The Flare Path: Duel Carriageways

By Tim Stone on January 27th, 2012 at 1:56 pm.

There’s a road running through this week’s column, a road clogged with nervy Sherman tanks and alarmed Lada saloons. The Shermans are on edge because every so often one of their number is struck by something swift, cylindrical and quite, quite deadly. The Ladas are alarmed because every so often one of their number is struck by a Bukhanka minibus driven by an idiot. That idiot recommends you look left, right, then left again before attempting to cross the following thoroughly fair thoroughfare of Command Ops: Highway To The Reich and City Car Driving observations.

Out Of Ammo. God Save The King.

The patch of sky above fabulously fluid delegate-em-up Command Ops: Battles From The Bulge is alive with C-47s at the moment. The Dakotas are busy air-dropping Market Garden themed add-on canisters to winter-weary fans.

At the heart of the £17 Highway To The Reich expansion released yesterday, is ‘From the Meuse to the Rhine’, a mammoth scenario spanning nine infamous days in September 1944, and approximately 1200km² of Heer-held Holland (despite the fact that this one of Panther’s biggest maps yet, the 101st’s objectives in Eindhoven, Son, and Veghel are still relegated to a separate scenario). I’m currently about halfway through this whopper, and right now things are looking more ‘Two Bridges Too Far’ than ‘A Bridge Too Far’.

You’d think someone who had wargamed Monty’s boldest gamble dozens of times would have avoided historical blunders like allowing the Axis time to set-up blocking positions in the western suburbs of Arnhem. You’d think he would have gone hell-for-leather for those crucial river crossings, and not fannied around with probe orders and over-generous DZ defences.

I’ve not completely given up hope of transforming the shambles pictured above into a slim victory, but it’s going to take a lot of skill and luck to turn things around. I suspect the first thing I should do on returning to the fray, is carefully assess my supply situation. While wargaming muddlers could get by on instinct and aggression/discretion in Red Devils Over Arnhem, and Airborne Assault: Highway To The Reich (Panther’s earlier interpretations of the Arnhem op) subsequent improvements to the logistics simulation combined with the impressive scope of the new scenario, mean you’re now as likely to be defeated by bullet and bully-beef shortages as clever AI counterattacks (though, thanks to the splendidly reactive AI, these are guaranteed too).

If I’m to have any hope of hanging onto my positions in Oosterbeek until the shuffling snake of British armour forces its way through Nijmegen and up Hell’s Highway, it’s vital I ensure the sunburst of supply lines emanating from 1 Airlanding Bde Base and 4 Para Bde Base remain green. This means maintaining a solid perimeter at Arnhem – something I’ve spectacularly failed to do so far – and ensuring my depot units aren’t driven off the heathland dropzones at Renkum and Reijers Camp.

The fact the positions of those DZs and LZs are determined by history is perhaps a tiny missed opportunity. I can see myself spending weeks with this one scenario alone (If past experience of Panther’s AI is any guide, it will play as well from the defender’s perspective as from the attackers). If I’d been allowed to pick my own arrival locations and design my own supply schedule, the distraction potential would have been almost limitless.

The planning phase of an an airborne op is potentially just as interesting as its execution. Do you try to land close to an objective on less-than-perfect terrain or much further away on an ideal site? Should you concentrate your DZs or disperse them? Command Ops: Highway To The Reich is the sort of high-calibre add-on Flare Path has no trouble whatsoever recommending, but Market Garden still waits patiently for a truly all-embracing treatment.

Кlunk Кlick Every Trip

Last weekend I had a major OMSI relapse. By the time I realised what was happening, I was so mesmerised by M-R-Software’s mellifluous MAN doubledeckers, I couldn’t even bring myself to accelerate time in the twenty-minute gaps between 13N Stadtgrenze → U Rathaus runs. I’d just sit there at the terminus, eyes half-closed, ears full of engine purr and the pretty pitter-patter of the rain.

I knew I had to tear myself away, but just couldn’t face going cold turkey. What was needed was a transition sim. Something to ease me gently away from the eighty-seater sirens of Spandau. In City Car Driving I reckon I found the perfect easer.

While this Russian teach-yourself-to-drive sim isn’t in quite the same league as Marcel und Rüdiger’s masterpiece, it does scratch a similar itch. Like OMSI, it’s a diversion where dense, dynamic traffic flows, complicated road layouts, and unfamiliar highway codes, mean the simple act of driving from A to B is often far from simple. CCD’s seven rides might be nippier and far easier to get round tight bends but maximise the realism settings, and a few of them can be almost as challenging to drive well.

Soviet-era comrade-conveyances like the Lada Riva come with prototypical manual gearboxes and clutches, meaning you can embarrass yourself by…

a) …lurching into bollards after forgetting you’d left your vehicle in gear.

b) …stalling at traffic lights after attempting to pull away in third.

c) …gunning the engine foolishly after failing to lift the throttle during gear changes.

And impress (invisible) passengers by…

a) …spurning the hand-brake in stop-start hillside traffic jams.

b) …switching off the engine and free-wheeling down hills in neutral.

Ignore their misleading unwillingness to skid and wheelspin, and the cars handle remarkably plausibly. What they don’t do at present, is sound much like their inspirations. If I could persuade Multisoft to work on one area, it would be audio. The current sound sets are too quiet, too generic, and woefully short of the sort of transmission whines and suspension creaks that – thanks to M-R-Software – I now expect from my automotive entertainment.

The Novosibirsk studio have already demonstrated a pleasing willingness to enhance and expand. A December patch opened the sim up to user-made vehicles, added an adorable UAZ-2206 minibus, hastened already decent framerates and sharpened AI. Though CCD’s pedestrians are still ill-equipped to deal with pavement trespassing maniacs, they are on the whole brighter and more naturalistic than their stiff-limbed OMSI equivalents. I suspect fellow road users might be a tad smarter too. I’ve been rear-ended and side-swiped on occasions, but find I’m watching side-roads in the imaginatively monikered ‘Virtual City’ less nervously than I would in Berlin.

Not large or varied enough to be twinned with a San Andreas or an Empire Bay, Virtual City is at its best when it’s flaunting its Russian-ness. The glimpses of golden church domes, trudging babushkas, and war memorial tanks, make me yearn for a winterised CCD 2 incorporating a facsimile of a genuine Russian town.

Will we ever see such a thing? Having questioned Multisoft about their DLC and map editor intentions, I’m not holding my breath. The studio definitely have plans – plans that include the patching-in of some form of taxi mode to add a little structure to the non-mission side of the sim – but the difficulty of converting in-house tools into something amateur town planners could wield with ease, seems to have stymied, for the moment, any SDK releases.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

In honour of Eagle Dynamics’ recent Mustang announcement, this week’s Foxer features a herd of wild horses. Name the eight sources to win FP points made from well-rotted rose fertiliser.

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55 Comments »

  1. onodera says:

    I can’t believe someone can voluntarily drive a virtual Lada to have fun.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Just wait till Top Gear hears of it, Jeremy’s gonna have a field day.

    • roryok says:

      nah I doubt it. If he can’t get into it he’s not interested in it. he doesnt even like bikes

    • EthZee says:

      I’m sorry, were you insulting the Lada Riva?

      You will regret this. CUR.

    • onodera says:

      Yes, driving any Lada is a pain. Is Riva an export version of Niva, or 2105?

    • borkbork says:

      Clarkson actually did review a Lada.

  2. Alex Bakke says:

    Top right would be Men of War: Assault Squad. Bottom left is… Warbirds? Top middle, Combat Flight Simulator?

    • Hydrogene says:

      No: bottom left is Ace of the Pacific, by Dynamix!

    • stahlwerk says:

      Bottom left: Aces of the pacific. (great series)

      EDIT: ^^^ gaah, beaten. Teaches me not to look up what the guys from Dynamix are up to nowadays first!

      http://www.madottergames.com/ <– that's what.

    • timmyvos says:

      I’m fairly certain the bottom middle’s IL2

    • Novotny says:

      Middle-top is Il-2

    • Tim Stone says:

      I believe that leaves three Mustangs unidentified. Top-left, middle-left, and bottom-right.

