The Perfect General logo

At the risk of breaking with tradition, spoiling the suspense and making the rest of this review redundant, The Perfect General is actually quite a splendid war-game. As mentioned proudly (several times) in the 90 pages of instructions, it's based on an acclaimed, manual war-game system. You know, the kind that bearded men die of old age before completing.

Sadly, as with so many others of its ilk, it still hasn't managed to get its act together in the presentation department. It takes a good 30 minutes to install on to two floppies and there's a fair amount of disk-swapping once you're up and running, though presumably the hard-drive option speeds things along no end.

Once in the game you'll find the graphics reasonably clear but extremely boring, and the sound restricted to a few plinks and some fairly dire samples when any unit fires on the enemy. In its favour the user interface is very well thought out, with hot keys for every command, although the game's tendency to quit out when you cancel a disk option can cause some snapped nerves.

OK, enough gripes about the front end. Where it scores highly is in the game itself. It's a standard taking-turns-to-move-the-icons-about-the-hexagonal-map affair, but the rules have been honed to a shiny and altogether satisfying point. It's an exciting, absorbing game. In each of the 14 scenarios, ranging from simple skirmishes to full-scale sieges, your job is to fight off the opposition and take control of various towns and cities.

The various units you command have finely-balanced strengths and weaknesses and for added fun you can give the enemy a rather nasty surprise by instructing your chaps to return fire when hit or open up on any passing unit during the others' turn. Although the two-player mode is best, the Amiga plays a mean game itself, drawing an opponent profile at random from a large selection of cunning generals.

I loved this game. It's incredibly easy to grasp the rules, and hellishly good fun trying to outwit and outdo your opponent. The somewhat pedestrian pace of play is soon forgotten when the shells begin to fly and the chess-like combination of simple rules and deep strategy means tons of lasting appeal. Almost perfect.



Nobody is perfect?

The Perfect General logo

Ganz so perfekt, wie es der Name vermuten ließe, war dieses QQP-Strategical in der amerikanischen Originalversion leider nicht. Aber nun hat UBI Soft den Digi-Feldzug ins Deutsche übersetzt, hier ein bißchen gefeilt, dort eine Grafik überarbeitet, und das Ergebnis...

...ist zwar immer noch nicht das perfekt Strategie-Game, aber im Vergleich zu den SSI- Fließbandproduktionen geradezu eine Wucht. Der UBI-General ist für ein bis zwei Bildschirm-Feldherren geeignet und hat 14 abwechslungsreiche Szenarios zu bieten, die von Wald-, Insel-, und Gebirgslandschaften bis zur Wüste vom El Alamein geographische Herausforderung jeder Art und Güte enthalten.

Dabei geht es weniger um die Vernichtung des Gegners als um das Ergattern möglichst vieler Punkte. Noch ungewöhnlicher ist die Siegbedingung: Ein Szenario gilt erst dann als gewonnen, wenn man sich sowohl als Angreifer als auch (anschließend) als Verteidiger erfolgreich geschlagen hat!

Zu Beginn wird festgelegt, wer sich zuerst als Aggressor betätigen darf, danach gehen beide Seiten mit ihren Punkte-Konto auf Shopping-Tour und kaufen sich die benötigten Einheiten zusammen: Höhere Erhebungen schreien nach schweren Geschützen mit großer Reichweite, durch matschiges Gelände kommen leichte Panzer besser als schwere, bei einem gut eingebauten Straßennetz sind flotte Jeeps erste Wahl, und Minen haben im Krieg auch noch nie geschadet.

Im Anschluß darf sich der Angreifer auf einer Übersichtskarte zwei Startpunkte aussuchen, um seine Truppen in "Stratego"-Manier abzusetzen.

Sobald auch der Gegner seinen Krempel in Position gebracht hat, beginnt das große Verschieben. Per Maus, Joystick oder Tastatur jagt man Infanterie und Artillerie durch's Gelände, solange die Bewegungspunkte reichen; es folgt die heiße Phase - nacheinander zeigt der Computer alle schußfähigen Einheiten am (scrollenden) mehrere Screens großen Schlachtfeld an und informiert über die zu erwartende Trefferquote, sie ist abhängig von der Sich- und Reichweite.

Tja, und dann blitzt das Mündungsfeuer auf, stählerne Festungen verwandeln sich in qualmende Schrotthaufen, und falls man dabei eine Stadt erobert bzw. verteidigt hat, hagelt es die begehrten Siegpunkte. Als besonders lukrativ erweist sich übrigens das Vertreiben des Gegners aus einem neutralen Land, das dieser unverschämterweise angegriffen hat. Wer es sich leisten kann, darf auch zwischenrein mal Nachschub kaufen und strategisch günstig plazieren.

Von der Präsentation her ist der General leider bei weiten nicht so perfekt wie etwa "Battle Isle" - das gilt für die relativ ärmlich wirkende Grafik, vor allem aber für den Sound (Puff! Puff!). Doch was Konzeption, Spielbarkeit und Handhabung angeht, kann das Game fast mit Blue Bytes Strategie-Knaller mithalten, in Perfect General stecken erstaunlich viele Details, übersichtliche Menüs, kommentierende Texttafeln und erläuternde Hinweise.

Strategen denen es mehr auf die inneren Werte als den äußeren Glitter ankommt, dürfen also getrost in den nächsten Software-Shop einfallen... (C. Borgmeier)



The Perfect General logo

Ubi Soft have come up with a significant advance in wargames - this one's fun to play!

The old coffee cream metaphor seems unerringly appropriate here. Imagine someone gave you a massive bag of coffee creams. Much as you may enjoy them, human nature has it that after a time you'd want something different to chew on. Some of those nice purple ones with the nuts in, perhaps, or maybe a green triangle or two.

The Perfect General fits in, if you will, as the obligatory orange cream of this unnecessarily complicated analogy. Although slightly different from virtually every other wargame ever (the coffee creams), it is still not innovative, intelligent nor nutty enough to reach the yet untouched status of a wargame that, like the green triangles and the purple ones, is actually exploiting the potential of the Amiga to its fullest. (Can we take it that you've finished with the Quality Street metaphor now? - Ed.)

The main question to consider of course is whether or not you like coffee creams in the first place. (Obviously you haven't finished with it, then - Ed.) Perfect General caters for those who may not be sure with a well-written manual and a walk through of a couple of scenarios, as well as providing equally adequately for the more experienced muncher with a good helping of other, not so simple, scenarios.

These scenarios concern areas, be they cities, deserts, forests or (on the larger of the things) entire islands, the taking over of which will gain the attacker victory points. The atacker may be you, or it may be your opponent - the idea (unless you tweak things otherwise) is that you play each scenario twice - once from the attacker's and once from the defender's point of view. A nice idea, and one I haven't seen before in a war game - at least, not recently.

Having said that, I found this game unoriginal, there are still a lot of things General can fly up its flagpole with pride. The opening sequence for one - here you exchange your points for what ever combination and quantity of infantry, artillery, vehicles and mines that you see fit, as opposed to being lumbered with a specific combination.

Choosing and positioning your army now becomes as much an integral part of the game as does where you move them during your turns - the more out of the way cities are worth more victory points and so are really where you should be heading. The otherwise dormant forces in neutral areas will attack if you try to pass through - which is fair enough, really - so it's probably worth moving your troops through just to annoy them.

The realism of this wargame is another point worthy of congratulation. Mobile artillery is less accurate than regular, then again even the most accurate gun is going to miss sometime or other (the Partial kill/Full kill denotes whether targets die instantly when hit or accumulate damage instead).

The weapons are both barrage and non-barrage, and have automatic targeting for anything in range. There is also a Return Fire option in which a defending unit under attack can return fire even if it isn't strictly his go, and a Passing Fire option where if, on your turn, you move past an enemy unit, he (or 'she' - Perfect General even has a sense of humour and insists on using the feminine impersonal pronoun) can fire at you as you try to sneak past.

This is the sort of thing we want - some actual authenticity in a war game. Real life wars aren't played in turns. IF you are fired on you don't just sit there thinking, 'oh well, better not fire back, it isn't my go yet', so why should we have to in a wargame, I ask? Perhaps it was the fact that perfect General isn't historically based that allowed Mark and Bob Programmer to dare to do something like this.

It's just a shame that they didn't take it further and allow you to do more. Heck, why not even move about and fire during the other players turn? It's also a pity that your troops still wait for you to give them their every move without the artificial intelligence we've found in a couple of wargames in recent months. All we need now is a wargame with more realism, artificial intelligence and which, most importantly, is approached from something more graphically exciting than the (more) hexagonal grid.



The Perfect General logo

With buttons brightly polished and his cap at a quirky angle, Tony Dillon sets off for battle with UBI Soft's Barmy Army.

BATTLE OF POSTCODES
Without beating around the bush, Ubisoft's Perfect General (PG) is out and out strategy. A purist's wargame, with none of the padding found in most strategy titles (flash graphics, intensely researched plot, dozens of maps and photographs, etc). In PG, the aim is always the same: beat the other guy senseless.

As with most wargames, the battle is won by the taking of territory rather than the destruction of enemy units. In a real war, you wouldn't just wade in, destroy some tanks before leaving again would you? Nope, to win at PG you must take more towns and villages than your opponent. That's not to say that you don't have to destroy your opponents, too. Of course you do, as they are the ones stopping you form taking the towns in the first place.

Once you have worked through the comprehensive menu system - which covers options such as the intelligence of the enemy, which of the twenty or so scenarios to play, and whether to play against another human or not - you enter pre-battle mode.

HOPPING SPREE
Here you are given the chance to buy an army. The game is on a very small scale, so one tank on screen means one tank in real life. Typically, you have around 150 credits to spend, with units costing between one to ten credits each, and a unit's strength and capabilities directly related to the cost.

A foot infantry, for example, is easily destroyed and not particularly powerful, and, as a result, only costs one credit, whereas a heavy tank is virtually indestructible and can wipe out major pieces quickly and easily, and costs seven credits. It's down to you how many of each unit, if any, you want to buy, and it's all dependent on your own personal strategies.

If you're the sort of person who likes to launch a mass, full scale, full-frontal attack, then you'll need a few heavy tanks backed up by several dozen infantry units. If, on the other hand, you want to soften up the enemy with an aerial bombardment, you'll be more inclined to spend your defence budget on artillery and other long-range units.

Next, comes the deployment phase. Here you lay out your pieces in a predesignated area, usually on the south of a map. Again, it's down to your own personal strategy how you place them.

It's more or less at this point that you notice how userfriendly the package is. Up until this point, you'll have been using the menu system, which is the same as any other. From here, you realise that the whole game is based on a point and click system, and it's really simple to use. The basic rule is this: right mouse button activates. It's so simple, and it's nice to have a strategy game you can waltz into for a change.

TURN AROUND (AND FACE THE MUSIC)
The game is played in turns, and each turn is broken up into a number of phases. A phase is a segment of time within which a specific action takes place. For example, you might move all your units in a phase, or have all units fire in a phase. Having different types of unit can also change the phases you have. Thus, if you don't have any artillery units, you won't have an artillery phase, or if the enemy are out of range, you won't have a firing phase.

PG is very easy to play. The design is simple, which means you can concentrate on the battle with both eyes on the screen, not in the manual frantically hunting for the right command or key. It isn't the most detailed around, nor is it another UMS, but it's still one of the better wargames I have seen.


WAR TAKES TIME

The design of Perfect General has taken twelve years to perfect. It all stemmed from a boardgame tournament held over a dozen years ago in the United States, on a system designed by the impressively named Bruce Williams Zaccagnino. White Wolf were commissioned to create a computer game using the system which has evolved over the years into the slick design it is now.


Perfect General Scenario Disk logo

Im letzten Mai veröffentlichte UBI Soft die Digi-Version eines amerikanischen Tabletops und stieß damit auf Anhieb in die vorderste Frontlinie der Sechseck-Strategicals vor. jetzt rollt der Nachschub!

Die Datadisk versorgt ihren (Feld-) Herrn und Meister mit 15 brandneuen Szenarien aus dem umfangreichen Sandkasten-Fundus des zweiten Weltkrieges. Damit reicht das Aufgabenspektrum nun von der Invasion Siziliens bis zum Kampf um Charkow, beim eigentlichen Spielverlauf hat sich gegenüber dem Ur-Strategen allerdings rein gar nix geändert - womit die ausgesprochen langwierige Installation auf Diskette bzw. Festplatte also einmal mehr zwingende Vorschrift für den Elite-Offizier vor dem Screen ist. Aber keine Angst, im Spiel selbst funktioniert die Handhabung bzw. Steuerung dann sehr bequem und durchdacht.

Zunächst darf vor jeder Feindbegegnung eine eingängige Lagebeschreibung aufgerufen werden, anschließend wird die eigene Armee auf der scrollbaren Landkarte plaziert, wobei der Spieler bis zu einer festgelegten "Wertgrenze" unter diversen Einheiten frei wählen kann.

Bewegung und Kampf des rundenweise strukturierten Spektakels hat man quasi sofort im Griff, doch Obacht: Erstens führt nur die Eroberung bestimmter Felder wie Brücken oder Städte zum Gewinn (wer glaubt, unbedingt den Gegner vernichten zu müssen, hat also mit Zitronen gehandelt...), und zweitens kommt der angehende Sieger nicht umhin, jede Szene zweimal durchzuspielen - nämlich auf beiden Seiten!

Zwar wird die genretypisch karge Optik, auch wenn man sie von beiden Seiten betrachtet, nicht eindrucksvoller, under der Sound klingt noch ebenso dürftig wie einst im Mai, aber was soll's? Das Original ist dennoch mindestens ein Drei-Sterne-General und den gleichen Rang muß man auch der aktuellen Szenario-Disk zuerkennen - selbst wenn die geforderten 69 Schuß Salut für eine allein nicht lauffähige Erweiterung ganz schön happig erscheinen. (jn)