It had many stark differences from a typical Real-Time Strategy game.
- No base-building or unit-building, at all. You start with a certain amount of units on the screen, and what you have is simply what you have. Some missions would have scripted additional units appear as "reinforcements," but these were strictly scripted events. The player had no control over it happening.
- Every unit, from the infantryman to the artillery to the tank had a set amount of ammunition. When the unit ran out of ammunition, it would not be able to fire anymore unless supply trucks brought it new supplies. The player would order the trucks to "resupply," then watch as individual engineers jumped out of the truck, walked to the tank/artillery/infantryman, and only then would the unit get new ammunition.
- Supply trucks would run out of supplies too and need to be refilled at a depot. It is therefore fully possible to win against an enemy with superior weapons by attacking their supply lines: destroy the supply trucks and they would eventually run out of ammunition.
- Every unit had hit-points, but tanks could have their tracks knocked out by grenades. A tank attacked by infantrymen with grenades sits immobile until an engineering truck is brought up to fix it.
- There was extensive research in the unit specifications. Every tank and vehicle has a historical description, statistics for ammunition, armor thickness, top speed, etc. This is reflected in gameplay as well: if a tank had a gun that was too weak to penetrate an enemy tank's armor, the shells will simply bounce off the tank. These thicknesses were recorded for the front, back, and sides. This provoked historically realistic situations such as an American Sherman tank only being able to penetrate a German Tiger tank's armor if it maneuvered behind it.
It was released in German, Russian, and English languages and found a small but dedicated audience internationally. Two official spin-offs were created, as well as many fan-made mods and other spin-offs.
That's not to say it didn't have some issues.
- The pathfinding AI was atrocious. Vehicles could not easily find their way around obstacles, and you would get situations where a tank or truck would turn in place to move one pixel, then stop and turn in place again to move back. The only solution is you must be very mindful of your units so they do not get stuck in a "traffic jam" and become a sitting duck for the enemy.
- Many missions in the original game were random maps. These would vary in difficulty from ridiculously easy to ludicrously difficult, depending on what equipment you had and pure random luck. At the very least, a player would be completely accustomed to all of them by the end of the game and the difficulty would drop. Expansions eliminated random maps entirely and every mission used a set scripted map.
- The campaigns were inconsistent. The German campaign especially began with Poland, then France, then North Africa, then the rest of the maps were against the Soviet Union until finally facing the Western Allies in 1945. This means for the majority of the game, your equipment is pre-1942, and the equipment makes an extreme jump in type. The German tanks pre-1942 are small, relatively thin-armored, and have a weak-gun, but fast. Post 1942, they are the exact opposite: huge slow behemoths with massive guns. The jump happens so quick, you don't really feel the German side 'evolve'. The Western Allies are a little better, but their weapons don't evolve too much until the Americans appear. The Soviet campaign, however, feels very focused and the equipment evolves very naturally. This isn't too surprising though considering it's a Russian developer.
- The map cannot be magnified in any way, nor can it be rotated. This isn't too much of an issue, but it definitely shows the game's age.
- The game contained a super-unit: the sniper. Snipers could not be seen by the AI unless they got a unit very close to it. It is very easy to complete a mission by sending a sniper to find the enemy through the Fog of War, then using your long-range artillery to destroy everything. The enemy AI will almost always sit and let this happen.
The game provided a good base for modding and can still be enjoyed, even if it was originally released in 2003.
It received one sequel, Blitzkrieg 2, which is generally regarded as inferior. It was full 3D, but didn't quite follow the original's dedication to realism and came off as much more 'arcade-like'. A non-official mission pack/modificqation, Stalin vs. Martians, is the sequel Played for Laughs.
The series in general give examples of:
- Alternate History: Generally averted, the Germans still lose the war, even if you 'win' the German campaign. Notably, you never play as the side in a battle that was historically lost by the side you are playing as. The game does take some liberties in including some equipment that didn't exist...
- The very last German and Western Allies maps feature an appearance of the Maus heavy tank. The Maus was a German tank which was essentially a land-battleship: it weighed almost 200 tons. It also never saw production. Two prototypes were almost finished, but not before the war ended, and they almost assuredly never saw actual combat. Despite this, you can control one or fight against one depending on what side you are playing in the Battle of the Bulge mission.
- In the same map as the Maus, the Western Allies are given a T28 Super Heavy Tank to use. The T28 was a huge self-propelled gun which similarly to the Maus never saw production, let alone actual combat. The war had already ended by the time either of the two produced prototypes were completed.
- As the Soviets, you can earn a IS-3 tank to use in the final map depicting the Battle of Berlin. The game acknowledges this tank was not put into service until after the war had already ended, but is presumably included because of Rule of Cool.
- Bilingual Bonus: Players fluent in German and/or Russian will understand unit phrases when playing those respective campaigns.
- Somewhat averted for the Japanese units in the expansions, which speak...German.
- Expansion Pack: Two official stand-alone packs were released. One was called Burning Horizon and focused on German general Erwin Rommel's career. The other was Rolling Thunder and focused on American general George Patton's career.
- Fog of War: A real challenge. Artillery can be aimed 'blind', but they are unlikely to hit anything.
- Game Mod: A large number of them ranging from adding more units, textures, sounds, changing unit weapons and ranges, and even converting the game to cover other conflicts ranging from the Great War to hypothetical conflicts in the early 2010s. The game still has a surprisingly active modding scene for something that is almost a decade and a half old.
- It's Raining Men: As might be expected in a game covering WWII, however in the original campaigns this can lead to an endless supply of soldiers by repeatedly dropping paratroops at your base or in an area safely guarded by your own anti-air guns.
- Just Plane Wrong: One oversight is the Western Allies can call in a B-29 Superfortress for a heavy bomber strike, a plane that was not used in the European theater. Mods replace this with the B-17 Flying Fortress.
- No Swastikas: The original game replaces swastikas on German units with the Balkenkreuz, there are however mods that avert this.
- Real-Time with Pause: You can pause the game and still give orders to your units and choose how to react. This is essential for some of the larger maps where you must focus on several situations at once.
- Shown Their Work: The armor ratings for most vehicles in game are direct reflections of the actual thickness of their real world counterparts. The models are well rendered, with intricate detail work that allows players to recognize a M4A1 from a M4A3 from a M4A3 Easy Eight for example. Further, the attention to accuracy goes down to ammo counts by vehicle type and even turret rotation speeds. For example, the very slow rotation rate of the Tiger I's turret is noticeable in the game and if one listens carefully, one can even hear low volume sound effects for its rotation.
- Tank Goodness: The Burning Horizon and Rolling Thunder expansions are heavily focused on tank warfare aspects of the game. Natural, as both Rommel and Patton (whose careers were the basis of the respective expansions) were accomplished commanders in the art of armored warfare. Both spend extensive time exploring the wide variety of tanks and other armor units that were fielded throughout the war.
- Tanks, but No Tanks: Averted in many ways. Most interestingly, tanks cannot fire while on the move (except the machine gun). They must come to a complete stationary stop to fire as WWII era tanks lacked stabilizers for accurate on-the-move firing.
- The Squadette: The Soviet sniper is female and has a female voice actor, the only one in the game. Her lines suggest she's of the Cold Sniper variety.Soviet sniper (when about to shoot a German soldier): "Auf wiedersehen!"