By Joseph Luster
Another year, another Electronics Entertainment Expo, aka E3. This year’s event was perhaps the most safely played yet, and while quite a few “future war”-style games were shown, there wasn’t a ton of World War II presence. Wargaming.net’s free-to-play World of Warplanes was being promoted, of course, just as World of Tanks was in 2011. One of the coolest aspects of Warplanes is the emphasis on educating players on its 50+ aircraft lineup, with stylish displays adorning selected aircraft, rattling off specs in an aesthetically pleasing way. There are also updates to the controls, including compatibility with joysticks.
Beyond that, there was a new expansion announced for Hearts of Iron III, dubbed Their Finest Hour. This third expansion keeps in line with Hearts of Iron’s simulation of World War II politics, science, and warfare, promising “a greater connection” to the history of it, as well as new ways to jump into the action. Some of the features include an expanded espionage system with new and reworked missions, a new Battle Plans mode, new unique elite units for each major nation’s army, a deeper naval invasion system, more detailed control over strategic warfare, and two new full-fledged battle scenarios: The Russo-Finnish Winter War and the Spanish Civil War.
Leaders will now be able to gain traits in Hearts of Iron, and Paradox is also adding a new custom game mode for both single and multiplayer. This allows players to start with a clean slate and instantly produce units, research technologies, and affect political alignment before the start of the game. This is where the aforementioned new way to jump into the action comes into play, with a custom mode allowing for “what if” scenarios and a quicker run through the early years of war without gradually building up to it.
Another game we’ve talked about before that was getting a lot of promotion at E3 is Enemy Front, City Interactive’s upcoming WWII first-person shooter. It sounds like the game is taking on an increasingly ferocious approach to action, with creative director Stuart Black (Black, Viking: Battle for Asgard) quoted by EGM as saying, “We wanted to get back to a bit more of the rock ‘n’ roll spirit. To do that, we wanted to get you off the front lines, stop being a grunt, and doing the same old Normandy-to-Berlin run.” To accomplish this, Enemy Front is moving more toward putting the player in the role of an isolated badass who takes no prisoners. Whether or not this is a positive direction is going to vary from person to person, but it sounds like Black and co. are at least looking to offer an experience separate from what so many shooters have attempted before it.
While E3 may have promised very little in the way of exciting new experiences further down the line, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the more immediate future. Here are a couple of titles worth keeping your peepers peeled for, one of which you can go ahead and give a spin.
Strategic War in Europe
Following a beta preview period in late May, Strategic War in Europe was finally made available for public consumption on PC. The strategy title by Wastelands Interactive offers up a hexagonal map system that should be both familiar and refreshing to those who fancy themselves veterans of the genre, and the final game promises six unique scenarios that span the period of 1939-1944.
In Strategic War in Europe, players are able to take control of up to 25 countries across the Allies, Axis, and USSR, each of which has five scaling difficulty settings. The meat of conflict takes place on a map of Europe and North Africa sized at 68 hexes wide and 47 hexes high, and a dynamic weather system can affect the way the war on land, sea, and air plays out. Strategic War in Europe is definitely for the hardcore strategy player, but that shouldn’t stop those interested in its turn-based gameplay from trying it out.
Stop me if this sounds familiar. Dogfight 1942 is an aerial combat game designed to be highly accessible to all kinds of players, with intuitive controls and plenty of tutorials to scare away the intimidation that tends to come with the dogfighting genre. It was another title playable at this year’s E3 show, but it’s not the first we’ve seen of it, because Dogfight 1942 was previously known as Combat Wings: The Great Battles of World War II.
Yes, Combat Wings has led a somewhat tumultuous life up to this point, but its latest incarnation is gunning for a more affordable, downloadable destination later this year. Outfitted with more than 20 aircraft types—from the P-38 Lightning and the Spitfire to the Messerschmitt 109 and the Japanese Kate—Dogfight 1942 is set to land on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam (PC). City Interactive’s executive producer on the game, Lukasz Hacura, boasts that Dogfight features full-retail production values at a price level typical for digital games. That should lift the barrier of entry nicely for the type of varied gamer they’re hoping to attract, while still offering plenty to chew on for the more seasoned player. We’ll be sure to get our hands on it for a full appraisal when it finally arrives on consoles and computers.