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The Flare Path: KillHouse Rules

Simulation & wargame blather

The Flare Path kill house is not like other kill houses. Footwear must be removed at the front door. All offers of tea or coffee politely accepted. No-one is allowed to exit the hall without yelling “C-o-m-i-n-g, ready or not!”. Those that pass the cat without a) stroking him or b) complimenting him on his “wuvly fluffiness” can expect to be taken to one side by an instructor. Obviously, flashbanging the granny annex between 12.15 and 13.00 (Bargain Hunt) and 14.00 and 15.00 (Bergerac) is strictly forbidden, and anyone caught sniggering at the mantelpiece photo of Tim (the one where he's wearing the knitted swimming trunks) will be instantly evicted.

Stick your spy camera under this door and swivel it 30 degrees to the left, and you should just about be able to make out a big heap of Door Kickers alphas being guarded by three ski-masked Romanians with MAC-10s. If you want early access to one of the freshest, friendliest, and most entertaining tactics games I've played in ages, you've got a few options.

1. You and your colleagues can kick open the door then waddle towards the tangos tweaking the triggers of your Colt automatics and M4 carbines as you go.

(Success chance: 5%. There's another hostile in the bathroom on the right-hand side of the door. On hearing the commotion he will emerge, fly undone and machine pistol blazing.)

2. You can split your team into two groups - a southern group that will enter through the front door after hurling a flashbang into the centre of the room, and a western group that will enter through the sidedoor after cillitflashbanging the bathroom.

(Success chance: 45%. When the western group pass the entrance to the master bedroom, there's a high likelihood they'll be spotted by tango #4 who will panic and promptly execute the hostages.

3. Slide $7.99 under the door.

(Success chance: 100%.)

I plumped for a variant of 3 and have been enjoying the alpha for most of the week. Though there's only a couple of weapons available to SWATists right now, and the AI is still being hammered into shape, there's ample evidence that KillHouse are onto a winner.

Missions and map layouts start simple - tiny unfurnished kill houses occupied by handfuls of hostiles. Before long, however, you're moving Kevlared killers through elaborate single-storey hotels, embassies, and convention centres, dotted with cunningly positioned badmen, hostages, and - occasionally - defusable timebombs.

Door Kickers' door kickers are directed with mouse-dragged destination dots. A right-click accesses reload, flashbang, and - assuming the operative is near a door - spy camera and entry options. With a little practise and timely employment of the pause function, organising synchronised assaults is relatively easy. Even if you're being incredible cautious, it's rare for a mission to last longer than five minutes. This brevity might sound a little alarming, but I've found myself playing many of the 22 challenges numerous times.

Random tango positions, unpredictable reactions, and complex LoS/LoF combinations encourage replay, as does the sight of a friendly crumpling under a hail of unexpected bullets. Team casualties don't mean defeat, but if you're the sort that takes pride in your work, they'll almost certainly prompt an immediate restart.

A few tactical tips from a man that has seen far too much innocent blood splashed up the walls of the Solomon Islands Embassy and the Golden Sunrise Hotel.

  • 1. Reload regularly. Though team members do reload automatically when mags are exhausted, the last thing you want is for one of your men to round a corner, fire one shot, then start fumbling for ammo.
  • 2. Consider crossfire. When the tangos open up with those machine pistols, anything between them and their targets is likely to get liberally hosed.
  • 3. Flank home-made barricades. In my build a target behind a desk or upturned couch can be twice as hard to neutralise as one caught in the open.
  • 4. Flashbang like it's going out of fashion. The few seconds of confusion sown by detonating stun grenades are often the difference between triumph and tragedy.

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Northern Exposures

My interest in slaying digital ungulates might have waned in recent years, but The Hunter remains one of my deerest chums. Unwilling to shatter the soul-salving calm of its brilliantly rendered outdoor spaces with rifle and revolver reports, I now do all my shooting with a compact camera.

The sim has recently acquired a handsome tract of snow-sprinkled Sweden called Hemmeldal. Equipped with nothing but a Nikon and a beatific smile, I set off yesterday morning in search of Roe Deer, Moose and Brown Bear.

“Mission 1: Mischievous squirrels have stolen 28 vital components from Doc's prized 1956 Volvo. Retrieve the parts and he'll reward you with the key to the old copper mine at Koppartorp”

Wow, that was so worth the climb. Perfect spot for a picnic. Wish I'd brought a blanket and a beef-paste cob. If orienteering sims like Suunnistussimulaattor and Catching Features had visuals like this, I suspect Anterro and Greg would be beating customers off with a stick.

Amazing how quick the weather can change up here. A crackling stove and a glass of akvavit would be very welcome at this point. Is that a cabin up ahead? Odd. It's not marked on my HunterMate.

What a friendly old lady and an unusual abode! Seeing I was chilled to the bone, she offered to let me warm myself inside her unusually capacious oven. I declined but might stop in on my way back; those shingles were delicious.

Bah, a little part of me was hoping this was going to be a stealable submachine gun.

Having spent many a day executing Scots Pine trees, I feel I can only give The Hunter's Pinus sylvestris a meagre five out of ten. The coppery trunks and branches are passable, but close-up that foliage looks far more cypressy than piney.

I'm getting... vanilla... warm hay.... notes of blackberry... cinnamon... and turpentine. Mainly shit, though.

Nuts. Just missed a potentially brilliant bear shot. On the trail of one of Hemmeldal's honey fiends I spotted what I thought was my quarry on a distant ridge. Quickening my pace, I failed to notice another Ursus dozing at the foot of a tree directly in my path. I was a few steps away from the earth-coloured mound when it stirred, scrambled to its feet and dashed off into the undergrowth. By the time I'd thought to raise my camera, there was nothing to shoot but twitching spruce twigs.

One day Expansive Worlds are going to surrender to the malign forces that surely haunt these hills and vales. Players will return to their tents to find amateur taxidermy, burnt maps, and empty ammo boxes. We'll all finally be let into the grim in-joke that is the game's title.

This is what it's all about! After a twisting twenty minute stalk, here I am, laying in the grass a stone's throw from a spectacular bull moose! Marvellous. What would be the point in pulling a trigger or loosing an arrow now? How would seeing that majestic animal slump onto the frosty ground improve my mood or magnify this sense of wonder and triumph? All those gun-toting trophy hunters are missing a trick.

Wow, he's even turning in my direction. That's it big fella, smile for the camera. Say “Herrgårdsost”.

Hmm. Why is he dipping his head like that and pawing the ground? Surely he...

Oh God. No.


The Flare Path Foxer

Airlines shunned in the past by the hyperstitious FP include...

a) Air Malta
b) Swissair
c) Tunis Air
d) National Airways Corporation
e) Eastern Provincial Airways
f) Air Liberia
g) Angola Airlines
h) Aeromexico
i) Japan Air Lines
j) Garuda Indonesian Airlines
k) Czech Airlines

Only the extinct NAC and EPA eluded legendary logo loggers Matchstick, Brun, JabbleWok, and Aluschaaf. FP flair points made from lifejacket toggles seem like a fair reward for their efforts.

There's a moose loose in today's foxer. Find it before anyone else to earn a Flare Path flair point engraved with likenesses of both Johan Hedberg and Elkie Brooks.


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