We're giving Front Towards Gamer a new home - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

We’re giving Front Towards Gamer a new home

Today, we’re happy to announce that We Are The Mighty will be the new home of Front Towards Gamer (FTG), a community founded to support military veteran nonprofit Operation Supply Drop (OSD). Through a partnership with OSD, we’re going to carry the FTG torch, continuing to provide guides, reviews, videos, and articles to our growing gaming community.


“This partnership with We Are The Mighty gives our passionate content creators the opportunity to leverage WATM’s large and engaged audience and represent the ever-growing community of veteran gamers,” said Glenn Banton, CEO of OSD.

If you’re a former member of the FTG community, then we’re more than glad to have you. If you’re a gaming enthusiast, we’re sure you’ll love what you see. If you’re not a fan of gaming, then you might be asking yourself, “why should I care?”

Well, let’s take a look at the numbers:

We’re giving Front Towards Gamer a new home

According to a joint WATM-Maru/Matchbox survey from 2017 of over 1,700 active and retired military servicemen and women, gaming is an essential part of military culture. 73% own a gaming console, well above the 54% of the non-military population. 30% plan to purchase a new gaming console in the next year, nearly double the 17% of non-military.

One thing is clear: Both active service members and veterans care about games — and we do, too.

So, we’re pledging to bring you more of the content you’ve grown to love from FTG while contributing our own original and curated content as well. Additionally, we’re thrilled to continue to champion many of the events and programs hosted by OSD and their partners, including 8-Bit Salute (their annual gaming marathon fundraiser on Twitch and Mixer) and Games to Grunts (the online platform providing no-cost games to military service members and veterans).

Stay tuned for more great gaming content!

Editor’s note: If you’re a member of the military community with passions for gaming and writing and you’re looking to contribute your voice to our community, send us an email. We’re always looking for great contributors.

popular

4 tips for you to win a real life battle royale game

The most recent trend to take the gaming world by storm is the advent of massively multiplayer battle royale games that pit around 100 players against each other. The gameplay is simple: The player lands in a random location, picks up whatever weapons they can manage, and fights others to be the last player standing.


While there are plenty of game mechanics that counter the tips on this list, it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine what it would take to emerge victorious should a battle royale actually happen. Who knows, maybe these real-life tactics will even help you win a game or two.

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Dropping into Pleasant Park might not be the best idea…

(Epic Games)

Avoid people

The beginning of every match has the players make a mad rush in search of randomly placed weapons. Players can generally assume that larger locations have better gear because there are more locations in which for gear to appear.

Assuming the real-life situation is similar and gear is placed without rhyme or reason, there’d simply be no reason to pick a popular place to start. The last situation you want to find yourself in is one where you’re without weapons or protection among people who have both.

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Maybe hide in a bunker. No one ever bothers to check the bunkers.

(Bluehole Studio, Inc.)

Defensive location

Most battle royale games constrict the field of play as the game goes on, preventing players from hiding in one spot the entire time instead of, you know, actually playing the game.

In real life, however, where isn’t any time limit, look for a place where you can watch only one avenue of approach and wait things out while the enemies dwindle.

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“Don’t mind me. I’m just an aggressive bush. A very aggressive bush.”

(Bohemia Interactive)

Stealth

The focus of the game is to outlive everyone. This also means that the last two players will need to duke it out (or let the other player die on their own) for there to be a single winner.

You want your enemy to be focusing on the other 98 enemies around them. If you need supplies, keep a low profile. Do not draw attention to yourself. Find some way to blend into the environment so that any enemy looking for you instead looks right past you.

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Because everything actually is a trap.

(Mojang)

Slow, methodical pace

Much of what separates the games from any real-life, hypothetical scenario is the pace. If you run around having fun and you die in the game… Cool. On to the next round. Meanwhile, in real life, we’ve started wars over the question of whether there is indeed a “next round after death.”

In real life, you’ll need to take the time to think every action through. If your current position is in more danger than another, move without drawing attention to yourself. Believe every step you take is into a trap and plan accordingly.

MIGHTY GAMING

Why Fortnite is basically a combat engineer simulator

Military simulators are always a huge hit within the gaming community. Flight simulators give gamers the opportunity to sit in a (simulated) cockpit. First-person shooters imitate the life of an infantryman. World of Warships and World of Tanks give the gearheads out there a chance to pilot their favorite vessels.

