfare at battalion and below scale in a true 3D environment
  • Command individual vehicles, teams, and squads
  • Expansive simulation of "soft factors" such as Morale, Experience, and Leadership
  • Innovative systems portraying Fog of War, Spotting, Line of Sight, Command & Control, and Objectives
  • Unmatched realistic physics, ballistics, and battlefield effects
  • Fight in a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, all of which realistically impact fighting abilities
  • Unique hybrid system for RealTime or WeGo (turn based) play
  • Full featured Editor for maps, scenarios, and campaigns
  • Quick Battle system sets up deliberate or randomized battles based on player specifications
  • Single player and head to head play, including Play By Email (PBEM)
  • Supported for the long haul with patches, upgrades, and expansions

 There is a demo you can try, and I will have a link to it at the bottom. If you want, you can also buy the game on a DVD and purchase a Combat Mission Game Engine Manual. The game can be bought with these modules:

British Forces

 For me, one of the big hurdles to get over is that this is not Grandpa's WW2. The lethality of modern warfare is shown in all of its potency. You cannot play the game as you would one of the World war II Combat Missions. Oh you could, but you will have smoking wrecks strewn about the battlefield in no time. These are some of the 'Special Features' Battlefront believes they have added to the game:

  • Detailed and realistic combat formation for the United States Army and Syrian Army
  • Two types of Syrian Unconventional Forces, Spies, IEDs, and VIEDs
  • One large campaign, a small training campaign, 20 standalone scenarios, and numerous Quick Battle maps.
  • On map mortars, mortar vehicles, drones, anti-aircraft fire, and other modern warfare features
  • Expanded arid combat environment, now including waterways, bridges, and other new terrain
  • Intricately detailed and highly realistic combat equipment for the United States Army and Syrian Army, including 41 vehicles and 35 assorted small arms and crew weapons.

  For the base game this is the TO&E:

  • Stryker Infantry Battalion
  • Stryker Infantry Battalion (MOUT)
  • Stryker Cavalry Troop
  • Stryker Antitank Company
  • Stryker Engineer Company
  • Supply Platoon
  • Combined Arms Battalion
  • Combined Arms Battalion (MOUT)
  • Armored Cavalry Troop
  • Engineer Company
  • Supply Platoon
Syrian Army
  • Republican Guard Mech Infantry Battalion (BMP)
  • Republican Guard Tank Company
  • Republican Guard Recon Company
  • Tank Company
  • Reserve Tank Company
  • Static Tank Battery
  • Special Forces Company
  • Special Forces Engineer Platoon
  • Special Forces Antitank Platoon
  • Mech Infantry Battalion (BMP)
  • Mech Infantry Battalion (BTR)
  • Reserve Mech Infantry Battalion (BMP)
  • Reserve Mech Infantry Battalion (BTR)
  • Reserve Motorized Infantry Battalion
  • Reserve Infantry Battalion
  • Militia Battalion
  • Recon Company
  • Reserve Recon Company
  • Self-Propelled ATGM Platoon
  • Reserve Self-Propelled ATGM Platoon
  • Antitank Platoon
Syrian Unconventional Forces
  • Fighter Command
  • Fighter Groups
  • Combatant Command
  • Combatant Groups
  • Spy Groups
  • VBIED Group
  • Wire IED Group
  • Radio IED Group
  • Cell IED Group
  • Technical Group
  • Transport Group                

  • Vehicles, Weapons, and Support

    US Army
    • M1A1HC Abrams (Heavy Common)
    • M1A1HC SA Abrams (Situational Awareness)
    • M1A2 Abrams
    • M1A2 SEP Abrams (Systems Enhancement Package)
    • M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
    • M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV)
    • M7A3 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle (B-FIST)
    • M1064 Mortar Carrier
    • M1126 Stryker ICV (M2 50 cal)
    • M1126 Stryker ICV (Mk 19)
    • M1127 Stryker RV (M2 50 cal)
    • M1127 Stryker RV (Mk 19)
    • M1128 Stryker MGS
    • M1129 Stryker MCV
    • M1130 Stryker CV
    • M1131 Stryker FSV
    • M1132 Stryker ESV
    • M1134 Stryker ATGMV
    • M1114 HMMWV
    • M1114 HMMWV (M240B)
    • M1114 HMMWV (M2 .50 cal)
    • M1114 HMMWV (Mk 19)
    • M1152 HMMWV Expanded Capacity
    • M707 Scout Humvee
    Syrian Army
    • T-72M1V TURMS-T
    • T-72M1V
    • T-72M1
    • T-72M
    • T-72M (early)
    • T-62MV
    • T-62M
    • T-62-1975
    • T-62-1972
    • T-55MV
    • T-55-1974
    • T-55-1970
    • T-54B
    • BMP-2
    • BMP-2K
    • BMP-1P
    • BMP-1PK
    • BMP-1
    • BMP-1K
    • BRDM-2
    • BRDM-2 (AT-4)
    • BRDM-2U
    • BTR-60PB
    • BTR-60PBK
    • UAZ-469B
    Syrian Unconventional Forces
    • Pickup (PK)
    • Pickup (DSHKM)
    • Pickup (SPG-9)
    • Taxi (IED)
    • Pickup (IED)

     So, you can see that you have a ton of military hardware to play with, and this is just a list of what comes with the base game. There are other tactical games out and about, but for me the different Combat Mission games is what I always come back to. I could go on and on about what comes with the game and the modules, but your best course of action is to head there and check it out yourself. Remember there is a demo (somewhat strange in this day and age, but welcome) for you newbies or old hands to get some hands on time with the game.

     This is the link to the demo:
     This is link to the games main page: