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SummaryA good hypothetical conflict wrapped around a classic engine.
The GoodThe setting is interesting in and of itself. Highly plausible, it allows for gamers to play with the high-tech military toys of today and the near future in a situation where tactical engagements are preferred over nuclear holocaust. With the Cold War over, there are very few threats to the military might of NATO on that level. SSI wisely chose China, a country with enough population, enough military military spending, enough know-how, and enough philosophical differences to be a viable opponent. After a dozen 'what if?' games centered around a Warsaw Pact invasion of Europe, it's fun to be able to engage the finest former Warsaw Pact hardware in the new, rarely used setting of Asia.
The Panzer General engine, refined through a number of (mostly good) games and then re-worked for Panzer General II, shines here. Helicopters and other close air support vehicles are treated like planes used to in the older games, while fighters and attack aircraft are called in via strikes (the amount of which is determined from the amount of air superiority your side has). The engine lends itself quite well to modern conflict (something that Star General made me worry about) and while the engine remains simplified compared to the more hardcore war games, it covers most aspects of modern warfare on a basic level.
The lack of complexity also means that one doesn't need to know ever detail of every vehicle in Jane's books in order to play. Anyone who knows that tanks are generally more armored than tracked APCs will be able to get into People's General with minimal learning.
The campaign game continues the enjoyable trend of keeping core units who gain experience and start becoming dear to the player on an emotional as well as a numerical level. The leader factor, emphasized in Panzer General II, continues here and adds a little more charm without throwing game balance off.
The scenario builder allows one to create their own situations. Although limited to areas from People's General (and a few from Panzer General II) because of the map graphic style, you can setup conflicts between a wide variety of adversaries, creating whatever kind of hypothetical mayhem you can imagine.
The BadThere is little to dislike about People's General.
Fans of real time strategy games may find the turn based conflict, no matter how user friendly, slow and boring.
On some video cards, the graphics and text appear corrupted, or fail to clear themselves, causing overlaying text to make the messages unreadable. Unfortunately, there never was a patch for all the potential problems. The glitches mostly occured on old S3 video chipsets, however, and won't affect most people.
If one wasn't a fan of the previous Panzer General games, this game won't convert you, as it follows suit and doesn't radically change the design.