Operation Overlord was not single front battle. Bombing raids, paratroop drops and beach landings all combined to create a secure allied bridge-head in Europe. Fittingly, D-day is composed of the self-same elements, with some tank-on-tank action thrown in to spice things up.
As a collection of sub-games working through a tactical map, D-day has no real heart. For impact it relies solely on the power of four games. If these games had been brilliant D-day would have been too. But sadly they are not and the result is a stop/start campaign that is patchy in the extreme. The mix of 2D arcade games and 3D simulation fail to meet their objectives so D-day barely makes it to the beaches.
The 2D arcade action sequences deal with the grunts and the paras. The infantry have to fight their way out of each landing zone and then storm across country doing all kinds of unpleasant things to tanks. The paras do not even get to fire a shot, content to just float down over a moonlit France looking for the signal fires those nice resistance people have started.
The infantry battles are fought on a man-by-man basis. A scrolling isometric map is displayed and by clicking commands you give the orders to individual soldiers. The four different troop types (medic, rifleman, grenadier and mortar) have to be used in concert to defeat the enemy. It is fun but lacks any tactical depth.
Once you have acquired an idea of each weapon's range, the only trick is moving your boys around without being shot. A weird mouse driver and some particularly dim troops do their best to make life tough, but the basics are easily mastered.
What is it good for?
The paratrooper drop suffers a similar simplistic fate. The split screen display focuses on a single trooper (at the top) and his relative position on the ground (at the bottom). Using glide left, glide right, float and plummet commands, you have to nudge him against prevailing winds on to a pre-prepared landing sight. If they miss they die at the hands of the enemy, while paratroopers whose 'chutes touch suffer a canopy collapse and fall from the sky.
The trick is getting a large number of floating folk to stay as far from each other as possible, until the moment they hit the same small patch of ground. Crosswinds and the introduction of huge numbers of paras inject an enjoyable chaos to proceedings, but they do not stop it feeling like a Lunar Lander clone where the engines have malfunctioned.
Of the two 3D modules, Tanks and Bombers, it is the AFVs that are the best. Once the beachheads have been established it is the armour that has to smash a hole in the German lines. Using viewpoints for every crew member, and a few outside perspectives, you have to guide squads of Sherman M4s so that they can beat up on Rommel's boys.
Controlling a number of tanks and switching between the required views, means life is hectic, but challenging. The 3D is not the best ever seen in Amigaland but it works; allowing you to conduct all-manner of armoured tomfoolery. Even the long waits between screens cannot dispel the tension and claustrophobia felt during the heat of battle.
Bombing is another tale entirely. Trailing along behind your B-17, the mission is to knockout enemy installations and forces. Here the sluggish 3D kills play stone dead. Your bomber meander around the sky hunting down the large green arrows that mark the targets. You just fly to them, open the bomb bay doors, miss hopelessly, circle around and repeat the process.
It may seem unfair to criticise a bomber simulation for being slow - the B-17 was not designed to be agile - but there is no spectacle to pull you in. There is nothing to encourage you to stick with the program long enough to learn its secrets.
Compilations of sub games need to be woven tightly together if they are to work well. D-Day tries its best. As the Operation Overlord campaign proceeds you watch the big picture unfold on the main game map.
From here you join specific battles, hoping to push the odds in your favour. Success in one area - say a paratrooper drop - allows you to force the invasion corridor a little wider, while failure can threaten the entire operation.
Say it again
Multiple sub-games should ensure a varied pace and challenge, but D-Day never attains the necessary balance. The 2D arcade sequences are too easily mastered and the 3D bombing runs, which are vital to the mission's success, are too dull to suffer for long. Which leaves the tanks as the only section you actually want to play.
Futura have worked D-Day hard. Excellent animation, digitised 'stills' and neat menus mean that it initially appears to be a polished package. It looks good and the first few forays into each of the four areas are fun. These games are all too small to meet the game's grand ambitions, though.
D-Day tries to be a multi-faceted operation that calls on a range of gaming skills, when in reality it is a collection of four combat games that range from mildly diverting to tediously dull.