Unfortunately, all this comes at a price. The sim is not distributed
via stores but can only be ordered directly by the developer, eSim. It
will >NOT< be released on the shelves at a later time, like Dangerous
Waters was, so there is no use in waiting for that – it will not happen.
There is no big advertising campaign to support the sim. They even do not
expect to reach much more customers than the hardcore tank freaks and
military enthusiasts. Due to the long development and the expected low
sale numbers, the price is 125 $US, inclusive shipping, which at the end
of November 2005 (when I preordered) translated into 107 Euros. I expected
that on delivery I would be called for customs duty but there was none.
Maybe this is because the parcel includes only the manual, the dongle, and
the DVD-box with the CD – there was no bill, no letter, nothing like that,
so it probably was declared a free sample. Delivery time since it had been
sent was less than 7 days per UPS Priority Mail. The developer delivers
125 $US seem to be high at first glance but the exceptional quality,
the uncompromised development and the dedicated long-term support justify
this price. This sim will give you years of excitement, entertainment,
learning, education and increasing experience. And there have been
military tactical training simulations of lesser quality and accessibility
for multiple times the money available in the past. I am aware that
personal taste and interest, as well as the price, will put pressure on
the sale numbers. At eSim, they know that themselves.
I pre-ordered online, and shipping time was surprisingly short once the
sim was released. Their system worked well for me, there is nothing I can
SPECS & REVIEWER’S SYSTEM
(minimum specs – recommended specs – reviewer’s system)
CPU: P3/800 MHz – P4/2 GHz – P4/3.00 GHz
RAM: 128 – 512 – 1024 (pc400)
Graphics accelerator (DirX9-compatible, GF3 or better): 64 MB – 128 MB –
HD: 800 MB – 1.3 GB - ~1.3 GB (full installation)
Soundcard / - / - Audigy-2
Windows: 98, 2000 – XP – XP+SP2
DirX: 9.0b or better – 9.0c – 9.0c
For better playing experience, a joystick is recommended. I use a CH-Fighterstick
and CH ProThrottle in virtual device mode (USB), programmed via Manager
Software 3.5. My keyboard and mouse are USB, too, the HOTAS connected to
the keyboard’s USB connectors. The dongle is connected to a main hub.
All gameplay was done with 1024 resolution, 32 Bit, no AA or AF. With
graphical details set to maximum, frames used to be in the high-20s to
mid-50s (situation-dependent, binoculars especially kick the frames down).
Trying AF and AA at 2x gave me little graphic improvement but kicked
frames by one third. At 1280x1024 without AA and AF frames fell to 15-26.
I preferred the 1024-solution which gave me a stutter-free experience and
smooth scanning with the gun-sights even in a crowded environment. I have
V-sync disabled, always – no matter if it is SBM or IL2PF or F4SP4: it’s
rare that I see artifacts caused by this but it gives my frames some
relief (2-4 fps gain, and a significant drop in risk of facing stuttering
– on my system it really pays off, although most people’s systems do not
seem to see such obvious effects when switching V-sync on and off).
I use to run Enditall2 before starting such simulations, shutting down
two thirds of my usual background processes that way.
The package includes a 96-pages spiral book and various PDF-files on
CD. The manual is half-letter format, and in parts reminds me of the
manual for SB Gold. It has a keyboard layout on its backside cover that is
almost identical to that of SB1. The first 46 pages deal with
installation, basic station handling and control logic (mission planning),
next come 15 pages for mission creating, and the map editor is so easy to
handle and self-explanatory that it does not need more than 1-2 pages. The
remaining 30 pages are various background articles on ammunition types,
armor types, battlefield hazards and tactics. Part of this stuff was
already included as PDF-files in SB1, at least I vaguely remember. On the
CD there are around 20 more files with background info and keyboard
layouts for other nationalities.
I recommend to have the old SB gold manual at hand, too, if you have
that, for the new manual comes without any illustrations, and this reduces
its explanatory value a little bit. The manual is a bit too short, in my
opinion; the appendices should have been left to the CD. The printed pages
should have been used to give some more in-depth-explanations concerning
handling and gameplay. The gunner’s and commander’s position received a
better description in the old manual, the new one really leaves some
things to be desired for these two positions. Many handling issues even
are not mentioned. On the other hand, the simulation comes with over 70
(!) tutorials that teach many aspects of tactics, formation management,
system handling for all of the major vehicles the student (the manual does
not call the user a player, but a student!) can ride with. So the form of
the manual may be intentional and underlines the effort for live education
via special training missions teaching you this and that aspect one at a
time. But you know, I’m this type of stubborn guy who learns best if not
getting talked to, but having something to read, and then reflecting about
it. I will always prefer a complete manual text over just a live exercise.
