You can get a strong sense of dÃ©jÃ vu while playing Squad Assault: Second Wave, the follow-up to 2003's Squad Assault: West Front. That's because Second Wave isn't so much a sequel as it is simply a repackaging of West Front, along with three new campaigns and assorted new missions. Thus, aside from the new content, virtually everything remains from the 2003 game, which itself was a fairly good tactical wargame set in World War II. While we still admire the unique gameplay mechanics of Squad Assault, it certainly feels as though the series, as well as the technology, is being pushed a game too far with Second Wave.
Aside from three new campaigns, Second Wave basically repackages the previous game in the series.
When you get down to it, Squad Assault is basically a 3D version of the semipopular Close Combat games that Microsoft published a decade ago. This is no surprise, since Squad Assault was originally developed by a veteran of the Close Combat development team. What makes Squad Assault unique compared to other wargames and real-time strategy games is that it models realistic psychological behaviors for each of the soldiers in battle, meaning that they behave like real human beings rather than soulless automatons who will do anything they're told without hesitation. In other words, watch a squad get torn apart by machine-gun fire, and the survivors will cower, panic, or even break and run instead of follow your orders to fight to the death (though some might snap and go berserk as well). Because of this, you have to use proven tactics to even have a chance of success; otherwise, if you waste your men in battle, they'll get wise and won't listen to your suicidal orders anymore.
The good news is that the strong gameplay mechanics of the Squad Assault system remain intact from West Front. Instead of micromanaging your men, all you have to do is use the simple interface to issue general commands, and they'll take it from there. Tell them to move cautiously up a road, and they'll crawl and move from cover to cover. Order them to assault a building, and they'll rush up and toss in grenades before storming in. It's the next-best thing to being an actual company commander in combat, especially since you can easily gauge the success (or failure) of your decisions. Fail to pop smoke grenades to cover a field of fire, and you'll see (and hear) your men get mowed down by enemy fire. Drop artillery or mortar fire on a fortified house, and you'll see it smashed into rubble.
Since it incorporates all the content of West Front, Second Wave is predominantly set in France, and you can control the Allied or the Axis forces in more than 50 battles--the majority of which, again, are recycled from the previous game in the series. In fact, the three new campaigns simply feel tacked on, especially after you consider that the strategic map for the Market Garden campaign still shows France, when it should show Holland. Another campaign, based on the exploits of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division, seems designed to cash in on the popularity of Band of Brothers, while the third campaign is set from the perspective of the Germans trying to contain the Normandy landings. Many of the new maps look similar to the older maps; as many of the existing terrain elements are recycled. Therefore, you get more of the infamous Norman hedgerow country to battle through, as well as a slew of French towns and villages in which to go from house to house.