And then there’s the game that’s taken gaming world by storm lately: Fortnite. It features a 100-player, battle-royale mode that has players duke it out until only the best (or luckiest) player survives. At first glance, it seems like a standard PUBG clone — until you realize that a huge part of the game is about, as its name implies, building forts.

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Some players get a little carried away with honing their base-building skills…
(u/RuffAsToast)

Underneath its goofy graphics and RNG-laden (random number generator) loot system is actually a fairly intricate game. The overall premise is simple: Land somewhere, scavenge materials to build, find loot, build stuff, fight the enemy, move toward the objective, and build more stuff.

Then, it suddenly hits you.


What separates the skilled players from the 10-year-old kiddies screaming memes into their headsets is the ability to construct a dependable, defensible position. In order to be successful in Fortnite, you have to quickly build and rebuild secure bases that can’t easily be destroyed while giving you the ability to get up high and view the battlefield.

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(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley J. Hayes)

This is not unlike the essence of what a real combat engineer does in real life: Deploy somewhere, get hand-me-down materials from the last unit who was in Afghanistan, build stuff, fight the enemy, continue the mission, and then build more stuff.

Granted, you’re distilling an entire career into a 20-minute long video-game match, but the parallels are there — but real engineers have more fun. Building stuff is only half of the job description; using explosives to take out enemy positions is when the real fun begins.

MIGHTY GAMING

New Mortal Kombat just added Schwarzenegger’s Terminator

Ahead of the release of Terminator: Dark Fate, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic cyborg/character, Terminator T-800, is coming to the Mortal Kombat 11 roster in a crossover we were not expecting.

A gameplay trailer shows T-800 looking like an aged Schwarzenegger wearing jeans and a leather jacket — classic badass outfit. He walks into some kind of military base, making a promise to his soon-to-be opponent: “You will be terminated.”

Hell, yeah.


What follows is gameplay that looks pretty much like the Mortal Kombat games you played as a kid with heavily upgraded (read: gorier) graphics. Case in point: a gunshot from the Terminator reveals the stomach and intestines of his opponent, who somehow lives to fight another day.

Mortal Kombat 11 Kombat Pack – Official Terminator T-800 Gameplay Trailer

www.youtube.com

The coolest part of the trailer comes when Arnold gets set on fire. He stands up as his human form burning off to reveal the iconic, chromed-out skeleton of the Terminator.

The T-800 comes as part of a downloadable character pack that also includes Shang Tsung, Nightwolf, Sindel, Joker and Spawn. It’s available for Early Access for those with the Kombat Pack or Premium edition of the game on Oct. 8 and Oct.15, 2019, for everyone else.

And if the prospect of fighting as the Terminator is making you want to buy the game, you’re in luck. It’s available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, or Google Stadia, one of which you hopefully have lying around already.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

For the first time, a soldier is being brought up on real-world charges for battlefield offenses committed during a video game. A UK troop stationed in Edinburgh, frustrated at the lack of real training took that frustration out in the combat simulator in which he and his squad were training.


He wasn’t charged with murder, according to the Telegraph, he was charged with disobeying a direct order and reprimanded. The infantry rifleman told members of his unit he just wanted to be training outside and was fed up with being on a laptop. He will spend the coming weekend on guard duty as part of his punishment.

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“Guys, take this seriously, okay??”

Members of his unit told the Telegraph they had been training on the laptop computers for at least three weeks and were anxious to go outside and do real-world training. They also challenged anyone else to do the same thing for that long without needing to vent some kind of frustration.

“All this was taking place in an office at our headquarters, when we’d rather be doing real-life soldiering outside in the fresh air. But there’s less of that sort of exercise these days because the Army has committed to Unit-based Virtual Training.”
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Like training for, say, World War III.

The unit was training on what to do in an armored convoy in a hostile environment, filled with enemy forces. That’s when the soldier in question “lost his rag” and went on a Grand Theft Auto-level virtual spree, which started with killing the soldier next to him. He then stole one of the armored vehicles and drove it down the street to deliberately smash into local nationals’ cars.

His comrades thought the behavior was extremely funny, his superior officers did not.

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Pictured: British Army convoy training.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence defended the reprimand, saying “We take the training of our service personnel very seriously and anyone who is disruptive to this training will receive disciplinary action..

