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Classified: France ‘44 review – XCOM meets Inglorious Bastards

Without the whole thing about taking scalps
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Inspired by the likes of XCOM and Commandos, Classified: France ‘44 is a turn-based tactics game that sees you infiltrate an occupied France ahead of D-Day to assist the Résistance and prepare the area as best as you can for Operation Overlord. Though by no means a new concept in any way, this title developed by Absolutely Games and published by Team17 executes what it wants to do well without reinventing the wheel.

You put together a team consisting of Allied troopers and French resistance fighters, who have their own personalities and classes, equip them with what weapons you have available, and get to work sabotaging the German war machine. Though there is a limited number of classes and weapons, as dictated by the boundaries of the historical setting, each individual has a unique passive skill, such as Johnson’s passive Morale regeneration for nearby allies, and the arms you can obtain have enough of a difference to them when it comes to important stats like range and damage to make tinkering with your loadouts a worthwhile endeavor.

Classified: France '44 artwork showing soldiers and resistance members.

Join forces with the Résistance to prepare Operation Overlord.

Each of France’s regions is associated with special bonuses, so you can choose to focus your efforts strategically to unlock specific benefits first and boost your efforts going forward. Another choice has to be made in regards to the Résistance. It’s not a unified movement, but a shaky alliance of men and women with very different views and motivations: Gaullists wary about the Allies, Radicals who’d like nothing more than a communist revolution, and Criminals in it for the potential gains. You’ve got to earn the trust of these individual groups and gain access to their equipment as you increase that relationship.

As you complete missions, your characters earn XP and gear, but also take wounds and build up fatigue. It’s important to rotate and give people time to rest. You can also listen to their stories at the campfire, which are neat little interactions exploring their background and motivations – and they provide some stress relief.

Combat comes with all the trappings of the genre: a cover system, action points, skills, and hit chances that leave you chewing on your fingernails. Characters have both HP and morale that you need to keep an eye on. Morale hits reduce your action points and characters skip turns entirely if the bar is completely deleted. Morale losses are inflicted even when bullets miss a target, which helps mitigate the frustration that naturally comes with this type of game – even a miss is an opportunity to temporarily get rid of an enemy, making every shot count. Of course, the enemy benefits from this system as well. Speaking of your opposition, enemy types are never too exotic – just like the rest of the game, they are very much grounded in reality.

Classified: France '44 screenshot of a stealth section.

Stealth missions have you sneaking around for as long as you can.

Classified: France ‘44 features three different mission types: Assault, Ambush, and Stealth. Assault is the most straightforward of the three, as you’ll begin the mission in combat with the enemy and will have to pave the way towards the objective with lead. Stealth missions, on the other hand, have you sneak around and take enemies down silently with melee attacks for as long as you can (and want). Ambush missions are a hybrid between the two. They start with your squad sneaking around and being able to use melee takedowns – but only until the Ambush meter is filled out. Once you’ve racked up a couple of melee kills and filled this gauge, you’ll gain an extra surprise turn to open fire on the remaining enemies.

The game’s stealth system is solid, if a little basic: You’ll see the field of vision enemies have so you can top-toe around it and also get little indicators of how they will move in the next turn so that you can plan your own movements. Enemies will also investigate noises, so you can lure them towards their doom.

Many missions have side objectives, which require you to use certain weapons to kill enemies or complete specific tasks without breaking stealth, among other goals – this adds some spice and challenge to your expeditions. Fulfilling these side missions grants you additional resources and you’re incentivized to complete as many of these as you can. At the end of each mission, you’re asked if you’re happy with your results or if you’d like to try again.

Classified: France '44 screenshot showing a mission end screen.

Completing all mission objectives ensures that you receive the maximum number of rewards.

Maps are pretty variable with ruins, warehouses, factories, rocket launch sites, and many other places serving as battlefields. All in all, the number of mission types, characters, and levels isn’t going to keep you entertained forever, but is enough to keep a playthrough fresh. Replayability is further enhanced by a level editor included in the game that allows users to create and share their own scenarios. Until that library of user-generated content is filled, you can play the extra scenarios the developers themselves have put into the game.

Classified: France ‘44 also feels pretty authentic – as mentioned a bit earlier, it represents many viewpoints and motivations within its characters and the writing reflects that. The soldiers’ humor bites everyone equally – be it the Americans, the British, the French, or the Germans. Speaking of the latter, there is an option to have them use their own language for combat chatter to enhance the immersion, which is nice.

Classified: France '44 screenshot showing soldiers sitting around a campfire.

Interactions between the characters dive into their backstories and beliefs.

The Résistance is an integral part of modern France’s identity as a nation, so it’s a difficult topic to tackle without stepping on toes – estimates of how important and effective it was vary widely, but the developers are obviously portraying it as a critical part of Operation Overlord, since they want players to feel like they’re contributing something crucial to the war effort. They still manage to do this without too much pathos, keeping the experience grounded and the tone somber – it’s war, after all.

Visually, this grounded perspective is supported by many of the cutscenes being timelapses of simple drawings a soldier might make while on campaign – hand-drawn sketches of nature or portraits of comrades. These accompany the narrative and reinforce the feeling that you and your squad are far from home, vastly outnumbered, and very much outgunned. It creates an immersive atmosphere.

Otherwise, the game's graphics are solid and functional, but nothing to write home about. Sometimes the game jumps into a first-person perspective when you tell one of your troopers to man and fire a machine gun, showing a little action scene before putting you back into a bird’s eye view. It’s a cute idea to inject something more dynamic into the flow of the game.

Classified: France '44 screenshot showing a machine gun fired from a first-person perspective.

Doesn't look as good as Battlefield, but it's a nice change of pace.

Classified: France ‘44 offers a strong package for turn-based tactics enthusiasts, delivering fun, thrilling battles and some strategic freedom inside a grounded, authentic World War 2 narrative.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PC.

Classified: France ‘44 will be released on March 5, 2024, for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S.