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Hearts of Iron III

Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Hearts of Iron III is the second or third game this month where I have had to say it isn't for everyone. While deeply rooted in the strategy genre, the core gameplay will appeal more towards old school Avalon Hill board game players and hardcore management types.

Visually, Hearts of Iron III is as sparse as games get without going all text. The game is all interface; there's a large regional map (as well as a world map) displaying the position of your units and political divisions. When zoomed out, units look like small squares that should be familiar to Avalon Hill fans. Though they don't display much in the way of detail, it is still fairly easy to distinguish between units on the map. When zoomed in, the units look more like real units, though they serve the same basic function as markers.

Sound and music are as utilitarian as the game's interface. Both serve their function (background noise) without becoming too much of a distraction.


Gameplay:

In Hearts of Iron III, you play as the leader of a country during WWII and play through events beginning in 1935 and ending in 1947. Every nation that participated in the war is available, as well as a few smaller countries. Playing as the larger countries yields bigger bonuses, but it's fun and more interesting to take a smaller country and make a global splash.

As hinted at earlier, gameplay primarily involves combing through menus and maps in order to move your nation's plans forward. At home, you'll manage your war-time economy and research new technology to help give you an edge, while abroad you'll order troops, develop diplomatic alliances with other countries, move troops and even participate in a little espionage against enemies. In short, there's a lot to do and Hearts of Iron III does a good job at making the information relevant and easy to get to.

Hearts of Iron III may lead to a few fantastic situations, but the game manages to cling close to historic accuracy. Countries start out in more or less the exact situation they were in at the start of the war. You'll see a number of well-known political faces as well as era-accurate technology and politics. It's amazing how much Paradox was able to squeeze into the game without it buckling under its own weight or becoming too much like an interactive documentary. There's also an organic sense of unity running through all of the game's systems. For instance, if you use a certain unit type often, research and development will go much quicker for related tech trees.


Difficulty:

Most of Hearts of Iron III is micromanaging aspects of the war like economy, troop movements and everything else I listed above. If you have experience with past games, or games of a similar ilk, you shouldn't have too much of a problem jumping into the game. However, even if you're an expert, it's a good idea to work your way through the tutorials if just for the basic refresher course. Unfortunately, the tutorials never go much beyond "basic refresher." The tutorials offer a fantastic, if somewhat wordy, overview of the game but leave out some important play details. Though nothing you won't figure out a couple of hours in, it is still annoying considering the game's complexity.

You can go into any aspect of your country's development or war effort and adjust elements. If, however, you'd rather focus on one or two elements, you can slave certain aspects over to an A.I. - controlled chancellor who will oversee assigned tasks. The A.I. can be overly cautious in its approach, but I can't recall getting stuck behind the 8-ball due to an A.I. error. The feature is especially handy when you're having a tough time cracking through an enemy encampment.


Game Mechanics:

Hearts of Iron III does a good job at giving you hints about where you should focus your effort. It will suggest units to build based on your current objectives and even deploy them for you if you'd like. However, getting around the HQ management tools is a little confusing. Compared to past games, the interface is better and more streamlined, but with so much going on at one time, it can still seem overwhelming for players. Most of the obviously important information is readily-available, though some of the smaller, yet still important, items are buried underneath layers. In particular, research is a pain to get to and use.

Hearts of Iron III is, again, a game for hardcore manager-style players, or at least those who enjoy micro (or, in this case macro) management. It isn't the most exciting of games from a "Get your hands dirty on the frontlines" perspective, but for players looking for a long, cerebrally-challenging strategy game, this is it.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



XP or Vista; Intel(r) Pentium(r) IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+ (single core); 1 GB or more of RAM (2 GB for Vista); 2 GB available HDD space; NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or ATI Radeon X850XT
 

Test System:



Windows Vista; 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor; 2 Gig RAM; DVD drive; 120 GB HDD; GeForce Go7600

Microsoft Xbox 360 Wolfenstein Windows Wolfenstein

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated