Debating what may have happened if the chips had fallen a bit differently is one of humanity’s curious fancies. The eternal question “what if” flies in and out and around our heads on a nearly daily basis. Alternative theories of this nature are often seen in many aspects of popular culture, such as the Harry Turtledove novels, but one particular new arrival to this genre is Turning Point: Fall of Liberty by Codemasters. It is this particular historical curiosity that is the topic of discussion for today.
The game starts out with a simple premise: as all students of history (and World War 2 in particular) know, Winston Churchill was often the driving force behind England’s stubborn resistance to the Germans during the early dark days of the war and the London Blitz. What may not be known, however, is that early in his career Churchill once visited New York and while there was struck by a taxi cab. Obviously this did not kill him, but it did leave him to rely on the use of a cane for the rest of his life. Codemasters takes that divergent point, the time when Churchill was struck by the cab, and enquirers of us… what if rather than simply being injured, the Bulldog had been killed?
It’s an interesting historical query that manifests itself primarily in terms of large explosions, weapons fire, and people either falling from very great heights or being shot. Turning Point places the player in the sturdy boots of one Dan Carson, a New York construction worker, who rather unfortunately finds himself up a very tall building just as huge airships and numerous flights of jet fighters appear and start trashing the city. Dan must escape the collapsing superstructure and out into the streets of New York to push back the newly arrived Nazi menace.
Primarily the game is played through the first person view, with the exception of the grappling combat segment. When Dan nears an enemy a button can be pressed that starts a sequence of the enemy soldier and Dan struggling with each other, during which a representation of the up and down D-Pad arrows will appear. It’s like you’re placed into those old movies about Imperial Rome: press the up arrow and you will kill the enemy soldier with your bare hands. Press the down button and you can use the hapless soldier as a human shield against his compatriots who seem all too eager to gun the poor guy down.
It’s not a bad system, especially since Codemasters made it so that the killing method is tied in with the environment. For example, in the early part of the game Dan can grab a paratrooper and do him in by flinging him off the top of the building. It’s nice that Codemasters took pains to tune the gameplay to the surroundings, but it is odd that when using a soldier as a human shield the camera seems to shift from side to side as Dan walks. Perhaps this was an attempt to show you what is really like to walk while using someone as a bullet barrier, but having the camera tilted sideways makes it difficult to aim and fire when you take a hostage.
Often times though you’ll need the protection, as this game is no pushover. You’re fighting in a situation where you are often overmatched and outnumbered. This isn’t Call of Duty where you have trained soldiers and proper equipment at your side; the only backup is isolated groups of National Guardsmen against fully trained and equipped German soldiers.
The AI in the game isn’t first class but it’s often enough to keep you on your toes. Enemies don’t just stand in the corridor and blaze away at you until you shoot them like the German soldiers in the long past days of Wolfenstein 3D. They will duck behind cover, lean out and blindly fire, or rush you with superior numbers. They also display fairly advanced flanking tactics, so you’ll need to constantly watch your back.
The graphics aren’t exactly cutting edge, with most of the enemy soldiers and civilians being cookie cutter types who are often clad in gas masks to conceal their faces. Enemies are so nondescript that when you do manage to get a close look you may believe in the Nazi cloning experiments you saw in Bloodrayne, as every Hans, Deiter, and Herman looks the same. Still, the game does have some nice graphical tricks, particularly when the German Vampire sniper rifle is used. Apart from just the normal scope, the weapon has an infrared mode that allows you to detect other snipers: the red beams tracing their way back and forth look very cool.
The controls can be somewhat finicky, especially when you’re in the middle of a firefight. You will soon learn that the grenade toss can be a very dangerous thing if you’re not used to it. There’s the option of “cooking” the grenade, meaning the longer you hold it the more chance it’ll explode when you let go. Of course, hold on too long and it’s not just a missing hand that you’ll be worried about. The timing isn’t perfect, but if the player has enough FPS experience it’s all right.
Turning Point: Fall of Liberty’s strong point is the storyline and everything else in the game that lets you play through it is functional enough to warrant a try. Just don’t expect another Call of Duty and you can enjoy this game.