I play a lot of World War II games, with the most recent one being Company of Heroes 3. So, I was intrigued when looking at the graphics and screenshots for Beach Invasion 1944, which look very much like real footage from the D-Day invasion, or at least scenes from the Saving Private Ryan movie. That is because unlike most World War II video games that cover wide swaths of battles from different theaters, Beach Invasion 1944 sets players on one of the invasion beaches the Allies targeted on D-Day as the first step to breaching the Atlantic Wall and beginning the conquest of occupied Europe. But instead of being the allied invaders, players in Beach Invasion 1944 are tasked to defend the beaches from waves of allied troops.
I have to admit that at first, I was a little bit taken aback at playing the German side of that battle. It felt a little bit odd not to be playing as the Allies in a World War II video game. But it was interesting seeing that historic beach invasion from the other side. One probably thinks that the Germans had it easy inside their defenses, calmly shooting allied troops down on the beach. And to be sure, they did have a lot of advantages. But seeing a huge invasion force sailing in supported by aircraft, naval ships, tanks and waves of troops while alarm sirens blare in the background is a little bit terrifying. And the Germans ultimately lost that battle, so it was a bit more evenly matched than one might initially think.
As I mentioned before, the graphics for Beach Invasion 1944 are impressive, and what first drew me to the title in the first place. Granted, you are only looking out over a small stretch of beach for the entire game, but what they have rendered out there looks pretty realistic. When the allied soldiers, vehicles and other equipment start rolling up the beach, it looks very much like it probably did to German defenders trying to hold them back.
Of course, Beach Invasion 1944 is a game, so certain elements of realism have been truncated for the sake of gameplay. At first, players only have access to two old MG-08 machine guns to defend the beach. The MG-08s were World War I guns which the Germans still used in World War II to some extent, but mostly only in fixed fortifications, like the Atlantic Wall defenses. It’s a relatively slow firing machine gun, and prone to overheating. At first, I just held down the trigger because I was pretty scared, but then my guns would overheat and take forever to cool down, so I learned to fire in short and controlled bursts for maximum effectiveness.
Your two starting guns are positioned at opposite sides of the beach and players are free to swap between them by either rolling the mouse wheel or selecting the number from one to nine that corresponds to the gun position they want to jump over to. You can pretty much see the entire beach from every position, so if you have the left side pretty well cleaned up, but see lots of troops coming up the other side, you will need to shift positions and start shooting from over on the right. There are AI German solders with you who will occasionally shoot as well, and they do help out some, but players will have to rack up most of the kills themselves.
Each level or wave has a certain number of troops that need to be eliminated in order to pass it. Early waves might only have 30 opponents, while later ones can have hundreds. Later waves also have different effects, like stormy weather or nighttime operations, which brings new challenges for defenders. However, the second you are able to eliminate the required number of enemy troops in a level, the wave ends and the game pauses and resets. You can use the downtime to unlock more weapons and repair damaged ones, which can be knocked out of action by allied troops until fixed back up between levels.
After each wave, players are awarded up to 50 points to spend on improving defenses. One of the first things you will want to do is unlock more weapons and weapon positions, which costs 25 points each, so you can unlock at most two after each wave if you do nothing else. You can also spend points to add new obstacles to the beach like anti-personnel or anti-tank mines, or to purchase artillery strikes which can be used to clear the beach if you start to get overwhelmed. But unlocking each of the nine weapon positions quickly is probably going to be your primary goal. Not only does that give you more offensive options, but your fellow AI soldiers will use unlocked weapons when you are not directly controlling them. They are not very good at shooting for you, but better than nothing.
Other weapons include Flak 88 cannons, which can be used to shoot down airplanes or to destroy tanks and other armored vehicles lumbering across the beaches. If you have good timing, you can site the door of a landing craft and then let an 88-mm shell stream right in as soon as the door drops, which eliminates most vehicles. There are also PanzerTurm turrets, which are basically the tops of tanks which have been buried in the beach. They are less powerful than Flak 88s, but still pack a punch and fire much faster. And there are two MG-42 machine gun nests to unlock, which are the ultimate machine guns from World War II. You still need to control your fire with them because they burn through ammo in a blink and have a long reload time, but can be used to eliminate swaths of infantry and lightly armored vehicles as well. They were the weapons I used more than any of the others once unlocked.
There are also some gameplay elements added that while not realistic, help to make things a little more fun. The biggest one is the ability to shoot supply crates parachuting from the sky to give your guns special abilities like incendiary, poison gas or armor-piercing rounds, or to repair damaged guns. You can also shoot flammable barrels on the beach to get a big blast and clear out the surrounding area.
There are two modes of play in Beach Invasion 1944. The first is a progressively more difficult game where waves of allied troops start off small and eventually get more numerous and more powerful, with better equipment and support vehicles. They will target the nine different gun positions on the beach and damage them, trying to knock them out. If all the gun positions are knocked out and there are still troops left in the current wave, then the Allies win and the player loses, which will happen eventually since there are endless waves. The second gameplay mode is a sandbox one where you can set how many troops you will fight. The sandbox mode is, unlike the main game mode, ultimately winnable.
After my initial panic, I learned how to use each of the weapons to great effect. Being a gamer, having the situational awareness to watch the entire beach, picking the right weapon for the threat at hand and quickly zeroing in on targets was almost second nature for me. As such, I did not find it too challenging. In my first run I made it to wave 54, eliminating 3,102 enemy troops, destroying 187 vehicles, sinking 126 ships and shooting down 57 airplanes. I also fired over 13,000 rounds of ammo of various types and earned about half of the metals available in the title. My guess is that gamers who play a lot of shooters will do similarly well.
I had a surprisingly good time with Beach Invasion 1944. And for $10, it’s a pretty good value too. If you enjoy first-person shooters or World War II titles, then Beach Invasion 1944 has a lot to offer.
Platforms: PC, Steam