If nothing else, Combat Mission Shock Force 2’s move to Steam will make the game easier to patch

So, word on the street is that Combat Mission Shock Force 2 (CMSF2) has arrived on Steam. I’m as surprised as everyone else is at this as Battlefront always seemed to be a holdout against ‘corporates’, insisting on using their own anti-piracy methods and requiring players to jump through hoops to update.

They actually lost me as a customer for a while after Combat Mission: Afrika Korps where the game CD had such a weird copy protection system that the only way I was able to get it to run was to download a cracked version!

They drew me back in with Combat Mission Shock Force, and then again when Shock Force 2 arrived on the scene. However, when the last update for SF2 came out it took me back to the old days as the update installed to a sub-directory first and then kept looping, creating sub-directory after sub-directory. Eventually, after spending some time on the forums, I got the update to work only to find all the unit names were screwed up!

The only reason I’m nursing my grudges against Battlefront is that, to me, the move to Steam (and to Slitherine) seems to be a really great idea that I wish they’d done sooner. The steam update system works brilliantly without any user intervention and I’ve never had a problem with any of the games I’ve bought there. Current owners of Shock Force 2 will be issued with Steam keys and I really can’t see a good reason why they won’t move across. I know there are some folk who detest Steam, but I’m OK with using it if it gives me an easier life.

For anyone who doesn’t know, CMSF2 is a tactical armoured game representing a hypothetical war between Syria and the USA, UK and assorted NATO powers, set in 2008. The game that’s going onto Steam is pretty much the same as the one I have previously reviewed and all the DLCs (Marines, British and NATO) will be available too. There have been a couple of updates since the review, but the most significant change that I’ve noticed is that infantry behaviour when under fire has been significantly improved. In the review I mentioned a situation where crack troops entered a building, took fire from outside and then promptly ran out of the building in a panic and into the gun fire. Troops in a cover position now hunker down when they are shot at and infantry battles feel much more realistic. I’ve always found small scale infantry-based battles to be my favourite CMSF2 experiences – modern tank combat is very much one shot, one kill.

Battlefront have updated (from SF1 to SF2 standards) all of the battle scenarios that are included with the game (there are more than 80 of them if you have all three DLCs) and have updated the base campaign and the campaigns for the Marines and NATO DLCs. For some reason the British campaign is still awaiting an upgrade – it’s playable but doesn’t make use of any of the new SF2 features.

Although the game itself is fine, the review copy I have seems to have a bit of a problem when exiting – it seems to be taking thirty seconds to a minute to do the Steam processing on exit. Hopefully that’ll be sorted out soon, if it hasn’t already.

The big question is whether Steam will open up a new market for CMSF2. You could argue that any potential buyers would already be aware of CMSF2 and will probably have already purchased it. However, the barriers to purchasing a game on Steam are very much lower than hunting down the game on Battlefront’s website. If you’ve already got a steam account a game purchase just involves pressing a button. If you play the game and find you’ve made a terrible mistake in buying it, then a refund can be obtained pretty much instantly (I know as I’ve bought some real turkeys in the past!) In addition Steam’s (and Slitherine’s) marketing will help get the game in front of potential players much more effectively than Battlefront’s do-it-yourself approach. Browsing through the discussions on the CMSF2 Steam page I spotted a comment from a Shock Force 1 player who was unaware that a new version of the game existed – this just wouldn’t happen if the games had been on Steam from the start.

The only real competition CMSF2 will have on Steam is from the Graviteam games (Mius front, Tank Warfare, etc). Most of these are WW2 based, but there are a few ‘modern’ DLCs. The Graviteam games look great and have the major bonus of having an operational layer, but I find myself playing CMSF2 more often. Although the Graviteam campaigns are fun, they aren’t great ‘battle generators’ and I usually find that a human created CMSF2 scenario is much more gripping than the battles I’ve experienced in Mius Front. CMSF2 also has a really easy to use control scheme – the less said about the user interface in the Graviteam games the better! However, I suspect that, like me, most players interested in tactical armoured warfare will buy both.

It’s not clear whether CMSF2 will have Steam Workshop support. It really should as it would be nice to be able to easily access user created scenarios and mods. It works well for Command: Modern Operations so hopefully Slitherine will persuade Battlefront to take the plunge. Another unknown is whether Battlefront will move their other games across to Steam. I’ve not picked up any of the second-generation WW2 titles, but if they came up in the Steam Christmas sale…

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 was released on Steam on August 31st, 2020. At the time of writing, it’s currently enjoying a 30% Steam launch discount until September 7th.


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