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If I Had A Heart. Of Iron. Three Of 'Em, In Fact.

Scotland? What Scotland? We ain't seen no Scotland around here.

“Grand strategy” is a sub-genre title that always amuses me. I can’t help but picture someone playing Command & Conquer whilst wearing a ceremonial robe and crown, or Dawn of War on a 300″ monitor. Slightly disappointingly, it’s a different kind of grandiose it refers to – playing as an entire nation, seeing only the big picture and rarely the individual soldiers. Total War’s strategy map is a good example. The Hearts of Iron series is all about that uber-bird-eye’s view, with the upcoming HoI III handing you the reigns of practically any nation during 1936-1948. Dates you may recognise as covering a period of modern history that there almost no videogames about. Perhaps even none.

Yes, it’s flippin’ Dubya Dubya Too, but a version of it in which you could take over the world with Costa Rica, or plot revenge against the Nazis as the Polish government in exile. While clearly it’s fatted with a frightnening amount of historical accuracy, it’s also a giant What If? sandbox.

It’s not a series us parochial gentlefolk of RPS have had much first-hand experience of, but there was a fair old buzz about it amongst PCdom upon its announcement at GC last year, while the recent beta testing drew over 10,000 applicants. It may not be out until September, but now seems as good a time as any to do a quick round-up of the what ’tis and that what’s new. Also, John Walker really, really loves it when we receive press releases about hardcore strategy games he doesn’t begin to understand, so hopefully posting about it will attract even more of them and make him the happiest lad in the land.

Majorly, it’s the first time the series has gone 3D. Which feels like the kind of sentence included in every single game preview circa 1997, not one often made in 2009. Given it’s mostly about looking at a map, it’s not the necessity it sounds like. Possibly more important in practice is a revised political system, which sounds as though it covers everything down to the various different political parties in each nation, and the elections and coups that bring them in and out of power. This sure is one heavily-researched game, and at this point I wish I could creep away from this post and tag Tim Stone in. Instead, I’ll point you at the currently 23 installment-strong developer diary series, plus a trailer and developer vid-chat below.

That dev talk, going into what’s new over HoI II:

And some fairly bewildering in-game footage, released just today:

Any HoI vets in the crowd tonight? And do they reckon number III is going to be incredi-awesome, more of the same, what?

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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