Finally, a smart war game that both beginners and experts can enjoy.

Flashpoint Germany shows us what modern-day combat might look like if World War III were instigated in the very-near future. Under the umbrella of "modern-day" combat, some elements of the traditional war game have been refined, upgraded, exaggerated or eliminated. Things move pretty quickly for a turn-based strategy game. The lack of micromanagement elements speeds things up significantly. This shouldn't be looked down on as lack of depth but rather a result of the evolution of technology of the weapons and improved education and training of the individual soldier. Fortunately things don't get futuristic. There are no robots or lasers or other special weapons. Flashpoint Germany is steeped in realism.

Instead of dissolving itself in 1989, the Soviet Union decides to have a go at Germany. Better world domination than life as a failed, crumbling empire. The NATO nations including Britain and the United States join forces to take on the massive Red Army. You can play as either side. The NATO nations have more up-to-date equipment and weapons but the Soviets have sheer numbers on their side. The resulting conflicts are intense but fun.

Thanks to a comprehensive tutorial just about anybody can get in the game in under half-an-hour. You can limit the amount of commands that you give during each turn. This will get you into less trouble if you're a beginner. After you issue your commands the game will show you what the next half-hour looks like - but thankfully not in real time. Not to suggest the game is easy, it's just that trial and error can be used and some newbies can get lucky right off the bat. Veterans will be able to make decisions based on prior knowledge but there are always a few surprises that you can't always prepare yourself for.

Modern-day combat is quick. There's no time for micromanagement. The units that you command will have to take care of these situations for themselves, and they do a great job of assimilating the role of a combat engineer. You'll see tank units actually construct a bridge for themselves when following your orders to get from point A to point B under any circumstances. Another aspect of modern day combat is the increased accuracy and range of the weapons. If you can see the enemy, you can hit them and vise versa. It requires a lot of stealth not to get shot. Units are to be kept out of sight at all times since it's too easy to get hit in the open. This is also a factor for the enemy so before you plow your way through points on the map you'll want to send some recon out to make sure you don't run into an enemy tank unit along the way.

The AI plays a good game. They take cover, return fire and try to flank you, just as any decent army would. But there's no substitute for a human opponent. You can play against another warmonger online or via email. I haven't tried the email but apparently you just send the saved game with your moves to your opponent and they do likewise. It may take some of the action out of it but once you get through the single-player mode you'll probably appreciate a more strategic approach to the gameplay - not unlike chess but less complex.

There's not much animation to worry about. Even if there were you wouldn't even be able to detect any slowdown. Most of your work is done on the interface. Strangely you feel totally drawn into the gameplay as though you are issuing commands from a secret war room. Your communication base can be destroyed at anytime by the enemy, especially if you stay on the air too long. Commands will then be relegated to a secondary post which will cause you some delay.

The interfaces are great although some of the windows can't be enlarged and are very difficult to read. There are only four maps and 17 scenarios in the single player so you're going to have to get your replay value online in one way or another.

Flashpoint Germany has a lot of great, streamlined elements to it that make it an engaging and entertaining game. It can be played using a variety of techniques by a wide range of experienced and non-experienced gamers. It's not incredibly deep but at least you don't have to take a two-year college course to play it.

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System: PC
Dev: Matrix
Pub: Matrix
Release: Feb 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole