After a few weeks spent with IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte plus the intervening two years of development, I wanted to present to you my full review for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte.
This latest title is more evolution than revolution that iterates on the series while giving us some legendary aircraft to fly. I think the developers made the right choice picking a late war western front scenario and I think the features and iterative evolution of the series over these last two years have made the IL-2 series stronger than ever.
I hope you enjoy the review and I of course welcome others to share their own take on reviewing IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte!
Killerfish Games's PC version of its iOS WW2 naval simulation/wargame takes the high seas by storm!
I started playing PC games on a system with a 14" screen and an early Pentium, and I'm not about to go back there, so I watched with interest but from afar, when I saw Fred 'Heinkill' Williams's affectionate and very favourable SimHQ review for the iOS-based Atlantic Fleet. Sometimes, though, dreams do come true, it seems, for a PC port has just arrived, after the developers completed the work and updated the graphics for the new platform.
Since the release of Fighting Steel and Destroyer Command in the late 1990s, it's been a bit of a famine for WW2 naval simmers, broken recently by the arrival of the rather good Victory at Sea. Well, now we also have Atlantic Fleet, so it's time to cast off, put to sea again and enjoy the feast that's followed that famine. And Atlantic Fleet is indeed a veritable multi-course meal of a feast, for anyone who remotely fancies tugging on his (or her) virtual seaboots and taking to the high seas to fight out some of the classic sea battles and campaigns of World War 2. Your mission is to preserve, or sever, the vital sea-lanes which kept Britain fighting against Nazi Germany, bringing vital supplies of food, weapons and raw marterials of all kinds to the British Isles...or not, if the Kriegsmarine has its way...
Atlantic Fleet iOS was the sequel to Pacific Fleet, and while our US cousins might regret it, I for one am very happy that Killerfish decided to get their PC feet wet with a port of the more recent, more modern game. I was brought up on a happy diet of Airfix 1/600 warships from the same theatre and the great little Eagle 1/1200 kits, released in themed sets like the Battle of Narvik, complete with accounts and maps of the relevant action. I soaked up films like Battle of the River Plate and Sink the Bismarck!, and later Ludovic Kennedy's excellent BBC TV documentaries on WW2 warships and battles - his later, excellent book Pursuit - the sinking of the Bismarck is on my desk as I type this. It was probably in the 1960s BBC documentary series The Valiant Years that I first heard Winston Churchill's famous observation that '...the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril'. Of course, while he was talking about the submarine threat to the supplies that kept Britain alive and in the fight, for much of the war the Kriegsmarine's surface units were also part of the threat that so concerned the great British war leader. And the air power of both sides played an important role. One of the joys of Atlantic Fleet is that when you step back into those dark and dangerous days, you can re-fight the Battle of the Atlantic and its most famous historical actions on, above or below the waves.
Installation and features
At time of writing, Atlantic Fleet is distributed via Steam - at a mere £6.99 Sterling. As we will see, for a game with high production values, engaging gameplay and an historical depth and coverage that would put many a full-price simulation in the shade, if not to shame, this is a very considerable bargain, to put it mildly.
I gather there are no plans to offer a different distribution channel and while I prefer the 'good old days' of standalone game installation, I have had no bother at all with any of the excellent Steam-based games I have purchased (Victory at Sea, Wargame: European Escalation and Wargame: AirLand Battle being the others) and would not consider passing up on a good game merely because of that.
I must start with Atlantic Fleet's high production values - these you will see from the moment the game loads. Here's the main menu screen. The ship seen here is the famous German battlecruiser Scharnhorst,* lost fighting against the odds at the Battle of the North Cape - which you can re-fight in Atlantic Fleet. Scharnhorst's brave showing prompted Admiral Fraser in Duke of York to say afterwards to his officers "Gentlemen, the battle against Scharnhorst has ended in victory for us. I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today". Such is the world of steel ships and iron men that Atlantic Fleet re-creates for us. But I digress...can't help it, I feel the hand of history on my shoulder, as TCB once said.
*...and yes, before you start posting corrections, I know the ship above is actually a Hipper class heavy cruiser - Prinz Eugen, probably - not Scharnhorst, but I couldn't resist the quote above and don't have a menu pic of Scharnhorst, to hand .
The point is, it looks great, it's animated, with camera pivoting around the ship, and there's a different ship each time. See, here's another menu shot, and this time, it's one of the big German destroyers, several variations of which appear in the game:
Atlantic Fleet is single-player only, so you will not find here any way to blow up anything other than an entirely virtual foe-man. You do, however, get a sombre but really effective musical theme to accompany the menu, and you can have music in-game, too.
Taking the menu options from the top, first there is 'Training Missions'. These missions are actually rather useful, and a good way of ensuring that it is the enemy who ends up like this, and not you:
And again yes, you heard right, you can drop the camera below the waves, to get this view, complete with rather scary grinding and booming ship sinking sounds;
As for those training missions, which will hopefully reduce the frequency with which your own ships feature in such scenes, here's what you get. Again it's nicely presented, with good artwork and a clean, crisp interface. I did mention the high production values, didn't I?
Here's the intro screen for the torpedo training mission. I really like Atlantic Fleet's artwork and the general design:
Load the mission and you get a little scenario, here a Royal Navy destroyer steaming alongside a hapless German merchantman. You click your way through a series of topic boxes, to learn the lesson. You can toggle the topic box on and off, for a better view. They each do a very good job of taking you through the relevant drill.
This is where you may first get to see the Atlantic Fleet mode of gameplay, and its most prominent feature is that it is turn-based, like a wargame. The sequence is: You move-You shoot-The enemy moves-The enemy shoots. We'll see how this works in more detail, later. Continuous gameplay would be better, and certainly more simulation-like, but it is what it is, and I soon got quite comfortable with it.
Jumping ahead to the last menu option, we come to 'Options/Help', and here's what you get:
As the menu title suggests, some of the things listed on the right of the screen above are options screens, others are help. The 'home' screen, above, lets you tweak various gameplay and difficulty options, as you can see. The 'Default controls' screen lets you re-map keyboard commands, like this...
...while the 'Damage Report' is a help option and looks like this:
I find it all very well-presented and impressively thorough, very well up to the standards of PC sims and better than many I've seen, including the very best.
My main interest in a WW2 naval sim or game is the ability to re-fight historical or hypothetical battles, and it's that option we will look at next. Here, we will see how Atlantic Fleet's gameplay comes together, when the shells, torpedoes and bombs start flying.
...to be continued!
Mudspike have published a preview of CAP2 which it seems is the follow on to the early 90s sim CAP on the Commodore Amiga which was really good for the time.
Ok, let’s do a quick experiment. We’ll need a measuring rule, a bucket and (optionally) a towel. I’m going to list some things from a new PC flight sim coming out in 2015 (yes you read that right, this is like ‘Bigfoot Found In Walmart’ breaking news) so let’s set up the experiment:
Place the towel on the floor. Position the bucket beneath your lower lip.
Here’s the features of this new flight sim:
AV-8B Harrier II with 3D clickable cockpit using TrackIR and HOTAS support. Single Player emphasis, with Multiplayer Co-op available, including drop-in play. Dynamic Campaign engine. Flight and Naval Strategic fleet battles. Carrier Ops. Wingmen, Helos, Civilian traffic in shipping lanes. Realistic campaign map set in the Straits of Hormuz using 250,000 sq km satellite imagery and modern graphics. Dynamic Campaign engine. Yes, I just said it again. Ok, now let’s use the ruler and see how much drool just entered that bucket. I’m betting a good couple of inches, so feel free to use the towel now and go rehydrate.
We haven’t had the chance to get our hands on this title as yet, but Sim155 reached out to Mudspike and we set up this short Q&A to see what’s up:
Q1. What’s the balance between single and multiplayer content in CAP2? Is this primarily a Multiplayer game?
I’d say it is 50-50. For single player there’s a collection of training missions, single missions then an open ended dynamic campaign. For multiplayer there’s quick start dogfight, fleet defense/attack and fleet vs fleet. In addition any player in a campaign can invite players to join in a mission and take the place of AI controlled wingmen.
Q2. What’s a good comparative title for CAP2, it seems similar to Gaijin’s Apache Air Assault – is that a fair comparison in terms of sim fidelity and gameplay? Fun and action more than hardcore simulation?
I’d say we lean more towards a simulation than AAS. CAP2 has a strategic element in campaign mode which I don’t think you’ll find in many titles.
Q3. I’m old enough to have played Combat Air Patrol on the Amiga 500 (great game btw), what would be the main advances Ed and the team have been able to feature in CAP2 on today’s more powerful hardware?
Glad you liked it! With CAP I developed a 3D engine in 68k assembler as we didn’t have GPU’s. With a CPU running just over 7Mhz you could see the impact of just a few extra polygons. Now we’re pushing millions of polygons per frame we can draw pretty much anything we want. Terrain in CAP was limited to a few blue water polygons, CAP2 has over 250,000sq km of geo accurate terrain. Shaders allow us to render complex atmospheric lighting, water, shadows and post process effects.
Reference material is one of the biggest differences between developing CAP2 vs CAP. Back in the 90’s I wrote to the DoD asking for material on CVN-71 and actually received info & pictures a few weeks later. Today you’ve got a thousand images/movies/schematics available in seconds so things have changed massively.
Thanks to Ed and the Sim155 team for taking the time to answer our questions. We can’t wait to find out more, especially on the dynamic campaign side. For those that loved the gameplay fun of Strike Fighters and IL-2, this looks like a really nice ‘fidelity middle ground’ with a mix of tactical fleets mixed in. Awesome.
More here http://www.mudspike.com/combat-air-patrol-2-preview-interview/
No, sorry, not a review, just a link to my recent mission report, as it sort of developed into a more review-like thing. But rather than now move it here, I thought I should post a link. And it's an excuse to post some screenies and offer a few more observations.
The mission report/review thing is here.
This new release of SABOW has succeeded in getting me playing a sim that I had left in a drawer for over a year, deterred by the fact I wasn't massively a fan of either of the two playable tanks, the steeper-than-usual learning curve and the 'sim within a wargame' approach (which also reduced the appeal to me of Rowan's Battle of Britain/BoB2).
However - partly thanks to elements in the new release that make it easier to get to the tanksimming - see mission report for details! - I'm now a fan. Even to the extent that I'm beginning to see the wargame side less as something to be bypassed as far as I can, and more as a feature with a lot of potential and depth; one which I can actually enjoy as I choose, as well as the tanksimming side.
Even though everybody in SABOW seems to speak Russian - possibly an advantage, as I know nothing of Farsi or Arabic and am at least beginning to learn some of the Russian terms used on the intercom- I am really digging the animated crews and the fact that all my tank commanders have names as well as unit IDs. And now I'm getting the hang of it, I'm finding there's attention to realistic crew drills that are approaching the technical excellence of Steel Beasts, with the advantage of being able to see the guys alongside me.
Panzer Elite still has more hotkeys and an interface more optimised for a tanksim rather than a wargame. Steel Beasts better implements the team radio net and the use of callsigns on the map as well as on the air. But with the relaunch, SABOW has for me the mark of a really top-tier tanksim. And I believe we can expect further updates - there have been several already, since the relaunch, including those which added 'instant action' options and now also a firing range variant, complete with on-screen tips which play out as your M60 drives up to the firing point.
Using these tips, for the first time I tried out the drill for getting a range from the tank commander. Go to the gunsight that has the simple reticle. Hit Ctrl (this gets you into 'cursor mode') and with the mouse, put the little crosshairs which appear onto your chosen target. Click on the rangefinder icon - it's the one on the left of the third-from-the-left strip of icons, below seen from the gunner's station...
...and you will then see the icon grey out briefly, hear some clicking sounds and then see the icon light up again. This tells you that your TC has ranged the target with the stereoscopic rangefinder and keyed the result into the analog ballistic computer, setting up your sight for that range. Lay your gun and fire! And you can use a similar drill for the other, graduated sight in the M60 or T-62 and get a verbal range, estimated visually instead. All rather sophisticated, and the firing range mission with its tips is just one example of how the new release's features seem intended to improve the accessibility of the tanksim element. It certainly worked for me!
I've still a lot to learn about SABOW but I'm now hooked and would definitely recommend it as a tanksim, alone, whether or not you expect to appreciate the wargame element.
Gotta go - I'm due back on the range!