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The Flare Path: Wants A Welbike

Simulation & wargame blather

First-time readers of Flare Path, before you go any further, be aware that the following may contain references to obscure 1920s RAF biplanes. The writer will probably assume you find tankettes, midget submarines, and Welbikes inherently charming. At some point in the text he'll almost certainly use the phrase “almost certainly” and the words 'tad' and 'Panzer' (Or, if the column is looking a tad short, 'Panzerkampfwagen'). Alliteration will go unforgivably unchecked. Semi-colons and hyphens may be used; incorrectly.

Sprocket Scientist Needed

Flare Path wants a Welbike almost as much as he wants a military despatch rider game and the resurrection of PanzerUnity. Work on PzU - a free Unity-powered multiplayer WW2 tank sim - appears to have permanently stalled after the disappearance of a key coder. The team had to weather a major setback in 2010 when the first programmer, Monkwarrior, died unexpectedly, and this second blow looks to be the final straw.

Tragic, especially in the light of the just-released you-might-as-well-see-some-of-what-we've achieved MP demo. This playable tempter features a generic European-style battlefield rather than the attractive North African map that appeared in early promotional vids, and just one tank type - the Panzerkampfwagen II - but there's plenty to admire.

View distances - so important in an armour sim - are none-too-shabby. Physics feel spot on. A manual gearbox and working clutch mean tea-drinking, watch repair and tattooing during hill climbs would be challenging. Trees are toppleable, but barging into them in your 9-tonne scurrier will rattle your teeth and mullah your MPH.

Thanks to deserted lobbies, I've only fired the 2cm KwK 30 L/55 cannon at friendlies and imaginary triffids thus far. Shells appear to travel in an agreeably shell-like fashion, though a crude temporary hitpoint-based damage model means you never see them ricocheting skyward or dsimantling tracks.


Moore Microsoft Flight?

A Republic RC-3 Seabee very like the one that carried Bond to Scaramanga's island in The Man With The Golden Gun, is set to be the first unofficial flyable to appear in the mod-resistant Microsoft Flight, if two enterprising tinkerers known as stonelance and MVGibbage have their way.

The pair are well on their way to creating a tool that will allow the importing of FSX aircraft into Flight. EULA respect and different approaches to flight modelling mean the day when aerodynes fly freely and easily from one sim to the other is likely to be some way off, but it's an encouraging step in that direction. If MS can be persuaded to allow other new fan-made additions (they've approved this project) then the future for the game that gamely tried and failed to haul flight simulation back into the mainstream, may not be bleak as many thought.


John Tiller, Boredom Killer

Matrix Games are still trying to tempt thrifty tacticians via weekly sales. One of this week's hexy sweetmeats is a game - or, strictly speaking, a trio of games - that is to PC wargaming what the Sherman tank was to the Allied war effort in WW2: dependable, effective, adaptable, cheap to produce, highly inflammable, slightly too tall.

Hmm. That analogy, like the M4, has flaws. A franchise as strong and well-loved as John Tiller's Campaign Series probably deserves better. I'd like to have seen a more generous reduction (Thanks to dubious conversion calculations and a less-than-upfront approach to VAT, US customers pay $20, British ones £19 for the download version) but it's impossible to deny that purchasers will be getting a Tortoise-sized helping of high-quality wargaming for their money.

Matrix's re-release includes three of the five original Talonsoft Campaign titles (The absence of Divided Ground is disappointing. The lack of Eastern Front, inconsequential thanks to the presence of Eastern Front II) together with a swarm of relatively recent fixes, tweaks, and additional scenarios. Still modded, occasionally patched, and relatively popular in MP, the games earn their keep in single-player too. 250m-sized hexes and rules that balance playability and realism nigh perfectly, give battles a pace, plausibility, and gritty intimacy that's sometimes missing from engagements in recent releases like Panzer Corps and Battle Academy.

The AI won't gain entry to your house posing as a police officer, then try the old Norwood Builder ruse in an attempt to get you to reveal the location of your piggybank, but it can mount a passable attack and hold a line reasonably efficiently. Two types of campaigns are available. Because the dynamic variety rely on randomly-generated maps, and JTCs's procedural topography tends towards the bland, I've always preferred the handcrafted type.


The Flare Path Foxer

The last foxer was hairier than an orangutan's plughole. Luxuriantly-tressed Phlebas spotted the common strand first and gets a platinum blonde flair point and a year's supply of Dapper Dan Hair Pomade for his perspicacity. Helpful brushwork from the likes of Zachforrest, Matchstick, Dozer, FhnuZoag, FuryLippedSquid, Shuck, Stranglove and Zephro is recognised with FP flair points made from genuine earwig ear wigs.

A) Egyptian goddess, Nit
B) Antonov An-26 'Curl'
C) Ontos (In its anti-infantry role in Vietnam, it used beehive flechette rounds to devastating effect)
D) Curtiss SOC Seagull
E) Mullet
F) Prototype locomotive 'Falcon' (Like its sibling, the Class 47, built by Brush Traction)
G) Grumman OV-1 Mohawk
H) WW1 'pigtails' (Though the Siegfried/Vidal Sassoon link supplied by Phlebas is infinitely better)

What's the Foxer theme this week? Fruit? Nobel Prize winners? Slang words for the male member? There's only two ways to find out, and one of those would lead to instant expulsion from the Fédération Internationale de Defoxing.

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