- Hearts Of Iron IV:
With its second expansion, ‘Death or Dishonour’, releasing on 14 June, now is a great time to get into Paradox’s latest grand strategy game. You play as the leader of any 1930s country of your choice, and that really does mean any, from Nazi Germany to Tibet via the United States and Soviet Russia along the way.
With its historical scope unlike any other game, it’s easy to lose countless hours of your day building a country into a military power, whether by seizing the means of production, following the path of fascism or sticking true to the beleaguered democracies. When you get bored of breaking history after seizing Germany as Communist Luxembourg, you can jump into the countless free mods, which take the game to new time periods, such as the modern day, and incorporate even more features.
Each major nation has a set of unique national focuses, ranging from the historically accurate Anschluss, to the less historical British invasion of Belgium, and as you progress you’ll unlock masses of new firepower through the extensive research tree, adding even more historical scope to the game. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at running a country, particularly after the election, and you like painting maps your colour, this is the game for you.
- Steel Division: Normandy 44:
Another title from strategy nuts Paradox, Steel Division is the new kid on the real-time strategy scene. Owing plenty to its other developer Eugen, this certainly isn’t the game that Starcraft or Command and Conquer fans are searching for. Based mainly on multiplayer gameplay, the player gets a choice of nine allied and nine axis divisions that can be edited, including the classic 101st Airborne division, the 6th “Red devils” Airborne division, and the 21st Panzer division. The individual divisions have a mix of infantry, armour, artillery and aircraft, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
It seems that Eugen’s focus was on generating a much deeper realism, so when you run your infantry into a machine gun nest, don’t be expecting them to come back. Artillery requires ammunition from logistic trucks, tanks need a clear line of sight in combat, andyour units can only hold for as long as their moral stays high.
The end result is a tactical, exciting and often dazzling gameplay experience, with Mosquitos bombing German artillery emplacements, Tiger tanks decimating Polish Cromwell’s, and bitter city fighting. Another one for history fans but also people looking for a challenge.
- Rising Storm 2: Vietnam:
Tripwire, the minds behind Killing Floor, have a knack of making their guns feel good. As soon as you boot up the latest game in the Rising Storm series, you’re greeted with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’, and if you aren’t feeling at home in ‘Nam by then no amount of huey’s, jungle or Charlie is gonna change your mind. First person shooter fans will find a challenging learning curve in these jungles, however.
Multiplayer only, the 64-player battles can often regress into death simulators, with the highly realistic damage models leading to painful one shot kills. If you take the time to learn its mechanics though, and play with a full squad of friends, the game offers a Vietnam experience like no other. Burning spike traps with your flame thrower, or crawling through tunnel networks to avoid American helicopters, it surpasses the relatively few titles that also tackled the conflict in Vietnam.
The realism too comes as a refreshing change from the increasingly arcade Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. Bayonet kills here require skill and precision, and real teamwork is required to push through enemy sectors. If you’re willing to learn and you love the smell of napalm in the morning, look no further.