Red Lightning is a throwback to the heyday of traditional board games, when several World War III simulations were available. These war games were huge affairs with enormous maps, hundreds of tiny unit counters, and instruction manuals that required an entire afternoon to read. Although Red Lightning puts the map, unit markers, and complex statistics on the computer, the manual remains unchanged. It's written in an opaque, lecturing, jargon-laden style that obscures as much as it enlightens. Unfortunately, this ponderous air hangs over the campaigns as well.
Obviously designed for the experienced war gamer (and preferably someone with board-gaming background), Red Lightning incorporates a staggering amount of detail. In fact, it simulates every single tank, gun, and aircraft in the arsenals of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Depending on your mood, and the amount of time you have, you can control things down to the squadron level — assigning different targets to different types of aircraft, and rotating units to preserve their efficiency.
You can also launch special forces attacks (two per turn) against targets deep behind enemy lines. For some reason, however, the game does not show you the results of these actions. Instead, it merely factors them into the overall situation. Therefore, taking control of these details adds little to the game but an extra layer of chores.
Another problem is that when the game does show the results of combat, the statistics are bizarre and all but incomprehensible. Rather than simply listing the number of casualties and the amount of lost equipment, the game displays arcane ratios that are extremely difficult to interpret. Without individually examining every friendly hexagon on the battlefield map, you cannot get a report of your own casualties, and you can't get even a ballpark estimate of those suffered by the enemy. Needless to say, this makes it hard to plan strategy, especially counterattacks.
In fairness, Red Lightning might be more appreciated by players who love to wallow in vast amounts of data. The designers certainly did their homework, and the graphics are beautiful. But ultimately Red Lightning suffocates from its own sense of expertise, and quickly mires you in tedium.
Download Red Lightning
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP