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Posted on Nov 17, 2008 in Electronic Games

Hell’s Highway, 1944 – John Antal Turns a Game into a Narrative

By John Antal

Baker observes German soldiers at the Williamsvaart Canal bridge. Courtesy Ubisoft.Three hundred yards away two German panzergrenadiers saunter nonchalantly down the road, walking as calmly as if they owned the area. One German carries a submachine gun, the other a rifle. They stroll leisurely down the road by the canal, totally oblivious that they are being watched by Baker and his men.

“I wonder what they’re doing out here all by themselves?” Zanovitch offers.


“Probably a reconnaissance patrol,” Cat replies.

“We’ll leave them alone,” Baker answers. “No telling how many there are in the neighborhood.”

Baker, Zanovitch, and Cat watch patiently as the Germans walk along the road. Suddenly, the German with the submachine gun looks back over his shoulder, raises his arm and gives a hand signal.

The stillness of the afternoon is broken by the sound of an engine starting up. Within moments, a German armored halftrack pulls out of a small clump of trees and onto the road. The halftrack drives up to the two German soldiers. The German with the submachine gun yells some instructions, then he and the other soldier climb into the halftrack.

“Bloody Hell! We won’t be able to avoid them now,” Cat asserts. He points to the road and designates the way the Germans will approach their position. “If they follow the road, they’ll pass right by us. If we let them pass, they will run smack dab into XXX Corps coming up the road from the south. What do you want to do?”

Zanovitch nods. “He’s right. If we let these Krauts by us, they’ll end up in Eindhoven at division headquarters — and they’ll be behind us.”

Baker listens and takes in the situation. Advice is wonderful, but the decision rests on his shoulders. He knows he has to decide quickly. Should he avoid the Germans – lay low and continue the observation mission — or fight them by ambushing the halftrack with his thirteen-man squad?

The enemy will pass by in a couple of minutes. Baker has to decide — now!

“Deploy the men on line here,” Baker orders decisively. “Zanovitch, get the bazooka.”

Cat signals Ackers to bring the men up. Zanovitch backs up and then runs to the jeep. The bazooka is strapped to the rear of the jeep, and Zanovitch, Swanson, and Haynes quickly work together to unload it. Zanovitch enlists Swanson as his loader and hands him three bazooka rockets to carry.

The halftrack continues along the road, puffs of black exhaust smoke shooting out from the rear of the armored vehicle, just as Cat’s men and Zanovitch reach Baker.

“Everybody hold their fire and wait for them to pass us. Zanovitch, when you’ve got a clear shot at the rear of the halftrack, give it an ‘up the skirt’ shot,” Baker orders. “Think you can make the shot?”

Zanovitch smirks. “At this range, I never miss.”

“Everybody down and quiet,” Baker orders. “Hold your fire until I give the word.”

The seconds tick by as the German halftrack slowly moves forward. Baker fears that the Germans might see his men or his line of vehicles in the woods. He waits and watches as his heart pounds loudly in his chest.

The Germans travel down the road toward Baker and his men. The halftrack has truck tires in front and a track with four road wheels in the rear on each side. The top is open, making the Germans riding in the back vulnerable to small arms fire. Baker can see three men in the open troop compartment. One of the men mans an MG-42 machine gun.

The halftrack clanks by as Baker lies on the ground, concealed from view by the cover of the trees. The vehicle picks up speed, coming within fifteen yards of where Baker and his men hide in ambush. As the vehicle nears, Baker peeks through the foliage, staring straight into the face of the commander of the halftrack.

Whether the German sergeant saw Baker or not, Baker will never know, but the German sees something and starts shouting. The halftrack continues down the road as Baker screams. “Zanovitch! Now!”

[continued on next page]

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