Fiddly, obscure and as ugly as mashed offal. But look closer and Battleground Europe is deep, wide, complex and an overlooked attempt to create a massively multiplayer World War II game.
Pulling together soldier sim, tank sim and flight sim in a grand conflict, it%26rsquo;s played over weeks and months in a single, authentic theatre of war. And you might say that it%26rsquo;s only as pretty as it needs to be.
But does it deserve your money? That%26rsquo;s hard to answer, since the reality of this game is far from what it could be. Whether or not you%26rsquo;ll want to hangs on two factors.
The first is how much you like the sound of the following description: as close to real war as possible. That means riding on tanks and trucks to traverse huge tracts of Belgium; cowering in a hedge in the middle of the night; or soaring over Antwerp in a storm of aircraft.
Then there%26rsquo;s extended bombing runs, where the better part of action is the anticipation; blowing up bridges and plunging through enemy lines with a spearhead of crawling men. These actions are part of a long-haul effort: it%26rsquo;s never over in just 20 minutes.
Infantry combat is stressful in the extreme %26ndash; as you might expect %26ndash; but not in a way that will make many people happy gamers. Miss the truck and you%26rsquo;ll be stranded miles from the target. Jump into a tank and you%26rsquo;ll be baffled, looking at the world through a tiny slit. Yes, it%26rsquo;s dastardly realism creeping up and putting a bag over our heads.
Here%26rsquo;s the second factor: if all that does sound appealing, then you%26rsquo;ll need to get involved in the community of players to ensure long-term fun. Battleground Europe is about working together, and it%26rsquo;s massively multiplayer in the most formidable way imaginable.
This latest iteration of World War II Online remains a forbidding and unattractive prospect for most players in search of instant thrills, especially with the monthly fee.
But here%26rsquo;s the thing: it%26rsquo;s remarkably compulsive. The concept and the individual challenges are unique, and the sheer difficulty of it makes riding a tank for 20 miles peculiarly rewarding. Pretty soon you don%26rsquo;t notice the blandness, because there%26rsquo;s nothing else quite like it.