      If you spotted Il-2 (top-centre), Men of War (top-right), Aces of the Pacific (bottom-left), Combat Flight Simulator (bottom-centre) or Panzer Corps (bottom-centre-right) then please take an FP Flair Point from the bowl over there on the aspidistra stand.

    • Hydrogene says:

      No idea about the top left artwork, but the middle left vignette could be Chuck Yeager Air Combat (more by the look of it than by true memory).

    • Snuffy the Evil says:

      I believe the bottom right is YS Plane.

    • Tim Stone says:

      Laserpanda and Snuffy spot the YS Flight P-51 on final approach in the bottom-right corner.

      Just the two in the top-left (both of which come from sequels) to attribute now.

    • laserpanda says:

      Air Warrior II maybe?

    • Smion says:

      I’d say Top Left is from Transmission Games’ Heroes over Europe, sequel to Heroes of the Pacific. As for the rest: Damned if I know.

  3. Devrey says:

    I can only give you the bottom-left; that would be Aces over the Pacific by Dynamix (of Red Baron fame).

  4. Novotny says:

    I got Men of War, Il-2, Panzer Corps and Aces of the Pacific.

  5. Elmar Bijlsma says:

    I see Panther has a more reasonable price this time around. But I’ll pass on this re-re-heating of their Red Devils Over Arnhem game.
    And don’t call it Holland. It does not take place in Holland.

    And bottom row the venerable SWOTL, European Air War, Panzer/allied general.
    Upper middle IL-2 1946? to the right Men of War

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Reasonable? It’s an expansion at what would be a reasonable price for the whole game. The game plus the expansion would set me back $85!

    • Elmar Bijlsma says:

      More reasonable, compared to their previous pricing policy. Still not exactly cheap. Proper wargames never are.

  6. Ross Angus says:

    Quite a while ago, GSC seemed to give the go-ahead to use the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game assets in mods for other games. It might be a little incongruous, given Virtual City’s cleanliness, but imagine driving about in a BTR-70.

  7. kimadactyl says:

    (double post)

  8. kimadactyl says:

    It’s holocaust memorial today. Pretty disappointed a column focussed on WW2 sims doesn’t even mention it. Expect better from RPS.

    • Elmar Bijlsma says:

      Uhm, this is a gaming blog and this particular column covers simulations of every stroke.
      If you know a good holocaust simulation then… uhm… ewww!

    • iteyoidar says:

      Driving a UAZ-2206 Буханка down the 13N Stadtgrenze can do funny things to a man’s head. I’d cut them some slack

    • Alex Bakke says:

      It’s in the past now.

    • kimadactyl says:

      One day of the year. One day.

    • Elmar Bijlsma says:

      One day a year, so what? This still isn’t the right place for it. This is an entertainment blog!
      The Holocaust is not exactly entertainment. In fact it is widely known as a bit of a downer. It has no place here. If you want to publicly remember the holocaust then by all means stop moaning and remove yourself to an appropriate location. This clearly is not that location.

    • roryok says:

      I will go further. I put it to you, that mentioning the holocaust and proceeding to talk about games, would probably have caused someone to comment that RPS were making light of the holocaust / not treating the subject with decorum.

      And in that alternate reality, the person making this complaint would also be you.

    • Tams80 says:

      Wrong place. As others have suggested find somewhere on the internet where it’s appropriate.

    • jrodman says:

      EH, this place is growded up enough to discuss the holocaust. AND! the holocaust could be relevant to some sort of game experience. AND! It would be perfectly reasonable to discuss here.

      BUT!

      This article is not that theoretical article, and it’s not really relevant here.

  9. metalangel says:

    I’m not the only one who doesn’t skip time in bus simulator things!

    When I reach the end of a route in Bus & Cable Car Simulator (rare in itself without it crashing) it’s nice to go and grab a sandwich or use the toilet or read RPS on my iPhone. It’s part of the fantasy. I haven’t yet taken up smoking so I can go and try and drag as many as I can during my brief respite from driving, though.

  10. asshibbitty says:

    Winter mod for CCD:

    http://citycardriving.com/forum?func=view&catid=7&id=452

    There’s at least five Multisofts in Russia and around, this one is based in Novosibirsk I think.

