It's hard to get into. That's been a problem with online PC games for a while now, because there's really nothing casual about them. You have to get inside their communities to really enjoy the game, and these hardened fraternities of gamers can be obscure nuts to crack. All too often the newbie sidles into a game and looks around, is embarrassed by having to ask so many questions, and gives up to go back to something a little less forbidding. Quite a few of my games journalist colleagues cite this problem as one of the major reasons why online PC games are flawed: they're just too awkward to be mainstream. It's geek terrain. Developers, meanwhile, work to make them ever more accessible to the general gamer - see Battlefield 2. See World of Warcraft.
But then there are games which simply don't want to bend in this way. Their kick is in their complexity and their demands on the player. They remain resolutely out on the periphery of what it's possible to be interested in. They're tough to get into, overly complex, reliant on lots of acquired knowledge. They rely on communities of committed and enthusiastic players to keep running. And yes, Battleground Europe is exactly that kind of game.
Battleground Europe is the relaunch (or the latest iteration) of the World War II Online project, which has been going on for about five years. The idea behind it all is to recreate the entire Western front online, complete with everything except civilians. WW2 online delivers ships, towns, Messerschmits, Spitfires, tanks, infantry, rickety old Bedford trucks, and a lot of hedges to hide in. The scope is vast, and it's a bit of shame that there aren't enough people in the game to truly demonstrate what it could be capable of. With some organisation it begins to shine because, unlike the perpetual battles of closest cousin Planetside, World War II is a war that can genuinely be won or lost in weeks or months. The frontline is a real one and the territory almost as vast as the embattled tract of Europe itself. The Axis and Allies are slugging it out to win the war right now, and the historically accurate technologies develop as that conflict unfolds. Since there is a single server to log into, everyone who plays Battleground Europe is fighting the same war. The late night American contingent put on some impressive displays of firepower.