2010: Year Of The Tiger Tank

By Tim Stone on December 31st, 2009 at 2:23 pm.

In wilderness survival situations a dearth of hope can kill as quickly as a dearth of drinking water or plump companions. Remembering this, I survived a recent family gathering by mentally compiling a list of the sims and wargames I was most looking forward to in 2010.

While Auntie Judith was telling me about her hysterectomy, I was picturing Wildebeest Games’ mountaineering sim Vertigo.

 

Details are scarce at present, but the preview videos suggests very classy clambering. Gawp as the ragdoll Hillary stretches for hand and footholds! Nail-bite as the weary-o-meters on each of his wiry limbs fill! Gasp as he falls from the face and dangles over the abyss (even if the abyss isn’t particularly abyss-like at present). If Leeds-based Mr Wildebeest can conjure a random rock face generator and do justice to his title with some truly knee-jellying drops, I’ll be all over this like edelweiss.

While Uncle Terry was extolling the virtues of National Socialism, I was dreaming of Combat Mission: Normandy.

It’s been a long patch-cobbled road but Shock Force is finally worthy of bearing the CM name. Yep, there are still issues – areas where it is weaker than its three wonderful predecessors, areas where the differing levels of abstraction clash distractingly – but if you’re after intricate, gripping combat simulation, you owe it to yourself to at least try the latest demo.

At some point in the coming year CMSF will be trading its Abrams for Shermans, its M4 carbines for M1s. The Normandy game will be cramped by CMx1 standards, simulating just a few months of conflict and a few hundred square miles of terrain. There’ll be no British or Commonwealth forces either (they’ll arrive in a later module). The good news is BF appear to be working hard to win back remaining dissidents. In addition to a revised Quick Battle system that permits cherry-picked forces, we should be getting bridges, hidden trenches, threat misidentification, and sophisticated hedgerow modelling. Shawn of Borg spotting, and spiced with buddy aid, hedgecutter tanks, and real-time play, battles in the Bocage should be absorbing affairs.

While cousin Simon attempted to give me the Good News, I contemplated Command Ops: Battles From The Bulge.

Like its predecessors, this WW2 operational wargame wears bog-standard battledress. The mappy, counter-strewn screenshots suggest stodge, turn-based slowness, and inaccessibility, when in fact the reality (if the past is any guide) will be a game that is as fluid and pacey, as it is clever and convincing. Panther’s secret? Turnless play, resourceful adversaries, and AI-controlled subordinates smart enough to interpret player orders rather than slavishly follow them. You don’t rubber-band hordes of units in a Airborne Assault/Command Ops wargame and send them swanning towards the enemy. You select an HQ, give it a nuanced order and let it choose its own routes, allocate its own reserves, and arrange its own artillery support. Forces can be marshalled at any level. Micromanagement is an option rather than an obligation.

Tantalising engine improvements such as automated bridge building, changing ground conditions, and new ‘bypass’ and ‘ignore stragglers’ commands, won’t mean a lot to the uninitiated but you can read about them here and here if you like. I’d grumble about the absence of 3D R.U.S.E./WW2 General Commander-style maps if I hadn’t already done it countless times before.

While Uncle Percy was downing the last of the perry, I was debating whether to add HistWar: Les Grognards to my mental manifest.

It’ll take more than a shambolic demo littered with dodgy French-English translation to put me off Jean-Michel Mathé’s Napoleonic opus. Actually, the demo isn’t quite the disaster area it first appears. Following the suggestions in this thread, I’ve managed to wring some moderately entertaining scraps out of the thing. Still, it’s good to hear that a second more polished taster is on the way.

For those who’ve glanced at HistWar and seen only a rather ugly Total War aspirant, be aware that the game offers much that TW doesn’t. For starters, armies are modelled as tiered entities rather than amorphous blobs. Orders once issued must percolate down, a slow, fraught process that involves aides-de-camp galloping hither and thither. You’ve also got friendly fog of war. Your picture of the battle is determined by what your commander-in-chief avatar can actually see, and the reports – some old, some inaccurate – that arrive from far-flung corners of the battlefield.

While Auntie Ruth launched into her “Still not married!” routine, I submerged myself in thoughts of Silent Hunter 5.

The Royal Navy and WWI have got shafted again, but it’s hard to stay mad at Ubisoft Romania  when they’re dangling delights like fully modelled U-boat interiors in front of us. While early glimpses suggest the modelling won’t be a patch on Tomi 099′s work, the thought of dashing the length of a busy boat in response to an excited ‘Smoke on the horizon!’ call, or watching in horror as brine foams through a breached bulkhead, tempts. The talk of AI subs, milch cows and – fingers-crossed – wolfpacks is also heartening. After hours of lonely freelancing, what could be finer than rendezvousing with a few fellow sea-lupines for a spot of communal convoy slaughter.

One hopes that the lads and lasses from Bucharest are familiar with SH3 mega-mod GWX and not too proud to borrow freely from it. Promisingly they do appear to have abandoned one of the sillier aspects of SH4′s U-Boat Missions expansion. Run into a  spot of bother in the Denmark Strait and you won’t be able to call up the Bismark or Graf Spee for assistance.

While a kneeling Uncle Bob did his Jimmy Krankie impersonation, I heard Jet Thunder echoing round the hills at San Carlos Water.

I’m including this Falklands War flight sim here more out of hope than expectation. The work of a small, self-financed team of Anglo-Argentinian amateurs, it’s been lurking on the edges of radar screen for years now. The theme still feels as fresh and enticing as ever (the Falklands Conflict is one of those very rare military campaigns where the actions of one or or two pilots might have changed history) but with each passing month without progress reports or a demo, the chances we’ll ever see it, appear to recede.

While Auntie Margaret inserted the third of her holiday snaps DVDs into the player, I remembered Scourge of War.

Its superb predecessor is going for a mere £4 on Steam at the moment. For that kind of money you might not expect to get one of the most entertaining AIs in wargaming, ludicrous replayability, and the sort of subtle soft factor modelling that has you screaming at the recklessness/reticence of CPU-controlled colleagues at regular intervals. As in HistWar and BftB, Scourge Of War represents armies as many-tentacled beasts. While one tentacle might be probing in one spot, another might be recoiling somewhere else, manoeuvring for an attack, or tightening its grip on a gain. The co-ordination within friendly and enemy ranks is rarely perfect, meaning plenty of authentic chaos.

Since Take Command: Second Manassas, the two-man outfit that was MadMinute Games have parted ways. This, the first project from ex-MMGer Norb Timpko is based on a new engine that appears to have much in common with the old one. Apart from added multiplayer – admittedly a major advance – little seems to have changed. That suits me just fine, though it would have been nice to see the Shogun-style soldier sprites replaced by something a little chunkier.

While waiting in the gateaux queue, a chance conjunction of cutlery and cocktail sausages reminded me of Digital Combat Simulator: A-10C.

The same part of me that can’t look at a SAM Simulator screenshot without wishing to flick switches and twiddle knobs, can’t wait to be let loose in the cockpit of Eagle Dynamics upcoming A-10C. I’m not entirely sure this recreation of the modernised A-10 II will be available in standalone form, but one thing’s certain, like Black Shark, it’s going to be modelled to within a inch micron of its life. According to a recent forum post: “Fly the DCS:A-10C and you will be able to fly the real thing. But the learning curve will be steep. In real life it takes 3 months to convert from A-10A to A-10C and operate correctly all the systems – avionics, weapons etc”.

Gulp

ED’s SU-25T – the star of the soon to be buffed-up Flamings Cliffs – remains my favourite ground-attack steed of all time. If the Warthog is as fastidiously fashioned and as characterful as I suspect it will be, then that could change.

When conversation turned to the quality of signage on the M27, my thoughts turned to Front Roads: Kharkov 1943.

Already released and demo-ed in Russia, this snow-draped company-level wargame with its strong Close Combat/Combat Mission echoes and intriguing strat layer, comes from a studio with a proven track-record for plausible, atmospheric armour sims. (If you’re a combat simmer and don’t already own Steel Fury and the ridiculously cheap Iron Warriors purchase them post-haste). Assuming the AI is fit for purpose and that chess-like op engine is as a promising as it appears, specialist Western publishers like Matrix and Battlefront should be beating a path to Graviteam’s door.

And when the time came for parting pleasantries and cuddles, I hid in the cupboard under the stairs and mused on Storm of War: Battle of Britain

I wrote my first SoW preview over three years ago and rereading it today I realise I knew about as much then about the sequel to IL-2 as I do now. Givens: the game will simulate those few months in 1940 when the fate of Britain was in the hands of exhausted young men in Hurricanes and Spitfires. It will feature flyable versions of all the obvious steeds plus a bevy of bizarre strangers like the Fiat BR.20 and the Bristol Bolingbroke. We’ll train as RAF trainees trained, in Tiger Moths. The standard of cockpit craftsmanship will make even the most demanding simmer shed tiny blister-canopy-shaped tears of joy. Aircraft wear will be rendered and tracked. Clouds will be super-fluffy. Flak guns will be crewable. Bf 109s will be criminally underpowered according to several furious forum posters.

The really crucial stuff: is Oleg doing a Broussard on us (the latest ETA is October)? Will SoW’s dynamic campaign be as rich and riveting as Battle of Britain II’s? Will its town and cityscapes be as jawdropping as those in the recently stealth-launched Wings of Prey… that stuff remains veiled in Channel fog.

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39 Comments »

  1. tka says:

    Mr. Stone never let’s us down.

  2. Pijama says:

    Mr. Stone, you are an example for your colleagues who let themselves be devoured by monsters and stuff. Truly you must be the leader of the Hivemind.

    Happy new year to ye all of RPS.

  3. Aganazer says:

    Looks like it might be time to dust off CMSF. I had nearly forgotten about that game and only played a few missions after release.

  4. Spork says:

    A lovely summary, just when I’m pre-ordering stuff too.

    Vertigo made me interrobang, wonder if you’ll have to chalk up? Dynamic moves? Seagull poo on the crux move? Sheep fall on your head? The possibilities are endless! (Especially if someone borrows a laser scanner and does a real boulder).

  5. dejoh says:

    Thanks for the heads up on these new games coming up. You seem to have the news way before the “other” pc game sites
    Thanks again.

  6. leeder_krenon says:

    looking good! very enjoyable read.

  7. Javier-de-Ass says:

    the new tiger in Men of War Assault Squad is what I’ve been drooling about for a while now http://www.digitalmindsoft.eu/outcoming/devupdate/mowa4/screenshots/01.jpg

  8. pepper says:

    It is going to be a good year for the simulator! And, nothing shuts a Tiger tank better a few rounds of APDS in its side.

  9. WilPal says:

    That Vertigo game looks fun haha.

    I only hope he adds rock faces that stick out so you have to navigate over them, or hang off of them, acting fast before your arms become too weary and you plummet into a big canyon below.

    Methinks the guy will need a Lara-esque falling scream, for the icing on the cake.

  10. AndrewC says:

    Could Vertigo mark the first time in gaming history that bump-mapping might actually be useful?

  11. Psyk says:

    @WilPal

    Check out the rest of the youtube vids, climbing wall with overhang.

  12. CJohnson03 says:

    What’s that about Cow Stroking?

  13. the army of none says:

    Awesome post, the first game is what nterests me the most. Hadn’t even heard about most of these until now.

