Part 2: Preview Tank T-72: Balkans in Fire Page 2

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Installing the Game

Recommended specifications for T-72 are a Pentium 4, 2.8GHz or an equivalent AMD Athlon XP chip, along with 512MB RAM, a GeForce FX-5600 or ATi Radeon 9600XT, DirectX 9.0c, and either Win2000 or WinXP on your system, along with 2GB free on your hard drive. If you don’t have the recommended specs you won’t enjoy the game, campers, so go there. Most gamers will have the hardware needed. Ninety percent of hardcore simmers will have it.

When you insert the first CD, a menu pops up with prompts to install a current version of DivX Player and DirectX 9.0c, along with buttons for NVIDIA and ATi drivers. First class, it gets you ready to install in style. Click the tank, and the game begins to install. On my machine it installed without fuss, and only called for one switch of CD. When you boot the game the first time, however, you’ll find out about the copy protection.

IDDK uses the controversial StarForce protection system. The keycode is on the back of the CD jewel case. The StarForce menu comes up if you try to access the game without CD number 1 in the drive. You have to have the CD in the drive to get into the game. And StarForce installs itself on your hard drive to prevent using no-CD hacks. This is the wave of the future, gang. We’re all hearing a lot about piracy issues in games so we all better get used to schemes like StarForce. I can tell you that I’ve been playing T-72 for over a week now and have had no problem whatsoever with the protection scheme. One interesting thing, however: T-72’s current-as-of-this-writing v1.0f patch disables StarForce, from what I’ve been told. It is possible that European users have had problems with the system and if so, this patch is an example of CrazyHouse and IDDK quickly responding to customer concerns. Well done, developers.

When you fire up the game, it runs a DivX movie that shows you the IDDK and Crazy House logos and a really nicely done intro movie that looks to me as if it was done with the game engine. Be prepared for a jarring moment here, because after the movie, it flashes the title screen, with the name of the game “Balkans in Fire” in English, then drops to desktop for about three seconds before it boots into the main menu. You may think it’s crashed-to-desktop. Steady, Comrade. It hasn’t. It’s just going to a new mode. T-72 drops to desktop for just a few seconds every time you switch from module to module within the sim and it’s scary till you get used to it. It isn’t a bug or a crash. It’s just how the game engine works.

Navigating the Menus

Take a look at these. What you have here are translated shots from the IDDK translated manual, showing the main menu screens in the game. There is more, and on our forums you can see Rainer’s screen capture of the outside-game configuration dialog. The outside-game dialogs, oddly, are in English. So are the included mission editor’s menus. This is the only thing that is English. In-game, it’s all Russian baby.

You have options for several things, including the game, the configuration options, multiplayer, the credits roll, and a drop-to-desktop. From the main menu, you can create your own character, start a campaign, do the stand-alone training missions, check out the excellent 3d encyclopedia of all the vehicles in the game, read the backstory by way of an included diary, or activate the mission editor.

Main Menu Mission Map

The Backstory

The DiaryAh, yes. The game backstory. Now it’s time for the Cat to get up on the ol’ soapbox. Some of you will have a political problem with the campaign theme. Heads up: This is a Russian game, built by Russians for Russians. It models the Yugoslav civil war of 1991-1995. You take the part of a Russian volunteer, fighting with the Republika Srpska, the Serbian Republic. The Serbs are politically incorrect in the West, I know. We’ve already had one flame war on our forums because of the game’s connect to the Serbian side in the war. If you let that get between you and this simulation, you’re crazy. There, I’ve said it. Let me ask you this: would you feel the same way about flying a Messerschmitt Bf-109 in the IL-2 series, or Warbirds, or whatever? Of course not! Just because you like the 109, and fly one in the game with a big, fat swastika on the tail, that does not make you a Nazi sympathizer. And likewise, piloting a T-72B in this sim does not imply your agreement with the Serb position in the war. It’s a game, for pity’s sake, get over it and have some fun! How often you get to drive around in a T-72? Besides, unless you read Russian, you’re going to be 100% clueless as to the in-game backstory anyway. All you’ll know is you’re shooting at Russian equipment, like you do in every other modern-day simulation, with two glaring exceptions…the Leopard 1A4, and the M-50 Super Sherman. The Leopard is the Ultimate Bogey-Man, one of the few besides the T-72 and T-55A that can simply blow you and whatever you’re riding in away on sight. The ancient Super Sherman is a joke unless you’re not driving the T-72 or T-55. Hey, let’s take a look at the vehicles in-game, and discuss your options for battlefield chaos.

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