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The Flare Path: Łódź You Believe It!

Simulation & wargame blather

According to Flare Path's contacts in Moscow, Obama's failure to secure Russian backing for air strikes against the Syrian regime had nothing to do with traditional enmity or Putin's long-standing relationship with Assad, and everything to do with the US president's unwillingness to publicly state that A) “Company of Heroes 2 was deeply insulting to the people of the former Soviet Union”,B) Going East's lack of Kamaz trucks and Russian locations has brought shame on SCS Software and the entire Czech Republic”, and C) “Anyone that fails to back RRG's WW2 flight sim kickstarter is a massive knob.”

Christ-on-a-Kettenkrad! Have you seen this?

Apparently, if we shovel enough Rubles into the pockets of Oleg 'IL-2' Maddox, Igor “DCS: Black Shark” Tishin, and Ilya “Pacific Fighters” Shevchenko, they'll give us an IL-2 sequel set over the hedgey hell of pre/post D-Day Normandy! While Oleg and Ilya's last collaboration - Cliffs of Dover - did their reputations no favours, and 777 seem to be well on the way to delivering a rather fabulous sim set in the same period, it's hard not to swoon at the prospect of DCS: WW2.

Built around a free-to-play three aircraft (Spitfire, Thunderbolt and Bf 109) core, with stretch goals that encompass Ardennes and Romanian maps, flyable Typhoons, Me 262s and (gulp) Mosquitos (all free if you plump for the $40 tier), the basic version of the sim could be in our hands as soon as next Summer if the $100,000 target is hit (Which, at the current pledge rate, looks highly likely).

Can the DCS engine deliver a faithful yet fluid depiction of 1944-era NW France? Can Oleg and Ilya keep a lid on feature creep? Will their passion for realism mean those of us after a 21st Century European Air War (Microprose, 1998) or Operation Overlord (Rowan, 1994) wind up overwhelmed and under-enchanted? I've got more questions than a B-17G has gun turrets (8) but a sneaking suspicion a $40 pledge could turn out to be money extremely well spent.


Eastward Ho!

The stench of bitumen and sweat emanating from SCS Software's Prague office is particularly pungent at the moment. Euro Truck Simulator 2 is about to get its first piece of DLC. Going East! will let fans of 2012's most moreish sim speed across shrunken versions of Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. I've spent the last five days criss-crossing the new lands for pleasure, profit, and public information purposes.

The £8.50/$13/€10 add-on (release date: September 20) pushes the already vast European map eastward from Western Poland and the Czech-Slovak frontier to the borders of Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania and the former Yugoslavia. Thirteen new cities - heavily stylized of course - await, along with hundreds of miles of blacktop liberally lined with interesting vistas, and generously dotted with challenging junctions, slopes and bends. I'd love to have seen sense of place further bolstered by a few country-specific police cars or billboards, but it's impossible to drive the new areas without admiring the work that's gone into the landscaping.

Looking back over the past week, I honestly can't recall a single stretch of roadside scenery where I found myself thinking “Blimey, this is getting monotonous” or “Looks like this bit was done at 4.30 on a hot Friday afternoon.”. If SCS's map team are all dispirited clockwatchers, there's no sign of it whatsoever in their work. A glimpse of onion-domed church, sprawling rail yard or meandering river here, an unusual bridge design, power station, or castle ruin there... there's always something to draw the eye and distract you from the fact you've just spent the last four hours doing very little except contentedly tap brake, accelerator and gear keys and slide a mouse left and right.

Some of the landscape details, like the Turul statue perched atop Gerecse Mountain in NW Hungary, are easy to miss. Others like the extensive WW2 war memorials in Dukla Pass north of Košice, Slovakia demand schedule-threatening stops and free-camera leg-stretching.

With the Carpathians cutting the add-on area roughly in half and motorways still less common east of the Oder than west of it, longer intra-region trips inevitably involve an engaging mix of motorway and minor road driving. Until you've experienced both the soothing rhythm of multi-lane motoring and the white-knuckle terror of risky overtakes on winding, rain-lashed mountain roads (ideally on the same trip) you really haven't experienced ETS2 or this well-crafted add-on, at its beguiling best. Bring on Scandinavia, SCS! Bring on Italy and Iberia! Bring on the Balkans!*

*But not before you've added some hedges to the UK, got rid of those silly dry stone walls just north of Southampton, and added motorbikes and roadkill.


The Flare Path Foxer

While the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, the quick brown foxer prefers to distract him with a cryptic collage like the one Zephro, Syt, FuryLippedSquid, skink74, WildebeestGames, NofWoof, and All is Well deftly deciphered last Friday, then hit him over the head with a sock filled with wet sand. In truth the lazy dog isn't lazy at all, he's permanently concussed.

A) Lima Army Tank Plant, Ohio, birthplace of numerous M1 and M1A1 tanks.
B) Chell 'The Hammer Man' Puddock, one of many excellent reasons for buying The Victor back in the Seventies.
C) Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, the USA's first supersonic fighter.
D) Hotel Hartenstein, the site of the British HQ during the battle for Arnhem.
E) Nakajima Ki-43 'Oscar', the manoeuvrable yet vulnerable backbone of the IJAAF's fighter force during WW2.
F) Team Yankee, armoured warfare game inspired by the Harold Coyle novel of the same name.
G) Zulu class sub, Cold War Soviet submarine inspired by Michael Caine film of the same name.

Last week's hidden theme was the NATO phonetic alphabet. This week's probably isn't the NATO phonetic alphabet, but knowing what you know about Foxers it's probably wise to rule nothing out at this point.

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About the Author

Tim Stone