There is in-game music that changes as you get into trouble. In the T-34 mission I got ambushed and didn’t know it till there was an explosion where the Super Sherman’s 105mm shot exploded in front of me! He was behind us and the music suddenly went technic and urgent…we turned the turret and the fight was on as I frantically ordered the driver to face the thickest armor toward our opponent. It adds to the atmosphere tremendously, but if you prefer your MP3 player in the background you can turn off the music in the options panel.
The only two gripes I have are that there appears to be no radio comms, tank-to-tank in game. You’re in your own world and you can’t hear what’s going on around you. You can hear your crew on the interphones and after awhile you start to get the idea of what they’re saying to you. The other gripe is that you can’t pick your mix of ammo for the carousel in the T-72! I’d carry a few more missiles and sabot rounds, if I could define my own loadouts. But these as you can see are really tiny gripes in the real world.
Multiplayer and Mission Editor
I know they exist, but darn if I can tell how they work. I have been told that T-72 only supports LAN multiplay at this point, but Internet connectivity is planned and under development. Should the game go global, this will become a greater priority for the dev team. There is also a very fully detailed mission editor, which has menu screens entirely in English. It is one of the most complex pieces of sim software I’ve seen, and it allows you to do things as obscure as setting up what AI the various objects in game will use. I have no idea how it works at this point, but I’m sure that simulation gurus will be able to use it to make great missions.
There aren’t any. Read that again: THERE ARE NO world-ending bugs that I found in nearly a week of playing. The only things that gave me trouble was the AI driver’s pathfinding in certain situations, and what I thought was an annoying bug in the T-72’s master weapons sight that comes up in the Campaign missions. As to the pathfinding, you can see this in the obstacle course. Where there are a lot of obstacles, the driver’s going to give up and try to go somewhere else. You’ll have to take over and steer in close country, like a really tightly packed set of buildings. There is a reason for this: it is so the AI won’t drive you into an obstacle while you’re trying to shoot on the move and have your attention diverted. So that’s not really a bug.
The other problem, the one with the sight, is annoying, but it isn’t a bug either. The master sight disappears in Campaign. That means you can’t aim the coaxial machine gun with any precision. It’s annoying as heck. This happens because they’re realistically modeling the fact that the Serb forces often had to make do with barely serviceable equipment. You fix the problem by disabling “Use Career” under the Realism menu in the external configuration screen. Thanks to Rainer and Dima Gabon of IDDK for that tidbit of info! Overall, the game is solid as a rock and I had no serious video artifacts or any sound issues in a week of playing about two hours a day. Why the heck can’t Western houses do this?! T-72 is a real throwback to the flight sims of yore that were stable out of the box and more fun than a barrel full of rockets.
The Final Word
As I said earlier, IDDK Group is trying to find a Western publisher for Tank T-72: Balkans in Fire. This is still in progress. One of the things you should do, if you’d like to see a localized version released outside the Commonwealth of Independent States, is show your support for releasing this title to the West on simulation web sites. If they see that you’ll buy it, they’ll work harder to release it outside Russia. We’re supporting it here at SimHQ, because we think it’s got potential to be one of the great ones. It has a detailed and complex mission editor and though its set of vehicles is limited, they took that small set and did great things with it. If you miss this game you’re really missing out. It isn’t as hardcore realistic as the Steel Beasts line, but I rate it as being approximately equivalent to flight sims such as IL-2 Sturmovik in the realism department. That’s good enough for me, and a good mix between fun and realism. I’m enjoying the title greatly, and I hope all of you get the chance to experience the simulated armored battle from the Russian perspective for yourselves, soon.
Part 1 of Cat’s Tank T-72: Balkans in Fire Preview is here.
Download a pdf of this article here (520 kb).
- AMD Athlon 3000+ processor
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- PNY Technologies Verto GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
- 1GB Kingston PC2700 DDR DRAM
- Creative 12x CD-ROM
- Maxtor 40GB main drive
- DirectX Version 9.0a
- Windows 2000 with SP