MIGHTY GAMING

How ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ is intelligently predicting future tech

Creating science fiction comes with the unique challenge of dreaming up some kind of awesome, future technology and making it the norm for people native to the fictional society. Sometimes, creators get it right, like the video-call system in 2001: A Space Odyssey that later became reality with Skype and FaceTime. Others, like Back to the Future, left us waiting for pink hoverboards that were supposed to be available by 2015.

Thanks for nothing, Mattel.

CD Projekt Red faces this same conundrum in coming up with the dystopian future setting of their upcoming title, Cyberpunk 2077. Set 59 years in the future, you play a mercenary in a world almost completely overtaken by technology. People get cybernetic enhancements to make themselves look better and advertisements fill up every inch of the city. It’s up to you to carve out a little hole in this world.


Before we dive in, we have to say the game looks incredible. Check out this recently released footage.

From the looks of things, the developers appear to be very grounded in their approach to portraying technological advancements, keeping in accordance with Marshall McLuhan and his Tetrad of Media Effects theory.

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The man himself, Marshall McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan was fairly advanced for his time and was regarded as one of the fathers of media psychology. He’s was well regarded (posthumously, of course, as is the case with most scientists that’re ahead of their time) for laying the groundwork for achieving an understanding of how people perceive and take in all forms of media — meaning art, technology, and speech.

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Today, we call it the internet. We use it to pretend to do work, watch videos of funny cats, and occasionally engage in fruitless arguments that will never change either party’s mind.

McLuhan’s Tetrad of Media Effects states that all technological advancements must serve four purposes to make a lasting impact on society. It must enhance something, make something obsolete, call back to something familiar, and have the potential to become something new when pushed to its limits.

His famous example was the FM radio, which meets all four criteria:

  1. It amplifies news and music through sound,
  2. It reduces the need for print media,
  3. It brings spoken word back to the forefront in how people transfer stories, and,
  4. Eventually, it could be enhanced with a visual component (aka television).

By following these rules, you can make educated guesses at where new technologies might emerge and which need they may grow to fill. In fact, he famously hypothesized that all forms of media would one day grow to an extreme, at which point, this new medium would be so fast and so large that everyone in the world could instantaneously communicate with one another. This single, new media form would encompass most other forms of communication. He called it “the global village” and was ostracized from the scientific community for his crackpot speculations.

Sound familiar?

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But that would never… oh…

With McLuhan’s theory in mind, we can see how the developers at CD Projekt Red are applying it perfectly to the world of Cyberpunk. Not everything is crazy and outrageous, but rather plays on something that currently exists and amplifies it to a realistic degree.

Cybernetic enhancements are now a thing because they replace the previously squishy and less desirable parts of being human. Taxi cabs still exist because people still need to get from one place to another. And, of course, billboards cover everything when there are no rules about not plastered flashy ads across the sides of buildings.

MIGHTY GAMING

The Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond Gallery drops players into history

With the release of EA’s Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, gamers have their first dedicated WWII virtual reality experience from a AAA studio. The game is the first release from the Medal of Honor franchise since Medal of Honor: Warfighter in 2012. Set in the European theater, Above and Beyond has players take on the role of an OSS agent fighting alongside the French Resistance against the Nazis in its single-player campaign. Played entirely in VR on either the Oculus Rift or Steam VR, Above and Beyond also includes traditional player vs. player competitive multiplayer and a survival mode. However, the game’s signature feature is its Gallery mode.

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(EA Games)

A longstanding inclusion with Medal of Honor games, the Gallery mode provides players with insight on the real-life soldiers and their stories that inspired the game. As players progress in the single-player story, documentaries in the Gallery are unlocked. “The goal of Medal of Honor is to be grounded and emotionally authentic. To be as true as we can to the people who actually fought in it and lived in it” said Peter Hirschmann, game director of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, “The goal is to tell and show as much truth as possible and let people get the tiniest of glimpses of what it must’ve been like.”

Hirschmann is no stranger to telling stories as he wrote and produced the groundbreaking original 1999 Medal of Honor game. He brought on board Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Anthony Giacchino to produce the Gallery mode. Giacchino, who is well-known for his WWII documentaries featured on The History Channel, sought to bring a human dimension to the game. Over 16 million Americans served in WWII. In 2019, the VA estimated that less than 390,000 were still alive and nearly 300 died every day. With the greatest generation fading away, Giacchino wanted, “for people to hear their stories before it’s too late.” Developer Respawn partnered with Honor Flight to bring WWII veterans to the locations of historic events that they took part in to conduct interviews.

