I'll admit it I'm a big Real Time Strategy fan so was very happy when Wolf gave me a huge pile of RTS games for review (that many that some had to be passed to Barnes), the first game I tried was Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon.The game is a standalone expansion for last years Blitzkreig, unfotunately i haven't played the original so I will be unable to compare the two.
The game puts you in command of an army during WWII, you will have a wide range of weaponry at your disposal, in the general sub-groups of, foot troops, tanks, artillery and planes. Each unit type has its own strengths and weaknesses and so it is critical to use your units together for maximum effect. The first thing I noticed with the game was the difficulty, this difficulty arises from the games core game style, insted of your normal tank rushes and 'shoot first think later' combat, you must think every move well in advance. In fact I found I spent the majority of my time positioning my men and ensuring that the ranges of all of my firepower was adequate to defend against an assualt. The game plays more like a puzzle game most of the time and the pace is often very slow. The game can be frustrating when you have set your men going against the enemy only to find that there is a minor flaw in your strategy and you have to start all over again. I would advise frequent saving.
The games AI varies dramatically, it's possible to have a sniper firing on a whole squad of infantry and massacre all of them, at no time will they try to search for the sniper or try to return fire. This makes the sniper unit essential in the game as you can butcher whole sections of an army with a single sniper, I did find this less than satisfying though as it felt more like I was exploiting the game than using a valid technique. Other tactics employed by your opponents are more effective, though it seems that most of the effort has gone in to the initial placement of the enemy units to maximise their defensive capabilities, rather than program the units to place themselves. Also you will spend most of your time attacking enemies positions rather than them bringing the fight to you or even fighting in no-mans land. This can get a touch repetitive but that is masked by the varied placement of troops and the strategies that you will need to employ to overcome your enemies. Fortunately, enemies don't act in the same manner every single time, so there can be a touch of randomness to the battles.
The game does not allow for any kind of resource gathering or management so generally the units you are given at the start of the map are all that you will have (unless there are mission specific re-inforcements). The only kind of resource use is ammunition and the resources used for building certain small structures such as bridges (which can only be used on a small number of maps in certain places). I would have liked to have seen the game allow for production and recruitment of vehicles and soldiers, but the developers have decided not to take that approach. This does give the game a more realistic feel, and a large part of the games attraction is the attention to detail and realism.
One thing that stands out with this game from other WWII games is that you aren't playing as the allied forces, in fact you aren't following the axis forces in there entirety, merely a single person. Fortunately, that person is Rommel, one of the greatest Military tacticians of the 20th Century. The game sees you through the majority of Rommels' career during WWII, from the initial occupation of European countries, on to Africa and then a return to France post D-Day. This is a nice little difference from other games and really does help give the game some additional character.
Graphically the game doesn't try to overwhelm, instead it does a very good job of presenting a 2D graphics engine. Backgrounds are highly detailed, animations have received a lot of attention and the vast majority of the scenery (including buildings) is destructible. Real Time Strategy games don't always need the high quality graphics normally seen in First Person Shooters, Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon is a good example of a game that doesn't need the high polygon count and ridiculous frame rate. It does what it needs to and then a little extra for good measure. The game sounds are quite nice, with a massive amount of spoken german dailogue for your various units. What's quite nice is when you give a unit a command he will reply in German, so if he can't reach the target location you will not be told in English, don't worry though you should pick up the relevant phrases very quickly.
One of the biggest problems with the game is the awkward control scheme. Most units can be given a whole range of commands, unfortunately these are all squeezed together in the bottom left hand side of the screen, and it is very difficult to issue a command in the heat of battle. There are a range of key shortcuts but the system for these isn't intuitive and so you will always forget the key you need.
Overall the game is quite good, it's definitely a challenge, and is true to the realism of WWII. Unfortunatley this means it is not everyones cup of tea as it requires a lot of patience to complete a level. I see myself as a veteran of RTS games and can normally stomp through the first few levels of most games, but not with Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon, on a normal difficulty setting I had to work really hard to complete even the first few levels. With the exception of the control scheme, nothing really lets the game down, though its probably a game best left for WWII and RTS enthusiasts.