  14. Lack_26 says:

    A-10 simulator? Realistic? Finally. I’ve been waiting for one of those as long as I can remember (well, within the last 10 years). The A-10 is by far my favourite [military] plane of all time and I look forward to spending the best part of a year learning how to fly the damn thing (well, in a game anyway).

  15. Some Guy says:

    I just wana see your relitives read this.

  16. MadMatty says:

    Hey Tim, did you know Red Orchestra 2 is also coming out in 2010- by tripwire interactive- looking forward to that one myself.
    Cheapest place i could find Kharkov 1942: Steel Fury, was at http://www.game.co.uk for 10 quid, but they were unfortunately out of stock.

  17. Martin Kingsley says:

    Vertigo looks like being astounding, in an entirely understated way. Slap on some ambient electro and get climbin’.

  18. Persus-9 says:

    Vertigo looks quite interesting but I can’t get over how completely awful the little digital climbers technique is. He’s climbing like a n00b who hasn’t learnt to use his legs properly. It’s not that he’s selecting the wrong holds or anything it’s the way he hangs by taking his weight on bent arms rather than bending is legs and letting his arms straighten and relax. The problem is that it looks like its built into the simulation rather than being anything the player is controlling. He looked better in video1 but since that’s an earlier build I guess they’ve decided to move away from that. The weight shifting mechanic looks quite good but I’m not sure they’re be able to inject any real subtlety without being able to directly control how much weight is placed on each limb and which limbs should be the main driving forces behind moves. I think I’d rather the stamina element was toned down or axed and the simulation was made a lot more complex with more emphasis on planning the exact movements required.

  19. blaargh says:

    I was just thinking about Steel Fury the other day. What’s the deal with it? Is there any relation to T-34 vs Tiger? Was either of them any good? Are either of them supported/played today? It seems odd that it’s easier to find a good Leopard sim than a Tiger. But eh.

    I’ve had some problems with the steam version of Iron Warriors. It runs fine, but I recall it lacking the ability to change some configuration details. Or maybe enter the editor? Can’t recall exactly, but worth throwing out there. Decent enough sim, but I couldn’t get into it.

    Is that really a CMN screenshot? Dang, I need to get back with the news. I am ridiculously out of touch….

  20. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Not much of a simmer (Freespace 2 is about as hardcore as I get) but a lot of these look really cool. The stuff from the Falklands War game (that wasn’t in the cockpit anyway) was beautiful and awesome – I hope it comes out and there’s at least some cool videos for the flightless to enjoy.

  21. Dave "Arjuna" O'Connor says:

    Steve,

    Yeh, yeh with the 3D maps. We’ll get to it one day. BFTB is just in its final testing phase. Hope to sign off at the end of January. Should be released in February along with a demo. I’ll try and get a review copy to you at the end of Jan. Happy New Year. :)

  22. Tim Stone says:

    @MadMatty.
    Good call. RO2 definitely should have been in there.

    @blaargh.
    Apart from the similar theme and the shared publisher, there’s no connection between Steel Fury and T34 vs Tiger. I much prefer SF (superior AI, more plausible penetration modelling) but am watching a planned T34 vs Tiger overhaul/expansion with interest: http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showthread.php?t=158301

    Not sure I can help you with your Iron Warriors woes – I’ve got the original Battlefront version. Worth persevering though. I replayed the campaign earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    @Dave.
    Splendid news. Also, kudos for the demo decision.

  23. Gammalget says:

    Front Roads: Kharkov 1943..
    You know if it’s going to be a clickfest or more like cm and panzer command?


    Regards Gammalget

  24. sinister agent says:

    That Take Command game is a bit odd in parts – the controls are unclear and whoever I choose to play as, I seem to be given control of someone completely different, as well as an apparently random commander, allowing me complete contorl over one tiny squadron, and enough control over a huge brigade to tell them which formation to use, but not to move them. I don’t know what’s going on there, and also however safe and succesful they are, my little platoon seems to arbitrarily retreat once or twice per battle.