When reading it, I do not forget so soon… Also, when using the editors,
and throughout the whole simulation, time and again I stumbled over menu
options whose meaning were not really obvious to me at all and that I
really would demand to be explained a bit more completely and detailed in
a documentation or manual, no matter if printed or pdf.
So, the developer made sure that you will be taught everything that you
need to know concerning the actual simulation, no matter if via manual or
tutorial, but the mediocre documentation is not en par with the software
and feeds you only with most of the essentials. There is a lot of room for
improvement and too many background options remain unexplained.
Relief! This is my biggest criticism that you will find in the entire
INSTALLATION, COPY PROTECTION
... was a breeze, and fully automatic, but it took roughly 10 minutes
to shovel an impressive 1.7 GB of data onto my HD and another ten minutes
to defragment afterwards. I did not read the manual and thus made a
mistake, I connected the included dongle BEFORE I installed the sim. The
manual warns of this sequence and advises to do the other way around, but
nevertheless so far I have faced no problems from my mistake. I placed the
main folder of my installation, 1.25 GB, on a different partition than
drive c:\ without difficulties, only folders with user-data (self-made
scenarios, player statistics, options, etc) goes to the Win-XP invented
"My Documents" folders on drive c: (an XP invention that I never really
liked), and into other places. The software uninstall option of Windows
lists SBP with a size of over 1.7 GB, so these scattered folders should be
of around 500 MB in size – which they are not, at least those that I
found. XP makes it difficult to find all folders, due to its multiple
user-setup-option, hiding much of the stuff to confuse the unknowing mind
even further. I always thought that this feature could be implemented in a
better way than how MS did. So the installation size must be somewhere
between 1.25 and 1.7 GB. Options for SBP-setup allow a slideshow with
around 200 photos (for the credit-screen at the end) and the PDF-manuals
to be installed or not installed, all in all around 90 MB, but since the
simulation itself already is far beyond the 1 GB-barrier, it makes little
difference to leave these files out – so I installed it all. The
exe-version is 2.251, once installation is complete. If you run into
problems with this program’s installation - well, then I am sorry for you
because: you would either need replacement for your broken hardware, new
drivers - or a brain specialist. It’s pretty much fail safe.
In these days it is worth to point out: the sim installs WITHOUT any
intrusive crap like StarForce or anything else that puts the functionality
of your system and the security of your internet-activity at risk. If I
remember it correctly, during spring or summer 2005 there were even one or
two public comments by the developer that his opinion on SF is at least
not all-out positive. Not likely they will ever jump on that train of
losers. However, there is a copy protection, in mid-August they even
started a public discussion in a thread, asking what kind of protection
customers would prefer to others. The winner was the dongle. I can live
very well with that. It works without problems. It allows you to make
backups of your precious disc, and a broken dongle can be replaced by
contacting the developer, the license on it can be replaced – you just
need to buy the hardware, which is not expensive (essentially it is a 2 MB
USB-stick). In case of loosing the dongle you rely on the good will of
eSim and the answer to the question if you can produce a proof of purchase
(that’s why I keep a printout of the financial transaction receipt, and
their Christmas card 2005 by which they excused for the delay of that time
again). The dongle is connected to a USB port and installs itself without
problems. The sim does not run without it.
The simulation comes with 8 sets of different languages, Danish,
German, English, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Finish and Dutch. This seem
to include both written texts and language sound files, two language
folders are not complete, however (Dutch and French). It is likely that
the community will make up for that.
The opening screen after loading the simulation couldn’t look more
repulsive. It is a dark-grey screen with some simple textline options.
Tank Range – is a shooting test only which determines your skill rating
in percent. It will affect the performance of your forces as well in all
future battles. You can improve the rating by trying again, but you cannot
Instant Action – also a shooting test, but now with shooting targets.
Stay alive as long as you can.
Tutorials – more than 70 of them are available, concentrating on the
major vehicles and teaching aspects of their handling and sub-systems one
at a time. Tactics are also demonstrated.
Offline – Here you select single missions to play
Network – Multiplayer games are started here.
There are also starting options for mission and map editors, to show
they keyboard commands (and to change them, finally!), a simple record
screen for the logged student, and an options screen. Not many options to
choose from: details, difficulty, realism (all with three different
settings), screen resolution, and language. Do not expect fancy stuff on
these screens. This is no game, this is the army, Sir!