By Eric Baker
First off is a very personal, one on one take on the Second World War. Published by Namco and available on the Xbox, PC, and PS2 is Sniper Elite. The game is set in Berlin during the spring of 1945. Against a backdrop of Russians and Germans streetfighting for control of the city, the player takes the role of a veteran American soldier, trained as a sniper by the OSS. Reports that the Russian secret service (NKVD) is in Berlin looking for atomic bomb technology has the Allied intelligence commanders worried. Taking the role of the best of an elite unit, the leaders assign the player to stop the NKVD and to get the bomb secrets for the Allies. Donning a German disguise and working alone, the player infiltrates hostile enemy environments using stealth and sniping skills.
This is a stealth game that takes both its time period and its sniping seriously. Unlike so many first person games for consoles, SE is less about hand-eye coordination and more about care, positioning, and environment. The game engine takes into account gravity, elevation, wind speed and direction, heart rate, breath, posture, and background noise when computing the effects and the after-effects of each shot. The player isn’t locked into any path, they can roam the game world to find the safest and best places to take the perfect shot against the enemy forces.
Strictly for the PC, CDV is releasing Blitzkrieg II, a WW II simulation for whose genre there is not a good abbreviation. BII is nominally a real-time strategy game, but with its emphasis on historical detail and neglect of resource gathering, it is less of a traditional RTS video game and more like a war-inspired boardgame brought to the computer. Players don’t have to send their troops out collecting wood to build new units, but the players do decide what missions to play and can accumulate and call in multiple types of reinforcements, and capture train stations or airfields to receive more troops.
The game is very complete allowing the player to play in such locales as the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Tobruk, Moscow, Stalingrad, and the Ardennes Forest. Most of the hot spots of the war contested by the three playable armies (Germany, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.) are on display. The game plays in campaigns of four or five battles; the first two or three battles can be played in any order, each giving a specific advantage in the battle that follows it. There are lots of authentic weapons and troops and vehicles, including: the “Satan” flamethrower tank, the Tiger II, theT-35, “Zero” fighters, V-2 ballistic missiles, 305-mm railroad guns, special forces, sappers, assault engineers, guard dogs, and more.
On the board game front, a new entry is Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘n Load: Band of Heroes. It is the second in the Lock ‘n Load series and covers the trials of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions during World War II. The game contains six mounted geomorphic maps with 480 large counters representing the men and equipment from the 82nd, 101st, 17th SS Panzergrenadier, 6th Fallschirmjager, 91st Airlanding, and 352nd Infantry Divisions. There are skill cards that provide the game’s characters with special abilities. All of this is used to play out sixteen scenarios, including the defense of Neuville and the American Airborne battle during the Normandy landing.
A squad-based game, BoH brings intense tactical battles to the tabletop. There is a system of random events to make each game both different and immediate. Some are negative like ambushes or panics; some are positive like unexpected air or artillery support. BoH is a worthy and enjoyable sequel.