Midwinter: Flames of Freedom

Title		Midwinter II: Flames of Freedom
Game Type	3D Combat Sim
Players		1
HD Install	Rudimentary - must be in root directory of DH0: -> DH3:
                click for more info
Compatibility	All
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Right, for those of you haven`t played Midwinter I, it was a 3D polygon
based romp over the frozen island of Midwinter where you had to recruit
friends and defeat the evil invaders who fancied your lump of ice. In
Midwinter II though, time has passed, the climate has changed, and now you
find yourself as a special agent who must defend another island against
the rapid advance of the evil Saharan Empire. So not entirely different
then? No, it`s not, but the game has definitely got bigger.

(Initiating movie trailer voice)

THIS TIME  ......there`s a whole swarm of different islands!!

THIS TIME .......the people are represented in glorious 3D!!! (Sort of)

THIS TIME .......you`ll be driving Land Rovers!!! (Might be Jeeps though)

THIS TIME ........you`ll be flying helicopters!!!!

THIS TIME ........you`ll be destroying secret underwater bases!!!!!!!

(Cancelling movie trailer voice)
So as you can see, an awful lot has been added (switch to game magazine
reviewer mode) but is it enough? (Sorry). Well, yes and no. On the plus
side, the game is just like a James bond movie; you get your mission
briefing, arranging your mission objectives and your mode of transport to
the target island, then you leave for the island. Once there, you make
contact with the friendly locals, and try to locate your objectives. These
might be the sabotage of a building, the assassination of an enemy, or the
recruitment of a particularly useful individual. Usually, it`s more
complex than this though, because you`ll come across people who can offer
you vital aid, but only if you fulfill certain conditions, effectively
another mission. It never get`s too complex though, because the game
creates a useful notebook feature that keeps track of exactly where you
stand with each person you`ve met, and all the important details that
you`d otherwise have to write down. The islands are pretty big, and the
map utility has many advanced features, to make your job easier. The
incidental graphic screens, particuarly the advance time image, are a joy
to me, and have caused many a smile. The filing cabinet featured in one of
these images has a Midwinter I coffee mug on top of it, and as I still
drink out of the one that came with my copy of the game, this was amusing,
atleast for me. The game also has RPG elements of a sort, your attributes
range from sturdiness to sex appeal, the latter being very useful, if you
half fancy your warden, should you be taken prisoner by the enemy. The
game also offers a strategic element, in that, the wider mission is for
you to prevent the Saharans lines of supply enabling their forces to
advance easily.
You can also opt to play the game in a sort of combat practice mode rather
than taking on the whole campaign. And you can do all this in a variety of
guises; also featured is a character generator, where you can select from
a choice of facial features, and jiggle them around to attempt to make an
approximation of your good self, or take on the face you`ve always wanted.
I think you can probably tell that Midwinter II boasts a fearsome arsenal
of features, and that the programmers have delivered an ambitious project
that has been designed with care and I`m sure a lot of enthusiasm.  The 3D
works very nicely with or without faster processors, having a good variety
of buildings, a huge variety of vehicles, (check out the flying subs) and
the terrain itself is not the usual flat rubbish with a few green pyramids
stuck on it, but genuine terrain with jagged coastlines, hinterland
plains, rolling hills and mountains, as well as the underwater landscapes.
It`s a pity, in my view, that people these days are so hooked up on
texture mapping, advanced shading techniques and the like, and that they
didn`t keep things relatively simple, but with a terrain as comprehensive
as that seen in Midwinter II.
Anyway, I`ve praised the game to the point of nausea, what can I say
against it? Only this; for me, when you`re actually on a mission, and you
encounter a Tank Squadron, or a Fighter  Squadron, or a convoy of armed
lorries, the actual tactics are not very engrossing. You have fun dodging
around, and blowing several vehicles away, until your vehicle get`s hit
and you are hopefully able to leap into another one and finish the job,
but it`s not very challenging. I`d of sooner taken on just one or two
vehicles, where I had to really be on the ball to beat them, than fairly
casually put away a whole swarm of the things. For me, if this detail
had been tightened up a bit, it would have improved, what is already a
very fine game, to a  surprisingly high degree. But you can`t have
everything, and as I think I`ve probably demonstrated, Midwinter II offers
far more than most.

It's several months later and I've finally finished the game. Look, I
don't only play games, okay? I've got a life, y'know? Sort of. Anyway, my
views of Midwinter II are pretty much the same, but I do have one or two
further criticisms. I found out that when you're in a firefight, there is
quite a good chance, unless you're very careful, you'll inadvertently take
out a friendly person. Now that isn't normally too much of a problem, but
occasionally, if the person is vital to completing that island, and you
accidentally save the game before realising your mistake ....you're
going to be pretty well stuck. You can't abort the mission and do it
again, you can't even abort and skip that particular island. All you can
do is initiate the Saharan Armada's attack or restart the game. The game
expects you to be able to successfully complete each mission, and if you
make a mistake like this, it is quite unforgiving. I even made my way back
to base, and tried getting into the HQ, but it didn't want to know. Oh
well, it didn't take me that long to replay the whole thing!
I also noticed a couple of glitches, where sometimes if you reload a game,
your craft will instantly crash, or people and vehicles suddenly become
invisible. You can get round these fairly easily though, either by
reloading or switching to another screen and back. Good points? Yes, the
endgame, where the Armada is launched adds a welcome change of pace. It's
exciting and atmospheric, and you really reap the advantages of your
earlier strategy .....or not. The actual victory sequence is pretty
satisfying as well, (not that I've seen many) and having your character's
face appear on Time magazine is a nice touch.
To conclude then, Midwinter II obviously was a labour of love, the
enthusiasm and attention to detail are clearly there, only a few small
oversights let the game down slightly, and if the tactical (shootin') side
of Midwinter II had been given a bit more depth, then the game would be
really awesome instead of just very good.

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