Lothar von Richthofen, the Red Baron's little brother, is a schweinhund. Half an hour ago he challenged me, the Black Stork's highest scoring and least dead ace, to a one-on-one duel over the Western Front. I thought twice about accepting, but eventually decided to go teach the young puppy a lesson. When I arrived at the rendezvous point, what did I see? Only Lothar's crimson and yellow Dr.I flanked by the bobbing planes of two of his cronies. The cunning Fokker had brought backup.
My theory that certain nationalities are historically, temperamentally, or technically suited to producing certain types of simulation holds up well enough in the tank and aircraft arenas (all the best WW2 armour games do come from Germany and the Ukraine, the finest jet recreations from USA, UK and Russia). In other areas, however, it starts to look shaky. For instance, if you want to visit the birthplace of the greatest Stalking-And-Slaying-Ungulates sim ever made, it's not Scotland or North America you must make for, it's Brazil.
I am the sort of gamer that publishers loathe. I never pre-order, rarely buy a new game until it has at least halved in price, and wouldn't touch a pay-to-play MMO with a Savlon-smeared barge pole. If the Ubisofts, EAs, and Take-Twos of this world, want to reach tight, patient, super-picky souls like me, they must change their ways pretty radically. For starters they've got to slash their RRPs and rethink their dastardly DRM schemes. To be on the safe side they should probably also seek out and assimilate or assassinate all the splendid bedroom coders that have been keeping me in free strategy clover for years.
I'd love to be able to start this review by telling you about the time in Mission 4 I was held hostage by a talking codpiece, or the bit in Mission 7 where I fought undead tapeworms inside the gut of a flatulent troll princess. Sadly, I can't. Nothing anywhere near that anecdote-worthy happened to me. Though Disciples III is mechanically very similar to the fabulous King's Bounty, it doesn't have any of that game's wit, energy or quirkiness.
Speech given by Tim Stone to army of potential Operation Arrowhead buyers, on 30th June 2010 (with apologies to Tim Collins and the Royal Irish Regiment):
Smoke-wreathed Sicilian vineyards are my sky, Prussian-blue firmament studded with black flak flowers is my ground. I'm upside down, hurtling along at 300mph, and there's a big juicy Messerschmitt sliding helplessly into the crucible of my gun sight. Ask me what I think of Wings of Prey at this precise moment, and I'll tell you it's the best WWII flight sim ever made.
Essential equipment for the survival-minded Takistani insurgent: AK-47, IED, IED transportation device (wheelbarrow), spade, foil firefighting suit. Without that last item Mr. Boom-Bastage is going to stick out like a sore thumb when up to nocturnal no-good. Thanks to the super-real thermal imaging that is one of this standalone expansion's most eye-catching features, doing dastardly things in the dark can actually be more dangerous than doing them in the daylight.
For those of us that like our games khaki and complex, 2009 has to go down as a bit of an Annus Mirablis. We trundled about the Ukrainian countryside in splendid steel coffins courtesy of the best WW2 tank sim since Panzer Elite. We hovered with intent behind Georgian tower blocks in the most detailed fake helo ever fashioned. We foxed Fokkers and forswore parachutes in a great Great War aviation recreation. I could have GOTY-ed any of these gems, but instead ArmA II, the clear victor in this year's battle of the soldier sims, gets the nod.
With cattle-on-human homicide on the increase in the UK, I think the time has come for ramblers' groups to replace their standard 'keep dogs under control when close to livestock' advice, with something a bit more robust. Trampers of the British countryside, 'if charged by an enraged bull, stand perfectly still until the animal is a few feet away, then unload both barrels of your shotgun into its slavering face before stepping smartly to one side.'
The latest offering from the safest hands in sim racing turns out to be another reissue of ageing stalwart Race 07. Last year the Swedish dev added Nordschleife and a host of handsome Grand Tourers, and called the result GTR: Evolution. This year they've bolstered it with American muscle cars, Swedish touring action, and WTCC 08 updates, and called the result Race On. Cynical cash-gouging or welcome horizon-broadening? Let's sift the evidence.
Trade secret: for the last 10 years, reviewing PC flight games has been a piece of cake. Step one - rabbit on about the fun-quotient, physics, visuals, missions and multiplayer for a bit. Step two - slip on the knuckledusters and deliver the kidney punch: "Of course, if you're after superlative sky thrills, you're still far better off with Crimson Skies."
The Eurogamer Black Hawk that carried Sergeant Parkin into Skira didn't come straight home. It crossed the densely-forested console/PC border and dropped off another eager soldier-simmer before returning to base. I was that simmer and this is what I learnt from my time in-country.
15th July, 1940. In a bunker, 10 feet below the bustling pavements of Whitehall, a pudgy, cigar-chewing, bulldog of a man sits lost in thought as the Battle of Britain rages overhead. 15th July, 2009. In that same bunker, 10 feet below the bustling streets of Whitehall, a pudgy, biro-chewing, poodle of a man sits lost in thought as the Battle of Britain rages on a huge plasma screen in front of him. 505 Games couldn't have picked a more appropriate location for demonstrating its imminent (4th September) combat flight sim. The dusty catacombs of the Cabinet War Rooms ooze WW2 authenticity, and, happily, it looks like IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey does too.
Are you a time-poor career-focused go-getter? Does your busy modern lifestyle make it difficult to fit in activities like reciting Anglo-Saxon epic poetry, shaving mammoths, and reading lengthy game reviews? If the answer's 'yes' I've got just the thing for you. RCEFOFTTs are Reviews Constructed Entirely From Official Forum Thread Titles. They're brief; they're pithy; they melt in your mouth not in your hand. Here's one for ArmA II, the latest compendious soldier sim from Operation Flashpoint creator Bohemia Interactive Studio:
'A serious World War II grand strategy game on the DS' is right up there with 'Peace in the Middle-East', 'Duke Nukem Forever' and 'A badger at the helm of a Premier League football club' in my Things I Didn't Expect To See In My Lifetime list. The PC is awash with them (serious WW2 grand strategy games, not badger managers) but none have made the scary leap to handheld. None until now.