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The Flare Path: Maxims To Live By

Simulation & wargame news

Call of Duty XIV walkthrough, Mission 6, “Heer of the Dog”. This mission starts in a bottle-strewn pillbox near the Belorussia-Poland border. It's the morning of 22nd June 1941. You've been woken by the wail of Stuka sirens and the crump of artillery. Waves of German infantry are approaching from the west. To have any chance of stopping them you must quickly turn the 190 components spread out on the tarpaulin next to your bunk into a fully functioning Maxim machine gun. If you're playing on Veteran difficulty you've got approximately four minutes before the stick grenades start tumbling through your loophole. Begin by inserting gasket #185 into water jacket cover #179. Then slide pin #61a into...

It's impossible to dabble with the disarmingly obsessive/up front Gun Disassembly 2 without picturing its primary sole activity transplanted into a grittier, more atmospheric context. Noble Empire have created a game all about dismantling and mantling accurately modelled firearms. Tragically, at present all the bolting and unbolting, the sliding and clipping, is done in charmless CAD-style surroundings.

You're an invisible armourer working amongst sunlit clouds (or against a plain coloured backcloth, if you prefer) to an accompaniment of insipid incidental music. The potentially anachronistic whirr of your torque gun is never counterpointed by distant battle melodies, buzzing insects, or homesick harmonica players. Clumsily handled parts never fall onto weathered tabletops, stained blankets, or well-thumbed weapon manuals. The San Franciscan devs don't seem to realise that GD2 is a few poetic presentational enhancements away from being one of military gaming's most unusual and powerful time-machines.

Over the last couple of days I've been getting my hands oily manhandling the Maxim HMG add-on. Like most GD2 adjuncts it can be bought separately (£3.60) or as part of a slightly better value multi-weapon purchase. Expensive? That depends on how fascinating you find mechanical jigsaws and how interested you are in those things that protrude from the bottom corners of FPS screens.

I reckon I've already had my money's worth. Rummaging about in the innards of Sir Hiram's 100-year-old design has been an education. Given a bag of bits, a spanner, and a couple of hours I'm convinced I could now rebuild a real PM M1910.


Those bits hidden under the edge of the hearth rug? Largely inconsequential.

In 'operation' mode the glimpses of internal mechanisms provided by the four-level X-ray view are especially mesmerising. Watching in slowmo as the Maxim's breathtakingly swift/efficient bolt carrier snatches a bullet from the 250-round belt, extracts an empty cartridge case from the barrel, and then uses that case to shove the previously extracted case into the daylight, the World seems a slightly darker place - Humanity's prospects marginally bleaker.

There are global score tables for those with a competitive streak (If you ever need a Maxim stripped in a hurry I recommend contacting Ahmed from Saudi Arabia). I can't see myself PB-chasing, but the pleasing almost ritualistic act of assembling and disassembling means my little wheeled Fascist perforator is likely to be built and broken down a few times over the coming year.

The temptation to return regularly would be much stronger had Noble Empire provided an ArmA-style firing range and a randomised component layout option (presently, parts are clustered to aid assembly). Oh, and an IR view and a 'Find the fault' mode would have been nice too.

Will I purchase more add-ons? Possibly. Though the GD2 team seem to spend most of their time crafting modern firearms, the quirky range of antique armaments includes some eye-catching kit. The sim has recently acquired a Lewis Gun, a Winchester 1873 repeater, and its first artillery piece - the ZiS 3 AT gun. Surely, an MG 42 , Bren, and Vickers HMG can't be too far away.

Watch on YouTube

In the demo's gun cabinet you'll find nine gratis weapons including a Colt 1911 automatic, an S&W revolver, and a SIG SG 550 rifle. The 'ultra high quality' model of the Maxim boasts a lot more polygons than these free offerings, but like them is textured and lit relatively poorly (Internal parts often lack textures, external bitmaps can be on the blurry side). Judging by the trial guns and the Maxim, firing sounds also tend towards the synthetic.

Hopefully, if Ultimate Disassembly ever gets off the ground (it was Adam's Kickstarter Katchup piece from last week that introduced me to Noble Empire's noble empiricism) its aircraft, automobiles, and AFVs will have crisper surface details and more redolent audio. Based on the evidence of the BMP-3 sneak-peek below, the signs are good.

Watch on YouTube


Spruce Are My Signposts

Technology increasingly reliant on complex electronics, and economies increasingly dominated by service industries mean soft-handed First Worlders like Yours Truly, are far less likely
than their grandfathers to know the deep satisfaction that comes from intimate and complete knowledge of a mechanical device. Thanks to Global Positioning witchcraft we're also less likely to have recently experienced the pleasure of using a paper map and a pair of Mk I eyeballs to turn Lostness into Unlostness.

Concerned Finn Antero Pulli is keen to help. Suunnistussimulaattori, his first-person orienteering sim, has finally been translated into English. You'll find the five-map demo at the foot of a lone question mark-shaped Scots Pine tree 28.6km NNE of Helsinki (If you pass a shrine made from animal skulls, shredded Gore-tex, and bloody SIM cards you've gone too far)

Also here.

Knowledge of orienteering symbology and basic compass technique will help you navigate the courses, but is by no means essential especially on compact, densely landmarked maps like Rantakylä.

Thanks to harsh terrain-related movement modifiers...

… open ground isn't always as open as it first appears, and the most direct route to a control isn't always the quickest.

Potentially useful keys?

  • Move = LMB
  • Look around = RMB
  • Check map = M
  • Rotate map = U/Y or RMB
  • Zoom map = N
  • Check compass = K
  • Rotate compass housing = H/J
  • Punch control = SPACE
  • Pick wild strawberries = P
  • Grin at bickering goldcrests = G
  • Bury murder weapon = B
  • Bury murder victim = SHIFT + B
  • Dump pornography = D
  • Select metal detector = 3
  • Consult Eric Dodson's 'Uniform Buttons of the Winter War' = 7


The Flare Path Foxer

Whichcrafty defoxers saw through last week's witchcrafty foxer? Skink74 and Matchstick, that's wič! They had little hubblebubbletoilandtrouble identifying a Hecate II rifle, a C96 'Broomhandle' Mauser, a Merlin engine, a McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, a Gandalf Airlines tail logo, a 'Black Cats' Lynx, and the Lancashire Witch, and earn themselves FP flair points carved from organically grown mandrake root.

Due to a strike by Chilean flair point polishers, there are no flair point prizes this week. The first two people to send me  (please don't put answers in the comments)  the names of the nine bridges pictured in this rare 'Badly Traced Bridges' foxer, will have to make do with a Steam activation code instead. (PRIZES CLAIMED!). For reasons of professional hygiene I won't disclose the name of the activatable game here, but rest assured the codes were an unsolicited gift and the game is good company.

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