In the Gallery mode, and through the power of VR, players will be able to sit next to these veterans and hear them tell their stories. They will walk alongside them on the battlefields that they fought through all those years ago. “It’s an amazing tool for transporting people into the stories that we’re telling,” Giacchino said of VR. “You’ll be able to go to Peenemünde where the V2 rocket program was, or Omaha Beach, parts of the world you’d otherwise never get to see.”

Above and Beyond offers players an engaging gaming experience, but an even more powerful and emotionally impactful story-telling experience. While new technology like VR will inevitably become antiquated and games like Above and Beyond difficult to play, its Gallery mode serves as a timeless historical record and testament to the veterans of the Second World War. Giacchino has confirmed that the team is working on a way to bring the Gallery mode to a wider and more mainstream audience without the need for a VR headset and gaming PC. “The Gallery will forever be the thing that lives on, a hundred years from now.”

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(EA Games)
MIGHTY CULTURE

This epic battle between 40,000 Jedi and Sith needs to be in Star Wars 9

Is the Dark Side stronger?” Luke Skywalker first asked the question as he trained with Master Yoda on Dagobah, wondering if all his hard work could ever make a difference against the full power of the Dark Side of the Force. Yoda insisted that while the Dark Side is “more seductive,” it is inferior to the Light Side of the Force. It’s a nice sentiment that reassures Luke (and viewers) that good will triumph over evil. But wise as he is, Yoda is also a Jedi and might be a little biased.


So to prove once and for all whether a Jedi or Sith Lord is the most powerful warrior in the galaxy, one YouTuber figured out an alternative to just taking Yoda’s word. He had 20,000 Jedi Knights face off against 20,000 Sith Lords in the ultimate Star Wars battle royal. Despite being amazing, the only tragedy of this fan-made simulation is that it likely won’t find it’s way in the next big Star Wars movie, Episode IX.

YouTuber SergiuHellDragoonHQ used the PC game Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator to initially pit one Sith (who is pretty clearly Darth Maul) against one Jedi. All fine and good, but he soon realized that things would get more interesting if the battle was considerably grander. He upped the simulation to 20,000 warriors per side. Not surprisingly, the battle quickly descended into total chaos and, well, never really stopped ⏤ at least not for 26 minutes. Still, the absolute beautiful insanity of the battle is worth checking out at least for a few of them.

www.youtube.com

So who ended up winning? Sadly, it looks like Yoda may have bet on the wrong side of the Force, as the Sith handily defeated the Jedi Knights. By the end, there were still nearly 14,000 Sith Lords standing, while only 5,000 Jedis remained alive.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Claims that North Korea can destroy the US could be based on a science fiction book

Tensions over a potential war between North Korea and the United States are mounting every day.


The “hermit kingdom” is boasting through its state propaganda that it could destroy America. Any claim by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to “create a balance of power with the U.S.” is considered laughable.

All of this chest thumping holds as much weight as the unicorn lair in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-il’s first time golf record, his “totally original” invention in 2000 of the hamburger, and the CGI effects used in the their latest propaganda video.

But in an astounding claim, Pyongyang’s version of Pravda (fun fact: pravda means “truth” in Russian) says it can destroy the US in many different ways, but most notably with an electromagnetic pulse weapon.

Whether or not this claim is true, here’s a breakdown of what their military actually looks like. They have around a million active duty personnel using cheaper versions of an AK-47 (Type 88), 67 year old fighter aircraft, and dwindling allies.

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This is the NK Type 88. Sh*t folding stock, automatic, and a helical magazine. Yep. Seems efficient.

An impressive claim, by 2017 military standards, is its two satellites in orbit. It’s debatable if they actually have an EMP device on them, but it is known that nuclear weapons also give off an an EMP blast on detonation.

The concerns of their nuclear capabilities, non-state allies, artillery and rocket launchers are real. Even if their nuclear warheads could theoretically reach the US, the devastation it would cause to our allies is the only reason they haven’t been obliterated and South Korea hasn’t become a island yet.