    But I’ve had lots of fun playing it, and want to play more. It is indeed infuriating when your commanders arse about and make poor decisions, but damned stirring when you’re stuck in a bad spot and someone goes out on a limb to help you out. Cheers for the tip.

  25. Tweakd says:

    Thats a great collection of games! I’ll have my fingers crossed that Storm Of War surfaces one day. I would also advise the grand strategists amongst you to watch out for Victoria 2 from Paradox Interactive which should be out late 2010.

  26. UK_John says:

    We need to look at how detailed and deep strategy games and simulations for PC, as above, are goign to be sold. Games like the above need decent PRINTED manuals that A) would not fit in a normal DVD case, and B) cannot be sent ‘electronically’ as in digital distribution.

    What I propose is a compromise, where smaller developers charge an extra $5, then allow you to download the game with a pdf manual, but ALSO mail you a printed manual. Books have a special low postage rate in most countries, so a couple bucks would get it almost anywhere in the world.

    Extra work for the publisher – yes. But on the other hand, more media coverage, maybe a little extra profit and a customer base that stays around rather than go more and more into retro PC gaming when it comes to game types like the above.

    Quite simply, I will think twice about downloading digitally or buying retail and having a 150-200 page pdf manual to read. These games, by their very nature, need the manual open by the keyboard while playing!

    If some middle ground isn’t found between digital distribution and retail in DVD case, I don’t know that these types of game can survive.

    Much better to give me pdf’s of the front, sides and back of the box art for me to reproduce and a large printed manual, all sold in a plastic bag, than trying to get retailers to carry a big box game, or STEAM to mail out printed manuals.

    We spend a lot of time talking about the games as though the PC games market is the same as it was 10 years ago. The assumption in the above article is that all these games will be easy to get hold of when their released, well I think that’s far from the case, and we need to consider these things alongside the actual games.

  27. 9train says:

    I think you’ve missed a good game in Ageod’s Rise of Prussia….

    http://www.ageod-forum.com/showthread.php?t=16068

  28. drcancerman says:

    Am I the only one here who misses dynamic campaign? The only one, AFAIK that has it is Jet Thunder and Storm of War.

    i also want to admit, even though I’m dying to fly Storm of war, I think that WWII games/sims are over-saturated. I would love to fly a dynamic campaign with a modern sim-engine in Korea. Get scared by trace fire flying off my cockpit in mig alley…. Ah… damn, even the rumored Korea War simulator that Oleg will do after SoW is not enough for me, why? The wait!!

  29. MadMatty says:

    Kharkov looked a bit like Close Combat in 3d which can only be a good thing if u ask me. The CLose Combat series had all the realism you could wish for- pinning, morale (surrender even) – hit locations instead of hitpoints… (god how ive come to hate hitpoints!) … the Kharkov footage of those soldiers dragging the anti tank gun conjured up memories of countless hours of Close COmbat 3 multiplayer- and the game looks pretty decent in 3d !

  30. Shadrach says:

    Grear post Tim! But…was I hallucinating or was the paragraph on BFTF not in when it was originally posted? Anyway its great you mention it, its on my *mustbuy* list, along with Grigsby’s “War In The East” which is also out sometime in ’10.

    Also couldn’t help notice the text says “Strom of War” in that last vid which made me laugh a bit.

  31. SodovTheSorceror says:

    I know it’s sim-lite, but I’m happy to see PT Boats: Knights of the Sea finally go gold. A nice breath of originality in the fart-filled lift that is contemporary gaming… damn pretty too.

  32. Nick says:

    As a massive Il-2 fan, I very much looking forward to Storm of War. Currently it ranks as the item I have had on preorder longer than anything. To be precise it has been on my Play.com account since 26/07/2006. That’s a rather long time.

  33. Maroussia says:

    It will be great to watch We Will Rock You, i have bought tickets from
    http://ticketfront.com/event/We_Will_Rock_You-tickets looking forward to it.

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