The Flare Path: High Calibre Cat Pictures

Meet Unimog, the Flare Path mouser. He owes his name to his love of clambering and off-piste adventure. Why, this very morning I spotted the little scamp nosing around inside the turret of a Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition story, sharpening his claws on a free chunk of Combat Mission Fortress Italy: Gustav Line, and enjoying a nap atop the warm fuselage of an obscure chopper sim demo.

The lack of bee shadows in dear but dear contemporary armour sim Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition has never really bothered me. The lack of Leopard shadows on the other hand, is something I grumble about regularly. SBPPE’s fastidiously modelled AFVs have never darkened daisies or caused bookish grasshoppers to turn on Anglepoise lamps. It seems like a minor omission, but in a game where survival often hinges on realising that the third bush to the left of the bent tree on the right of the burning block of flats isn’t actually a bush before the third bush to the left of the bent tree on the right of the burning block of flats realises that the small thicket on the brow of the hill next to the road isn’t in exactly the same position it was in three minutes ago, accurate umbra representation is far from frivolous.

So if SBPPE doesn’t do shadows what are those dark angular stains next to the cruelly caged M113s in the above screenshots? Proof that things are about to change. The ‘3.0’ payware update due in July is set to transform the sim’s expansive battlefields with significantly enhanced lighting, weather, and smoke effects. Improvements should be especially noticeable when Sunray 1 (previously nowhere to be seen) crests the horizon in the morning or goes hull-down at dusk.

Just as enticing as the graphical gains are the new and refurbished rides, the extra weapon systems, and the AI changes. In 3.0, there will be times when you’re sharing roads, villages and towns with unpredictable civilians, or hostiles disguised as unpredictable civilians. One rash MG burst, one hotheaded HEAT round could cut short a mission, maybe an entire career.

The M1A1 Abrams has been a crewable cornerstone of the sim for some time, but its tougher, more sophisticated successor, the M1A2 SEP, has, up until now, been AI only. Selecting the SEP in 3.0 will mean taking the field surrounded by third-generation depleted uranium armour; TCs will get their own thermal viewers and fancy integrated electronic map displays. The days when American Steel Beasters could blame dated steeds for mediocre MP performances, are numbered.

Strengthening the sim’s Cold War credentials, debuting AFVs with locked hatches will include the Gauloises-smoking AMX-13, and the boat impersonating PT-76 and BTR-50. Unfamiliar Leopard variants and engineering versions of the Bradley and Boxer are also on the way, as are shapelier buildings, new helo insertions, and savegame changes that allow MP scraps to be completed in SP. With all this on offer, the chances that Unimog and I will spend a significant portion of the summer sealed in a simulated turret peering intently at suspiciously proportioned shrubs, are high.


Free Combat Mission Combat Mission

Several largely innocent Humber Reconnaissance Cars died during the making of last week’s Combat Mission Fortress Italy: Gustav Line AAR. If you found yourself muttering “Amateur!”, “Jammy git!” and/or “Pillock!” while reading it, I strongly suggest you walk a mile in my CABs by trying ‘Elephants and Tigers’ for yourself. Diligent demo-ists Battlefront have thoughtfully included it in the latest CMFI trial.

I suspect the scenario comes with multiple AI plans and a randomized reinforcement schedule, so don’t be surprised if the Fallschirmjäger you face, show a little more mettle/metal than the ones I faced.


Seeking Sea Kings?

With the brilliant DCS World Huey  already warming up for air ambulance duties, the much cruder Helicopter Simulator: Search & Rescue risks being rapidly rotor-washed into obscurity.

That would be a shame. The generous 3-mission, multi-chopper demo reminds me a lot of a solid PS2 game called Air Ranger. The rudiments of helo flight physics are there; there’s a decent choice of rides; the scenery is dense; the radio chatter atmospheric; the tasks challenging. The fact that you can ignore sortie goals and ramble around the fictional island setting, landing on any rooftop, road, or hill that takes your fancy, only broadens the appeal.

If the Polish devs get round to sharpening FMs, adding joystick support and better cockpits, then Helo Sim would be well positioned to winch up the sim Search & Rescue torch dropped ten years ago by InterActive Vision.


The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s Foxer smelt of wet dog and casual racism. Zabzonk realised that the six lossword elements name-checked famous WW2 warriors/leaders and their mutts. With a little help from FurryLippedSquid and deejayem he identified…

  • Churchill’s poodle, Rufus.
  • Hitler’s German Shepherd, Blondi.
  • Guy Gibson’s labrador, Nigger.
  • Monty’s spaniel, Rommel.
  • Rommel’s sausage-dog, Elbo.
  • Patton’s bull terrier, Tank.

His prize?  A rare signed copy of ‘Acthung – Panzerhund!’ (the memoirs of Zorki, an Eastern Front anti-tank dog).

Today’s puzzle contains seven birds and each of those birds is also a ship* currently afloat somewhere in the world. If you fancy padding around town in a pair of exceptionally comfy Flare Path plimsole lines you’ll need to combine ornithological knowledge with data to find the present location of all seven vessels.

*Strictly speaking, five are ships, one is a barge and one is a launch.


  1. misterT0AST says:

    I usually skim through “A flare Path” to get an idea of what it’s about, then proceed to things that are more relevant to my interests.
    This time I have absolutely no idea what I just read. I don’t get it.
    I just thought I’d to point it out. Sorry if I sound snarky, I don’t mean to offend anyone.

    • bob. says:

      You actually sound kind of the opposite of snarky. What is there “not to get”?

    • TWChristine says:

      I’m assuming you’re referring to the Foxer part of Flare Path? In that case don’t feel bad because I’m in the same boat! I do find the rest of the articles intersting though..

    • Reapy says:

      Was a little wobbly but nothing that bad, just lots of references. Basically I got from it a new graphics update and drivable tank to steel beasts, a demo for combat mission, and some press for the helicopter game.

    • zachforrest says:

      I never understand FP, but it remains pretty much my favourite feature.Tim is the best writer in games journalism.

      • BooleanBob says:

        If only his output could stretch, like hot toffee and/or the shadows in Kenshi, to more than one weekly article.

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          I shall begin heating and stretching Mr. Stone immediately.

        • Dozer says:

          He wrote that other article today/yesterday/TIMEZONES, though. The one which he wrote. Er… it’s been a busy day, I’ll tell you its title in a minute.

        • Dozer says:

          Kenshi – the fabulous bakery boys!

          link to

          Sorry, Tim, I did really enjoy the article. But MMOs are much more abstract than the stuff I’ve been thinking about today and it got pushed to the back of my mind!

        • guygodbois00 says:

          More articles from Mr Stone? Yes, please. One of the few that kept the quality around these parts and beyond. Was he nicknamed The Forester or some such in the olden days of HMS PC Gamer? If not, on whom was bestowed such lustrous title ? I believe the reason was Civilization 3 forest cutting, although not 100% sure.

    • Didden says:

      I guess things like the bee shadows could be confusing, but that was the heading of an RPS article several weeks ago regarding the bee shadows in ArmA 3

  2. phelix says:

    That Helicopter Simulator is just post process overload.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      My favourite part of the post-process is the bit where they remove your eyeballs to buff them up on a specially-roughened buffing machine to increase the glare.

  3. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Tricky one as there are lots of ships with the birds in their name, so these are best guesses…

    African Kookaburra – South Vietnam (coin)

    Oriole – Baltimore, US (cartoon logo)

    Guillemot – Aarhus, Denmark (stamp)

    Nord Nightingale – Dominican Republic (WAAF nurses)

    DMS Siskin – Abu Dhabi (biplane)

    Lawn mower could be a Hayter Harrier, but there are too many craft with the name to pick one. I’ll go for the Cape Harrier off the North coast of Taiwan. No idea who the aviatrix is, or even if she is one.

    • h_m_murdoch says:

      Black Swan is in Cowes on the Isle of Wight

    • corinoco says:

      The coin is Australian, not South Vietnamese, the bird is a Kookaburra, not African Kookaburra. In all likely hood an Eastern Kookaburra.

      HMAS Kookaburra was a boom defence ship used to protect Sydney Harbour in WW2. It is now an artificial reef off North Head, Sydney Harbor. It’s definitely not afloat

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      South Vietnam is the current location of the ship, not the origins of the coin. The only Kookaburra registered Australian is a yacht, seems doubtful.

  4. jimbobjunior says:

    STX Oriole: A bit outside Adelaide (-35.36023, 138.1049)

  5. dicenslice says:

    Is the lawnmower a Hayter?

  6. Cinek says:

    What’s up with this Helicopter Simulator: Search & Rescue ? Why everything is so… blurred & glowing?

    It makes my eyes hurt just by watching screenshots.

    • v_ware says:

      Seems like the developers just discovered bloom and think it’s the best thing to happen to gaming since the invention of 3D graphics.

  7. SuicideKing says:

    After Arma 3, i’m convinced i can play any sim on the PC, so i’ll give the first two a shot.

    Though i tried the F2P version of Arma once (and maybe the operation Flashpoint demo or something) and i just couldn’t manage it.

    Edit: Aww not free.

  8. v_ware says:

    Slightly dissapointed by the lack of cat pictures.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      What’s wrong with the title picture? It’s an armour-piercing clawed anti-tank (AP-CAT) round.

      • Hydrogene says:

        AP-CAT would also explain the cage around the M113, to keep the cats from clawing at the armour.

        • BooleanBob says:

          Now I’m wondering whether Tim didn’t make a typo, and the article wasn’t meant to be titled ‘High Calibre Cat Pitchers’.

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Cage? Oh, you mean the Defensive Equipment – Self-Contained Repeller of Anti Tank Combat Housecats (DE-SCRATCH)?

  9. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Is that Black Swan from Crimson Skies?

    Hooo what a great game.

    • Hydrogene says:

      Well done ! That’s her! But the only “black swan” I can find is a “pleasure craft”, in Cowes, UK. How strange.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Yeah, same here, there was once an HMS Black Swan but was scrapped decades ago.

    • Conehead The Barbarian says:

      Yeah, and now i’ve had to go off and listen to the crimson skies main theme for several times in a row.

      EDIT: link to

  10. Dozer says:

    Why would a heli sim developer NOT have joystick support?

    That said, I had lots of fun in Battlefield: Vietnam flying helicopters with keyboard, mouse, and impeccable precision.

  11. Megakoresh says:

    I clicked because I thought there will be many cats. I was disappointed.

  12. cptgone says:

    i spotted a typo: Mauser is spelled with an “a” ;)

  13. orranis says:

    That mower is a difficult one. Alas, bird themed trimming device, such sorrow you cause me. All that civilized man yearns for is the comfort of a solid legacy/trove of Flair Points and you deny me my desire.

  14. TWChristine says:

    On the topic of helicopter sims, have any of you tried Take On Helicopters and was it decent? I heard it hadvaried missions which reminded me of the wonderful Sim Copter (although that’s about as unrealistic as you can get).

    • Mattressi says:

      I’ve got ToH and the Hinds DLC. The game has a decent campaign, which was relatively bug-free. However, the devs have kept altering the flight models of the helicopters without altering the campaigns, which has resulted in some mission being nearly impossible to finish if you play with the most realistic settings (some missions require you to go faster than your helicopter can handle or do things it can no longer do, as of the flight model updates). One mission, an air show, I finished with my helicopter shuddering and eventually losing its engine and responsiveness in the cyclic. Somehow it finished as a success, just before my helicopter hit the water. Most missions are fine, though and some are really fun. But you might want to turn off some realism settings if you can’t get past a mission.

      While the campaign is pretty good to me, there is no real dynamic campaign. It’s just the one story-based one. At the end you can have a sort of dynamic campaign, but it’s just the same 4 or so missions set in slightly different locations (and they aren’t even interesting missions – taking a guy who wants to look at golf courses, hovering over a boat to ‘save’ people, etc). The worst thing, for me, is that you earn money from these missions to spend on helicopters and upgrades – but these helicopters and upgrades do nothing! I thought buying the FLIR would let me do search and rescue missions or that a medevac helicopter would let me do ambulance-style missions. Really, they don’t do anything. The FLIR you can use if you switch seats, which is useless when the campaign is SP. The medical helicopter is treated as any other helicopter – you’ll be taking some guy looking at more golf courses in it, not saving people.
      The whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way. They put in quite a lot of cool things, but they jsut aren’t used at all. It’s another Bohemia Interactive cop-out – they make a bunch of things, make an editor and hope the community does the rest. But ToH isn’t as popular as Arma 2, so there aren’t all that many community missions.

      Also, multiplayer is dead and has been for a year now.

      The flight models are passable and are much less arcadey than Arma 2. There’s a flight model mod for the light helicopter which was made by Nightstalker (one of the guys from Hovercontrol) which makes it fly quite a bit more realistically.

      Ultimately, I enjoyed it, but I got it relatively cheaply. It’s good for the campaign and for just flying around in free-flight. Some of the community missions are quite fun too. I’d probably say that I recommend it. It’s not as realistic as FSX or X-Plane (hell, the helicopters are just called “light”, “medium” and “heavy”), but it can still be quite good and certainly looks a hell of a lot better than FSX/X-Plane.
      Just don’t get Hinds. It’s poorly done all-round. Even the holo-sight isn’t a working holo-sight; it’s just a 2D sprite which doesn’t show where the guns are aiming (especially if you use Freetrack/TrackIR). There’s no campaign and only 3 missions, IIRC. I had a bit of fun, but the whole ‘not being able to aim without the game HUD’ thing ruined it for me, as well as the lack of content.

      Also, sorry about the length :P

      • TWChristine says:

        Thanks for the reply! And no worries about the length, I rather enjoy reading a well laid out response as opposed to just a “yea it was good” reply. :)