1944: Across The Rhine
|a game by||MPS Labs|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Up until now, if you have played a war game on the pc it's probably been a top-down hex game that's turn based, makes absolutely no use whatsoever of your machine's graphics and sound capabilities. and comes complete with a manual big enough to be deemed as an offensive weapon i.e. Panzer General. Best described as "thorough", these games are strictly off limits to anyone who couldn't tell you the effective range of a Howitzer or explain the impact of the Sten gun on British fibua tactics. They do, however, remain remarkably popular amongst a growing hardcore base of war gamers who are continually on the look out for more detail and realism. Keen to capitalise on this burgeoning, hardcore buying public, and expand upon it into the bargain, the latest war sim from MicroProse attempts to make war gaming on the pc more accessible, more involved and, well, fun to play, whilst keeping the hardcore fans happy. A tall order? Jim Day. Across the Rhine's producer, didn't think so?
Across the Rhine (ATR) is the first game of this type to use a top-down. "God's eye view" as well as a first-person perspective view that transports the player straight into the very heart of the action.
There are six historical campaigns in total to choose from (as well as one other non-historical one), all based on detailed research, facts and figures.
Depending on which side and rank you opt for, you'll find yourself in charge of a force that exactly mirrors the Allied or Nazi forces at a particular time after the D-Day landings, right down to the last billy can. Even the weather is accurate, making it one of the most intense and realistic war simulations ever developed. That's not to say that the playing environment will always be the same every time you enter a campaign. You can "adjust" many of rhe variables to either strengthen or deplete your force as you see fit, or even switch some of the more tedious options off altogether so that you can concentrate on your campaign proper and not have to worry about whether C Battalion has got enough food and water. By selecting the special campaign and "tailoring" some logistics, it is even possible for you (yes, you) to change the eventual outcome of the war. But why would you want to do that?
As far as accuracy is concerned. ATR cat be beaten. All the weapons and military hardware used in the Allied push after th D-Day landings are included, and the garr makes excellent use of contemporary photographs and film to set the scene. The programmers felt that this was one of the most interesting periods of the war as far as weapons and tactics were concerned ai they were keen to allow as much scope as possible to give the game maximum auth enticity and playability. As a result, the game varies greatly, depending on when and where the player decides to start his/her campaign, as do the opposing armies and their resources. For example, if you o to play the Allies at the beginning of the landings, you'll find yourself in commant of a huge force which needs to be carefull organised and configured as you piece together a battle plan. If you choose to opt the Nazis, however, you'll be in control of much smaller force which is technically superior, organised and highly mobilised.
Dad's Army style
Each campaign has an overall objective ar can be played separately, although you're expected to take a long-term view when making a battle plan. When played in its entirety the game makes good use of the adage "What I lose today I start without tomorrow", although you can opt to start with renewed forces at the beginning of each campaign to make it easier. Your progress (or the lack of it) is constantly illustrated via a "Dad's Army" style map. complete with sweeping arrows, and there is the option to compare what you've done and where you've been with what really happened. Demoralising or what?
Heroes & villains
Exactly what you do and what you control is directly linked to your rank. If you enter at Grunt level you'll be expected to follow orders as they filter down from above and take part in the action via your tank. That's not to say you're limited as to what you can do - bravery and heroism are rewarded with medals and promotion. If, for some strange reason, you fancy your chances against that posse of Tigers your gunner has just spotted over the hill, you can break your formation and embark on a good ol' heroic charge. Don't expect your unit to follow you though, they're not that stupid. Jim's especially pleased with the game's AI and believes it to be one of the most sophisticated ever developed: "Units behave appropriately considering the situation. If it looks like they're gonna get their arses kicked, they will turn and run!"
It's all in real time, too - it gets dark at night, clouds sweep over the horizon and summer quickly turns to cold winter, your troops get bogged down, supply channels seize up and morale bottoms out to an all-time low if you don't keep your men fed and watered. It's really more of a logistical balancing act when you're playing at being a general than a battle simulator, but then that's what war on this large scale is all about - man and resource management.
If you get fed up with sitting back in your office, pushing arrows around, you can always transport yourself to any of your units to see what's happening on the firon line. If your tank gets blasted, however, an you have to limp back to base, don't expec the war to wait until you get back, they'll just carry on without you.
Wot, no manual?
Well, not exactly. ATR does come with two manuals (one explaining how to play the game and one providing historical background) that notch up an altogether hefty 400 or so pages. But fear not, the Cold version of the game will feature a sort of mult media on-line guide that will explain how the game works as you play. This not only gives you valuable background informatio and hints at how you might like to play th game, but also serves as an interesting diversion to the main game as it's packed with contemporary video footage, stills, maps, charts and archive film. There are even plans to include a 45-minute documentary on a separate cd-rom to complete the package.
Even though it's not quite complete yet. Jim is already looking at a multi-player version of ATR which will allow five or six players to play over a network or modem, while there's also talk of a scenario disc that will include new weapons and vehicle (possibly a couple of SS units).
And. if all goes well, we might even see Across the Desert - a completely new game set around the British scramble for Africa. This one will run and run.