24 October 2014

PC Game Review: T72 Balkans on Fire!

"Simulations seem to be rather out of fad these days and tank sims receive even less attention than naval sims, with aerial combat games looking positively elephantine in comparison."

Published on 19 AUG 2005 12:00am by Scott Parrino
  1. cold war, armor combat, tactical, europe, simulation

Balls on Ballistics

If the graphical and audio immersion is a little off then the realism of the game makes up for it in top Battlefront form. Every inch of metal in the game is carefully reproduced so that when a round hits home it does so in a realistic fashion. Those wondering what all those “Internal armor flaking” hits in Combat Mission are about will get a much better idea when they accidentally roll onto the wrong ridge in T72: Balkans on Fire!.

Hits can have real effects on how a tank handles, and (un)lucky strikes (depending on who fired the shot) can take out everything from a track to the gunner’s optical sights. The game falls down in actually scaring the living daylights out of players when being hit thanks to the aforementioned poor immersion, but technically it is a perfect reproduction down to a tank throwing a track and slewing off into a 360 turn until the brakes are applied.

We’re lost, aren’t we?

Flare, helicopters… now if only I could look around the inside

The ballistics are not the only area to receive a rigorous going-over. Simply driving or commanding the tank is a realistic experience- the commander has to know the technicalities of how everything works and what the unique nuances and moods are of each tracked beast. For all this, however, the game has an extremely easy learning curve and after clearing tutorials, having the reference cards in the manual nearby and heading into an hour’s worth of scenario play, I had a firm handle on the game.

Great on paper, but how does she fight in wars?

Too many realistic simulations suffer from the vice of having got everything technically correct but then not bothering with the actual gameplay. Thankfully T72: Balkans on Fire! is a game which balances realism with fun in Operation Flashpoint style – it is entirely realistic and at the same time entirely gripping.

If the Combat Mission experience is to be sat on the edge of one’s seat when a prized tank runs headlong into a very big enemy gun, watching with nail biting tension to see whose gun will swivel into place first, if that round will do the job or if we’ll be in for another turn of heart stopping action, then the T72: Balkans on Fire! experience is to be sat excitedly in that individual tank screaming orders at ones keyboard for no good reason other than to release the tension in a flurry of activity in order to be the guy who swivels that turret fast enough.

Heh, guess what we’ll be shooting at when there are no more enemy tanks…

You gotta watch out for the infantry

It’s the difference between being a spectator who gives orders and then has to watch them being carried out into all kinds of trouble, and being the chap who has to be quick on the draw and get off the first shot. Rolling along at full tilt in T72: Balkans on Fire! through a battlefield in which tanks, APC’s, and infantry are all mixed together in a frenzy of bloodlust and explosions one can appreciate the adrenaline rushes and feeling of invincibility as rounds ping harmlessly off the shell of one’s behemoth that gets tank jockeys into so much trouble at times.

Of course it’s not all “Cannon to the Left of them; Cannon to the Right of them rode the four hundred” intense battles. In T72: Balkans on Fire! gamers will find themselves as often as not stalking convoys, hunting individual prey and then duelling them in a mechanized version of something out of the four musketeers.

Without wanting to sound overly like the purveyor of lurid goods, one can have tank on tank, tag team, tank on convoy, tank in the middle of a battle, tank commanding a task force… you name it, T72: Balkans on Fire! has got it somewhere in its realm of scenarios and 18 campaign missions.