It's always fun when games offer an alternate take on history - even more so when it's a history that's so relevant, and even more so when it's free. Over the last few weeks, free-to-play tank shooter World of Tanks on console has expanded its offering beyond its normal competitive multiplayer rumbles, with a number of short, story driven (and co-op compatible) campaigns known as War Stories being released, completely free of charge. Letting you take on computer controlled enemies rather than facing off against other players, Operation Sealion is the third of four War Stories that have so far been announced, dealing with perhaps the most intriguing "what if" scenario so far - what if Hitler had actually managed to invade the UK?
Planned for September of 1940, Operation Sealion was to be the culmination of Hitler's Blitzkrieg. Having bombed London (and much of the rest of the UK) into oblivion, and with both the US and the USSR staying out of things, Hitler's initial plan was to land a fleet in the UK, in a German version of D-Day, with the intent of taking over the UK by the end of 1940. While some were sceptical about whether this would actually be possible, it was a threat that many in the country nevertheless took extremely seriously, with concern leading to the creation of the Home Guard - or Dad's Army - a group of men who were ordinarily ineligible for military service, who were trained to both keep a close watch for any sign of invasion, and sabotage the Germans if it ever did occur. In reality, having decided that the strength of the Royal Navy probably meant most of his troops would end up in Davy Jones' Locker, the invasion never happened - but this free mini-campaign takes a tank-focussed look at what might have took place if it did.
What you get are three missions, each set on an all new map, rather than a repurposed multiplayer stage, and a story that tells the tale of one tank commander, as his plucky platoon try to give Hitler one in the eye. With the battle commencing in London outside the houses of Parliament, before pushing the Germans back to the coast, and eventually, back into the seas, each mission takes around ten to fifteen minutes to play through - although there's also plenty of replay value here, with an additional challenge mode unlocking once you've completed each mission for the first time.
Taking control of a Cromwell tank (which the game gives you for War Stories mode for free), the first mission simply asks you to hold the line, as you defend Parliament - and London - from the onslaught of the Wehrmacht, with only a few computer controlled buddies to give you a helping hand. Having successfully defended London, you'll set out on a mission to re-capture an RAF airfield (accompanied by the weird sight of captured Hurricanes painted with iron crosses), before a final showdown on the beach, as the remaining German tanks attempt to stage a final fight on the shore.
While the missions may be a bit short, and the campaign in itself doesn't delve into as much detail, or as many cool "what if" scenarios as we'd like, this is nevertheless another War Story that's well worth playing. With Wargaming clearly testing the waters to see how popular this kind of co-op, story driven gameplay is, it's well worth giving it a download and having a play - especially as once you've finished the campaign with the free tank, you can replay it as one of your own, and start earning experience to put towards upgrades and brand new tanks. With the whole thing being playable in co-op with another player, you can even bring a friend along for the ride (although we wish it supported a full platoon).
So far, the War Stories have been a great teaser of how good a proper co-op campaign could be in World of Tanks. With one final War Story due in October - Kennedy's War, which offers a take on the Cuban Missile Crisis - let's hope there's plenty more to come.
The Operation Sealion War Story is out now for free on PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.