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Posted on Oct 13, 2008 in Electronic Games

Steel Fury – Kharkov 1942 – PC Game Preview

By Larry Levandowski

Steel Fury is a serious simulator, and not an arcade twitch-fest. The steel beasts, particularly the Matilda, are not nimble; turning, loading the gun and rotating the turret take time. Still, the adrenalin factor is high and the player must have good situational awareness.

In a typical combat, the player pops out of the commander’s hatch and uses binoculars to scan the horizon for enemy units. Rapid flashes in the grass give away an enemy light machine gun. A quick command and the hull gunner silences the enemy with a burst of machine-gun fire. Off to the right, the commander sees a large plume of smoke from a hidden anti-tank gun. The red streak plowing up dirt in front of the tank means they missed. The commander only has seconds to order the tank into reverse while the gunner turns the turret to put hot steel on target. This intense pace keeps up until the last enemy tank is burning on the horizon.  

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Combat in Steel Fury feels real. Gunnery uses realistic ballistics and models armor penetration by hit location. Since the mission stops if the player’s tank commander is killed, it is sometimes frustrating to have an inbound round knock your commander out but leave the rest of the crew alive and the tank funcitoning. When this happens, the player will see his tank fighting on, even when the failed mission screen looms large. Buttoning up while in harm’s way becomes critical.

Gameplay revolves around either scripted individual missions, or a group of linked campaign missions for each tank. The situations and units involved come from the actions around Kharkov in May of 1942. Each battle starts with an overview map and operations order. The map is available at any point in the battle, and can be used to set waypoints and give formation orders to the player’s platoon. 

Steel Fury is a tank combat simulator and not a wargame. The player cannot switch vehicles and has only limited control of his platoon.  In some missions, the player will have a platoon of infantry or loaded half-tracks to command, but those units just follow and fight alongside the player’s vehicle. While battles can have a company of friendly infantry, other AFVs, artillery and air support, the player is just a cog in the overall battle plan. This is not a bad thing, but might be disappointing for players who like more control.

While the player’s ability to mold destiny is limited mostly to his platoon, one of the really wonderful things about the game is the great portrayal of the combined arms symphony. This is not a game where a lone wolf with great reflexes can win the war. The player has real-life constraints on his actions. Charging your tank platoon into an enemy-held strongpoint before your supporting infantry comes up is a quick way to die. Firing blindly into a town where enemy and friendly infantry are in a deadly brawl will kill just as many friendly troops as enemy. The player quickly learns that to succeed he must play as part of a combined-arms team.

The number of missions within and outside of campaigns are limited to about 30 battles. There is plenty of gameplay here, but once the player has exhausted the missions, replays may become stale. Also, the game does not support online play.

However, replay value is extended by a full set of editors that come with the game. There is even an editor for creating maps. While these tools seem to be very good by industry standards, building such a complex game environment is no trivial task. The average gamer will probably leave building new scenarios to the experienced modder.

The game in its preview version does have some issues, but they are minor, and it is assumed they will be addressed in the final release. The preview runs well and looks gorgeous on a Pentium dual core, running Vista with 2GB RAM, and Geforce 8800 card. But some views like a gun-sight zoom of infantry in trees can be a little choppy. While it is not clear if the final release will perform better or not, it is clear that players will need some good machine specs to get the most out the game.

Steel Fury – Kharkov is an exciting release. Even in its preview version, the game runs and plays well. This high fidelity tank combat simulator, easily carries the torch lit by such venerable titles as Panzer Commander and Panzer Elite. Steel Fury’s wonderfully rendered world and loving attention to detail will easily make it the new benchmark for WWII tank simulators.

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Larry Levandowski has been a wargamer for more than 30 years, and started computer gaming back in the days of the C-64. Until he recently discovered the virtues of DOS box, much of his computer game collection was unplayable. A former US Army officer, Larry has done his share of sitting in foxholes. Since leaving the Army, he has worked in the Information Technology field, as a programmer, project manager and lead bottle washer. He now spends his spare time playing boardgames, Napoleonic and WWII miniatures, as well as any PC game he can get his hands on.

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9 Comments

  1. So where can you buy this?

  2. I bought mine at gogamer.com

  3. Please stay away from this supposed to be `WWII tank simulator` game, if you don’t want to cry for your lost money and time. I do…
    The game is full of bugs, especially the German side. The bugs are quite annoying as well. For example:
    – The tank doesn’t check if there are friendlies between you and your target, and there is no way to stop your hull MG from firing. It simply fires non stops and kills your own men. The cannon can be stopped, thanks God, so you don’t shoot any friendly tank which enters your line of sight.
    – Somehow anti-tank guns can fire through the floor texture. Buildings stop shells, trees, rocks, but not the damned ground. They fire through hills, and right through your tank.
    – German tank sights are `empty`. The scope doesn’t even have a single dot in the middle (I took a marker and put a dot in the middle of my screen, in order to be able to aim :P ).
    – AI is `not`. There isn’t any. I parked my t-34 near a PAK75 approaching from behind, shot all the infantry around. It simply stood there. Oh by the way, the infantry were walking around while I shot their comrades, no grenade, none trying to hide, escape, simply walking…
    – sorry list goes longer, I’ll stop here.

  4. Altug

    “The tank doesn’t check if there are friendlies between you and your target, and there is no way to stop your hull MG from firing”
    Try read manual

    “Somehow anti-tank guns can fire through the floor texture….They fire through hills, and right through your tank”
    It’s nonsense

    “German tank sights are `empty`. ”
    Fixed by mod/patch

  5. Think yourself lucky. The game wont even work for me. It installs fine and the mission loads…… then i get an Inky blotchy effect on the screen ! Impossible to play, all i see is black and white expanding blotches. Worked fine on 64 bit xp, not so on 64 bit vista.

  6. EDIT: managed to get it working on Vista 64 bit. I ran everything in compatability mode reinstalled and hey presto it works!! Now theres hope for Steel Fury 1943 !!

  7. Stay away,,,,,,Installs but then very patchy…fram by fram. No help from publisher. They are out of bussness.

  8. Got this on gamestop.com for 19.99 USD. Digital Download but well worth the money. Great game, great price

  9. Hi, go to this link for all your Steel Fury needs. Has links for patches and mods.
    http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showthread.php?t=178218

    The game is alive and kicking and 10x better than when first released.
    Playable tanks now include Panther, Tiger, IS etc as well as improvements to the game.

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