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The Flare Path: Bombs

Simulation & wargame blather

“Another helping of Enigma machine gibberish from Rock, Paper, Shotgun's resident sim gimp.” The Coventry Herald

“As usual, Stone switches subjects with the gracefulness of a derailing freight train.” The Aldershot Bugle

“The last time I saw that many commas that close together, I was visiting the National Museum of Printing.” Caravanning Today

“After reading this week's pieces on IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad and BOMB, the fatwā calls suddenly made a lot more sense.” Contemporary Crochetist

According to the double digits chalked in the corner of its title screen, IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad is now 39% complete. Happily for early accessers, that figure doesn't translate into hangars full of half-finished fuselages and unskinned wings. Those that splashed-out on the Premium Edition ($95) or the not-currently-available Standard Edition ($60) are presently spending their weekends (soon, mandatory RoF-style servers should be switched on seven days a week) flying three airworthy aerodynes, with a fourth - the Stuka - apparently not far away.

The Bf-109, IL-2, and LaGG-3 still require work (in cockpits a fair-few gauges and switches are still to be connected, some engine management options await full implementation) but ask them to dogfight, beat-up an airfield, or harass a tank convoy and, in the hands of a half-decent pilot, they perform admirably.

Being only a quarter-decent pilot, I've left impressive quantities of mangled aluminium in my wake while getting to know the splendidly lively flight models and jowl-wobbling ground handling. In my hamfisted paws early on every aircraft seemed to have the spinal robustness of a Fw 200 Condor, every propeller the torque of an ocean liner screw. Now, thankfully, accidents are a tad rarer, and I'm starting to feel relaxed enough to enjoy the paint-blistering exhaust pyrotechnics, sparkling snowscapes, and atmospheric night sorties.

With customisable loadouts and 13 missions available for each aircraft type, there's plenty of opportunity for experimentation. An hour or two spent grappling with the historical inadequacies of the LaGG-3 or slinging rockets at sharp-eyed flak batteries generates quite different hand-eye challenges from an hour spent swatting Bf-109s from the chilly back-seat of a Sturmovik, or perfecting crosswind landing techniques at Lapino. Of course, when multiplayer and the unscripted campaign engine arrives, the sim will truly blossom.

The titular city arrived about a month ago, and will - touch wood - receive a bit more attention before that dev progress total hits 100%. Persuasive enough at distance, low down it lacks the detail and dynamism some optimistic tile-rattlers may expect.

In most other respects IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad already instils confidence. On the basis of this constantly evolving early access build, the second Sturmovik sequel would seem to be in far safer hands than the first.


Crimson Sky Squab

Having spent over a decade waiting for a Crimson Skies sequel and at least one whole weekend actively planning one I'm not sure whether to feel elated, cheated, or chelated by BOMB.

A cheap and cheery fantasy flight sim from a French outfit that believes (rightly) that La Moustache Studio is a fine name for a developer, and (wrongly) that capitalising every letter in a title is sometimes justified, this £7.75 surprise wears its inspiration as proudly as a kamikaze pilot wears his hachimaki.

Within an hour of commencing the (currently) six-chapter campaign I'd furballed with bizarre biplanes over palm-fringed island beaches, bandied words with a piratical aviatrix, and accepted work from a shady casino owner. Though all of the dialogue was delivered via text and some of that text wasn't brilliantly translated, BOMB's story and characterisation captures the pulpy jocularity of Crimson Skies rather well.

The flying isn't bad either. With 3D cockpits, passable physics and some very fetching vistas (the jungle rendering is particularly effective) the fact that a failed sortie means a restarted sortie (there appear to be no mid-mission saves or autosave checkpoints) seems relatively unimportant. I'd love to choose my own jobs/allies, design my own craft, and grapple with a more sophisticated damage model, but given the modest entrance fee, and the presence of skirmish and multiplayer modes, the simplicity is easy to overlook.

Because I'm still struggling with a jaunt involving both dogfighting and freighter torpedoing, I can't tell you whether BOMB's initial story segment includes any dirigible molesting. La Moustache are staggering the release. Next Monday we get missions 1-6, plus 4 flyables, 2 maps, singleplayer skirmish and deathmatch MP. In March and April respectively, buyers will receive additional 5-sortie campaign chunks plus more flyables and MP modes. By June, mod tools, documentation, and Mac and Linux versions should be with us. Come Summer the game may be available through stores other than Desura.

I can't see myself abandoning hard-drinking wino hero Marcel 'La Moustache' Gaston before his story's done. He's no Nathan Zachary but in a genre generally peopled by wraiths and cardboard patriots, we must be thankful for small mercis.


The Flare Path Foxer

Of all the Noah knowers I know, I know none more knowing than phlebas, skink74, robinsparks, Samolety, Matchstick, Palindrome and Shiloh. Last week's collage theme emerged after these deft diluvian detectives demystified a...

A. Republic XF-12 Rainbow
B. Pot of Humbrol 'light olive' paint
C. V/Line rail map (Ararat station)
D. Churchill ARK
E. SA-13 Gopher (gopher wood)
F. Etrich Taube
G. Toyota Noah
H. Unity of Command screenshot (2x2 Games)
I. Pak 40 (40 days and nights of rain)

The FP lav (and the FP LAV, now I come to think about it) is wallpapered with Foxeroll™. There are unique 30x20cm picture puzzles wherever you look. The collage below is usually obscured by a stack of What Half-Track? magazines and a decommissioned Geballte Ladung (which serves as a spare loo roll holder, natch) so even if you've used the room in question, you probably won't have noticed it before.

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