We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Classified France 44’s unique tactics make it more than just WW2 XCOM

PCGamesN's hands-on Classified: France ‘44 preview finds the upcoming World War II strategy game to be an engrossing and tactical challenge.

Artwork of some of the cast of Classified France '44

World War II is beyond well-worn territory for strategy games at this point, so much so that it can be hard to muster much excitement for the latest take. Enter Classified: France ‘44, which is trying to do things a little differently. When it comes to tactical turn-based games, the revamped XCOM series from Firaxis set a high standard, and Classified developer Absolutely Games has clearly taken some notes. Releasing later this year, this one seems poised to offer some eyebrow-raising permutations as we once again return to the European theater.

Our Classified: France ‘44 preview begins with protagonist Willard Cassady’s narration as he explains how he and two of his squadmates ended up fighting the German invasion of France. The presentation doesn’t exactly scream ‘big budget’, but these segments are nevertheless cleverly presented through a sketchbook. A two-mission tutorial explains all the major concepts, but the gist is clear from the jump: there are 65 days before the Battle of Normandy, so it’s up to you to tip the scales and even the odds in the Allies’ favor.

Cutscene featuring a sketchbook picture of some soliders in Classified: France '44

The game presents you with a map of France broken up into regions with three segments each. Undertaking a mission eats up days, making the deadline creep ever closer. In terms of mission types, you’ll regularly partake in action-packed assaults where the crew immediately finds itself in the thick of combat. Ambush missions require you to proceed stealthily to start before eventually going loud, while dedicated stealth missions let you quietly clear the map of any and all enemies, provided you can swing it.

After clearing your primary objective, which typically involves grabbing documents or destroying key enemy targets, you’ll perhaps have the option to take on a new team member. Each mission has primary and secondary objectives, with the latter serving up handy rewards if you go out of your way to complete them. You can expect to earn new gear for your troops over time, ranging from clothing that grants additional bonuses to improved weapons. Clearing missions also accrues favorability for one of three factions, plus the ability to upgrade regions, which can grant new abilities over time.

Screenshot of the war map in Classified France '44

There’s simply a lot to Classified: France ‘44’s structure that very much piqued my interest. However, the gameplay is naturally where the real meat lies. Squads are made up of any four troops you wish to send out, which can vary based on the needs of each mission. Maybe you won’t want to bring in a support troop to heal your team when you’ll be rescuing one in the field. Or perhaps an extra heavy on-hand will make your life easier. Characters each have a primary weapon, side weapon, grenades, and melee weapons for stealth at their disposal.

Overhead view of a battlefield in Classified France '44

Missions are divided into player and enemy turns. You can move each character within an appropriate radius or instruct them to use their weapons or skills. Cover is indispensable, and Classified: France ’44 clearly indicates when it will grant your crew additional protection from enemy attacks. Cover such as walls will shield a troop’s entire body, while shorter pieces of cover will offer less protection. Each shot you take has a certain percentage chance to hit foes, provided they’re within range and a character’s eye line. Both player and enemy units also have morale, which will drop even if the cover they’re hiding behind takes a hit. If morale decreases to 50% or below, the affected character will become suppressed and their effectiveness will plummet. If it drops to zero, that unit has to skip the next turn.

The game very much embodies the strengths of the genre, as you must consider positioning and flanking opportunities to outmaneuver the opposing forces. After you’ve cleared the enemy waves, reinforcements will pour in from designated locations, which always brings a challenge. Overwatch is an effective tool that sees any units moving within range during their turn getting blasted, but grenades are especially useful here. However, Classified: France ‘44 uses an AP system that makes consideration imperative. Moving and attacking uses up a certain amount of AP, but weapons also burn through ammo, requiring you to reload, which – you guessed it – also eats away at your limited action points. Essentially, you’ve got a fair bit to weigh up at any given time.

Third-person view of a shootout in Classified France '44

This isn’t XCOM, though. Characters can’t die, but they will retreat after being downed twice. If downed once, they’ll either recover on their own or a nearby teammate can revive them. Due to this, there are penalties that reduce health and morale if you take your troops on the next mission without giving them a decent chance to rest.

Classified: France ‘44 very much strikes me as an engrossing game, from its tactical considerations to the way it switches to close-ups of soldiers blasting their way through intense gunfights. Time will tell if it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its strategy game contemporaries, but things appear to be shaping up in a way that makes me want to jump straight back into the fray.