By Eric T. Baker

When considering whether to buy Sniper Art of Victory from City Interactive for the PC, it is worth remembering that the game only costs $20.00. You can’t go into it expecting the polish and depth you’d find in a $60 title from Electronic Arts. This game sets its sights a little lower and much more narrowly than something like Medal of Honor, but the target is the same. The designers want to put you into WWII, staring down the barrel of a gun.

In this case, the gun is one of a variety of sniper’s rifles. You take the role of an Allied sniper, cut off behind German lines, who must nevertheless complete a variety of missions in relation to various battles. Not surprisingly, the mechanic in all of these missions is to creep across the map, pausing in auspicious spots to take head shots at any enemy soldiers who happen to be in the way. Close combat is discouraged since the enemy guns will usually kill in a single shot. Stay hidden and kill at range is the winning strategy.

The game models breathing, bullet drop, and wind in its shooting mechanic. The view in the sight actually undulates unless you hold down the “hold breath” key. On Harder difficulties, you must guess at wind and bullet drop, but on Easy the game displays a dot that shows where the bullet is actually going. Overall, this is pretty familiar ground; lots of WWII games have included sniping missions, but if you really enjoyed those, here is a game that is all about them and at a bargain price.

When it comes to WWII tank battles, everyone knows of Kursk. Less well known is Operation Bagration, the Soviet offensive of 1944 where the Russians unleashed 4,000 tanks against the German Army which had only half as many tanks to stand against them. The result was the worst German defeat of the war as the Soviets recaptured all their territory back to their 1941 borders. It is amid this battle that WWII Battle Tanks: T-34 vs. Tiger from Lighthouse Interactive for the PC is set.

The focus of the game is tank vs. tank combat. There is no attempt to have you command that battle at a strategic level. Instead, you can choose either the Russian or German campaign. In each, you take on various missions while commanding a single tank. The tanks in the game are T-34/85, T-34/76, Tiger, Sk.Kfz.251, M3A1,ZIS-5, Opel Blitz, ZIS-3, Pak. 40, IL-2, and FW-190. In each, you can switch between a third-person view of the tank and three different first-person views: driver, gunner, and commander.

While the graphics and animation of the game are good, the AI is not all that you will want. Enemy tanks don’t always maneuver as they should for best effect and Allied tanks don’t always support you when they should. Fortunately there is a multiplayer mode for up to 16 players that is much more challenging. The game also supports the TrackIR game accessory which gives you hands-free control over the view from all three first-person locations.

WWII General Commander is a new game engine from Games GI for the PC. The first release to use this game engine is Operation: Watch on the Rhine which models the Battle of the Bulge at the battalion level. You can take either side and fight either short, medium, or long scenarios modeling the historical events of the battle. The geographic scale of the game is close to accurate and the game is played in real time. There is no “foraging” as in a traditional RTS, but supply plays a large role in the game.

One of the things that sets WWIIGC apart from other video games is that for each battalion it tracks both its strength and its efficiency. Strength is how much of the unit is still physically intact and efficiency is how much of that strength it can actually use. Units that have been beaten up are at lower efficiency and those that are out of supply can’t recover efficiency. Attack a unit that is at 20% or less efficiency and it retreats to a rally point you have set. Attack a unit that is at zero efficiency and it surrenders. This is an ambitious and interesting take on a strategic modeling of the war.

Back to the issue this appears in