  11. Retro says:

    bottom middle: b-17 II maybe?

  12. thebigJ_A says:

    I’d have bought Command Ops long ago if it wasn’t so damn expensive, or if there were at least a small demo scenario to convince me it’s worth the price.

    Stupid Matrix.

    • Spooner says:

      Sorry, there is a demo for Command Ops: Battles From The Bulge. Has a rather clunky and old-fashioned UI, which seems to have changed little in the whole series. Having found the demo quite fun and with the decent AI (and innovative AI delegation), I was almost tempted. However, since Matrix games are expensive (£40 for this one) and never seem to get discounted over time, I doubt I’ll play it…

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Thanks, I actually found it after posting this…. buried at the bottom of a long list of patches and video downloads.

      Stupid Matrix.

  13. Hydrogene says:

    bottom right looks like an earlier version of WarBirds (from 1997?)

  14. Linfosoma says:

    I cant believe Im actually considering getting City Car Driving, PC gaming, what the hell have you done to me?

  15. Ross Angus says:

    I believe I’ve found a picture of Tim’s Bukhanka, in truck form.

  16. egg651 says:

    I think you’ll find that ArmA 2 is the world’s premier war themed party lada simulator.

  17. roryok says:

    no better time to ask the flight sim question i’ve been holding onto for years

    I played a WW2 flightsim back in the day, the entirety of which was small enough to fit on a floppy. This was in the days of CDs mind, so it was a point of interest. There was very little to it – you took off from a carrier in a mustang (I think) and shot at baddies.

    Not much to go on. Anyone remember it?

    • roryok says:

      ah never mind. I think I held onto that question for so long because was unanswerable. Fly, stupid question, fly!

      RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT- NYYEEEEEEOOOOOWWWWNNG-BOOOOOSHHHH

    • Plopsworth says:

      *Stupid question pulls a Split-S maneuver and approaches yet again at treetop level* nReeeeeeeeEOOOOWWW – PAPARAPAPAPAPA! – vzzZZT! CHP! Pff! Fshp! – VROOOAAAARWWWRRrrrrrrr

      Would that have been Fighter Duel perhaps?

  18. jimbobjunior says:

    Can anyone recommend a good beginner-friendly book on the strategy/tactics employed in Europe in WWII, either as an overview or individual campaigns?

  19. Easy says:

    Been doing a lot of reading lately ( AAR mostly) on Battles for the Bulge. By all accounts, despite the vastly outdated UI, it is a truly outstanding wargame / simulation. For ‘Grognards’, especially. Yes it ridiculously expensive (in relative terms to other games), but not on an ‘hrs you can sink in to price’ ratio. Unfortunately I have too many games to play, the ratio would not work out for me. Still, still, still… I may one day crack, especially if Matrix does a sale.

    • wodin says:

      Easy the price is alot cheaper now than it was on release. Also the game is pure quality with the best AI out there in a wargame.

      If your a wargamer really it’s a must have. I’d rather own this than buy two other wargames for the same price.

      The East front title along with the Combat Mission x2 EF titles are two games that will be wargaming heaven to me. Infact I haven’t wanted two games as much and I’ve been playing games since ’83.

  20. laserpanda says:

    The game on the bottom right is YSflight.

    It’s quite fun, and free!

    It also runs on almost anything, so you can put it on a netbook, though carrying around both a netbook and a Saitek X52 isn’t exactly practical.

  21. Kevin says:

    On the subject of DCS, Tim, take comfort that you probably managed to get a lot further into a mission than these guys. Who knows, maybe it’ll convince you to soldier on:

    http://www.giantbomb.com/quick-look-digital-combat-simulator-a-10c-warthog/17-5490/?page=5&sort=first

  22. MessyPenguin says:

    I have just recently been playing City Car Driving, come on here and boom here it is. how odd

  23. Danny252 says:

    Surely I can’t be one of a dying breed for knowing how to drive with a manual gearbox… right?

    (And turning off the engine? Well, I guess you were trying to impress your passengers. Wouldn’t that turn off ye olde power steering, making “not hitting things” a bit difficult? I can’t say I’ve ever checked at which notch power steering turns on, though)