by Fran Mulhern
Flashpoint Germany. The name itself evokes an image of Soviet tanks rushing through the Fulda Gap while allied troops fight desperately in a bid to buy time for NATO reinforcements to arrive from the US.
This review is about Flashpoint Germany, a relatively new title published by Matrix Games. Here’s the marketing blurb from Matrix:
“Flashpoint Germany™ brings you back to the height of the Cold War, before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Massive armies of incredible power face off across the West German border. Your companies and platoons maneuver on realistic maps of the Germany countryside in 2 Tutorials and 17 Scenarios. Build your own scenarios, play against the AI opponent or against another player via TCP/IP or PBEM.
- Portrays the highest intensity / highest density potential combat in human history.
- Command Viewpoint: as the General in charge of a regiment or brigade you give the orders and let the staff sweat the details.
- Keep your HQ moving though or the extra radio traffic will betray your position to the enemy artillery!
- Realistic time lags are enforced before your orders take effect. Orders can persist for multiple turns until complete.
- 4 nationalities, 177 unit types, 195 platform / vehicle types and 112 weapon types.
- Units are tank and infantry companies with specialist platoons for the Warsaw Pact, and tank and infantry platoons with specialist sections for the NATO forces. Units are represented by historically accurate mixes of individual platforms (vehicles) with individual weapon lists. Troop training, morale and fatigue are all modeled.
- Nuclear and chemical weapons, air strikes, smoke and minefields are represented.
- 17 Scenarios and 2 Tutorials. Forces can be recovered from saved games or from other scenarios and inserted into your own scenarios. Your original scenarios can be protected against tampering and distributed to other players.
- 30 setup options / parameters allow the game to be customized from easy and forgiving to nightmarish.
- Turn lengths can be set to 10, 20 or 30 minute resolution increments. Game lengths are 4 to 14 hours but will end sooner if the butcher’s bill runs too high.
- The maps portray a 20 km by 15 km stretch of German countryside. The game is played on a 500 m by 500 m grid with 8 terrain types plus rivers and streams. Realistic variations in elevation combined with a detailed spotting model create surprising vistas and dead ground for units to use to advantage.
- The AI can play either side and is very, very aggressive.
- Unit doctrine regarding engagement range and allowed proximity to the enemy can be set pre-battle. A record of the unit reports received during the game assists in analyzing post-battle results.”
So, that’s the ‘party line’ — but what’s it really like? Well, it does exactly what is says on the box — let’s look inside.
First, the basics: the game retails at $44.99 for digital download plus physical shipment, or $34.99 for download only. I can’t see any reason to go for the more expensive option unless you don’t have broadband or a CD writer, then you’ll want the physical copy. Otherwise I’d go with the cheaper download-only option — you can burn the installation file to a blank CD yourself, and start playing within minutes!
Note: there have also been three patches, weighing in at 101MB between them, so you’ll probably need to use a broadband connection to get these — you have been warned!
System requirements are modest:
- Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
- 600Mhz Intel or AMD CPU
- 128 MB RAM
- 1024 x 768, 16 MB Video Card
- 16 bit DirectX Compatible Sound Card
- 4X CD-ROM
- 400MB Free Hard Drive Space
- DirectX 7 or higher
This review was conducted on two separate systems: the first boasts a 2.6 Ghz Celeron CPU, 1024 MB DDR PC2700 RAM, an ATI X800 Pro, a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, and standard PC speakers; the second is a “work” laptop with a 1.8 Ghz Celeron CPU, 512 MB RAM (don’t ask me what type but I can assure you that it’s not that fast at the best of times, and I’m almost certain yours will be better — it certainly can’t be any worse!) and a SiS 650 graphics card — hardly the killer system a lot of our readers will own. Yet on both these systems the game runs flawlessly — so as far as system specs go, Half Life 2 it isn’t!