Former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) said during hearings before the 2008 Congressional EMP Commision that he believes that a electromagnetic pulse weapon detonated in Nebraska could kill 9 out of 10 people in the aftermath and ensuing chaos.

This lead former CIA director R. James Woolsey to say in an op-ed piece for The Hill that one of two North Korean satellites could deliver such a blast.

Problem with this is that Bartlett was directly quoting an early release of William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After” — a science fiction novel about the collapse of society. But as we all know, emotions beat facts in fear mongering.

Let’s hope for the diplomatic solution. But if not, well, it only took us five weeks to take on one of the largest, strongest, and most funded militaries in 1991.

MIGHTY GAMING

Blizzard fans plan protests after company’s response to Blitzchung ban

After a week-long controversy and accusations of censorship, Blizzard Entertainment responded late Oct. 11, 2019, to say China did not influence its decision to ban a professional gamer from Hong Kong for supporting anti-China protests. But the gaming community has been reluctant to accept Blizzard’s latest explanation of the move, and many are still planning protests at the company’s upcoming conference, BlizzCon.

“Hearthstone” player Ng Wai Chung, better known as Blitzchung, wore a gas mask and called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event on Oct. 5, 2019. Blizzard initially responded by banning him from competition for one year, and saying that it would no longer work with the two commentators who conducted the interview.


The company said Blitzchung violated the rules of the competition by making political statements, and claimed that the statements damaged the company’s image by offending a portion of the public.

The punishment was harshly criticized by fans and U.S. lawmakers who accused the company of censoring free speech to protect its relationships in China, a massive and highly lucrative market with strict laws that require companies operating in the country to censor or remove content at the government’s request. Players threatened to boycott Blizzard’s games in response and a small group of Blizzard employees staged a walkout to show support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

After staying silent for several days, Blizzard Entertainment President J.Allen Brack pushed back against claims that Blizzard’s business in China influenced the company’s decision in a statement published Oct. 11, 2019. The company reduced the suspension of Blitzchung and the two commentators to six months and reinstated Blitzchung’s prize money, but Brack reiterated that Blitzchung had violated the rules of the competition.

“There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast,” Brack wrote in a statement.

Blizzard’s reduced punishment didn’t do much to change public perception

Critics remain skeptical of Brack’s claim that China had no impact on Blizzard’s decision, and many suggested that Blizzard should have lifted its suspension of Blitzchung and the two competitors entirely.

Others accused Blizzard of trying to minimize its concession by making a statement on a Friday evening, a common tactic used to diminish negative press in a weekend news cycle. Former Blizzard producer Mark Kern said the company used the same strategy while he was working there.

Protesters upset with Blizzard’s lack of support for Hong Kong are planning to show up at the company’s annual fan convention, BlizzCon, on November 1. One group of protesters planned to form picket lines outside of the event and interrupt BlizzCon panel discussions with questions about Hong Kong. The same group is demanding that Blizzard make a public statement in support of Hong Kong, apologize and reverse the punishment, and create a special protest costume for the Chinese “Overwatch” character Mei.

Ultimately, Brack’s statement did little to change the perception of Blizzard’s punishment of Blitzchung, though the “Hearthstone” player said he accepted the company’s stance on the situation. Blizzard will have to wait and see if time will heal the company’s public perception, and hope the situation doesn’t escalate further with planned protests in the coming weeks.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

5 video games that let you play actual military missions

Military games are awesome. They often have lots of explosions and gunplay, and the best ones take some care to honestly represent military life, imposing a moral cost for decisions or making you feel the loss of comrades in fighting. But it’s always a sweet bonus if you, as the player, are able to step in the shoes of warriors from history.

So these are five games that let you do just that, either commanding important missions from history or stepping into the boots of a participant. A quick admin note, though: These are games that let you play in a historical mission. They aren’t necessarily the most historically accurate, meaning the creators might have taken some liberties with details.


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(YouTube/MKIceAndFire)

Medal of Honor

The 2010 game Medal of Honor is set during the invasion of Afghanistan with a prologue that includes clearing Bagram Airfield and a main campaign centered on special operators in the Shahikot Valley. Eagle-eyed historians will recognize the story as a (loose) interpretation of Operation Anaconda, the largest battle of the invasion of Afghanistan complete with dozens of special operators, thousands of friendly soldiers, and about 1,000 guerrilla fighters.

While the names of individuals and units have all been changed, a lot of the key moments and terrain features from the actual battle are represented like when a SEAL is lost on Takur Ghar or the many times that members of Delta Force called in airstrikes on enemy forces.

(As a bonus, some versions of this game come with the 2002 Medal of Honor: Frontline which has some stunning depictions of real battles like the D-Day landings and Operation Market Garden, though even the remastered version has quaint graphics by modern standards.)

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(YouTube/GamePlayShare)

Call of Duty 2

To be honest, there are really too many World War II shooters to list all of the ones with real missions, even if we dedicated an entire list to World War II. We went with Call of Duty 2 for this list. It features missions in North Africa, lets you play with the Rangers on Ponte du Hoc on D-Day, and a variety of other real missions besides.

The original Call of Duty has other World War II missions like the defense of “Pavlov’s House” in Stalingrad and the final assault on Berlin.

But don’t learn your history from Call of Duty games. The “Operation Pegasus” mission in the game has nothing to do with the actual World War II mission of the same name. And the commando assault on Eder Dam in the game is a far cry from the true “Dambusters” of history.

Battlefield Vietnam

Battlefield Vietnam is a well-received game about the Vietnam War (duh) originally released in 2004. The game is a little arcade-y with lots of run-and-gun action in settings like the Ho Chi Ming Trail, the Siege of Hue, and missions like Operation Flaming Dart.

Players can get behind the controls of lots of vehicles from the era including the iconic Patrol Boat-Riverine.

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(YouTube/Valefisk)

Company of Heroes

This is a real-time strategy game set in the American campaign to land at Normandy and then drive to Berlin. Company of Heroes sees the player commanding companies of soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division and 101st Airborne Division at battles from Carentan to Hill 192 to St. Lo.

The game doesn’t actually limit the player to what a company commander could do in the war. It gives players the options to upgrade all of their units and allows them to control armor, infantry, engineering, and other soldiers. But the maps feel different based on what battle is playing out, and they’re all destructible so you can fight house to house in St. Fromond or create chokepoints to slaughter German troops as they come through the village.

Ultimate General: Civil War

This Civil War strategy game has *checks notes*, all of the Civil War battles. There’s a Union campaign and a Confederate one, and each features dozens of battles and missions. These include both battles of Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga Creek, Cold Harbor, and much, much, more.

The size of the player’s force is decided by how well they do in each fight. So while you get to play all sorts of historical battles, realize that the actual forces at each fight are decided according to your performance, not according to historical accuracy. So be prepared for a Gettysburg where the Confederacy has three times the troops and wins.

MIGHTY GAMING

​The best military games we played at gamescom and PAX West

In the summer, gamescom and PAX West bring out the best in gaming announcements as developers and publishers get the hype trains rolling right into the holiday season. This year was no exception. There are a lot of great games on the horizon, but this year, we’ve got our eyes glued on three shooter titles specifically.

Here are the games, in no particular order, that await your itchy trigger finger.


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(Deep Silver)

‘Metro: Exodus’ (PS4/XBO/PC)

I’ll admit, getting some time with Metro: Exodus at gamescom was my first hands-on experience with the lauded series, but it wasn’t my first rodeo in the virtual apocalypse. Despite this minor detail, I was able to jump right in and start exploring the newest title set in a grim future.

It was explained to me that Exodus moves the Metro series away from its traditional, predominantly underground setting into a more balanced mixture of surface and subterranean exploration. The demo environment that I explored was well designed, rich with details to remind players they’re playing a post-apocalyptic RPG. Hidden in the environment (and on corpses) are materials you can use to craft a variety of helpful consumables. One of the coolest features put on display was the ability to customize weapons to fit different situations.

Combat was smooth and accommodates a variety of different gameplay styles. Instead of stealthily picking off my opponents, I tend to lean toward going full Rambo on every enemy in sight, but both approaches seem to get the job done. After a quick developer assist (I explored a little too much and got lost — did I mention how great the environments are?), I dispatched the demo’s boss mob by spending all of my ammo and finishing it off with a very satisfying melee strike.

Exodus seems like a perfect fit for fans of Bioshock, Dead Space, Far Cry, and other shooter RPGs.

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(The Farm 51)

‘World War 3’ (PC)

World War 3 is an upcoming Battlefield-like multiplayer shooter developed and published by The Farm 51, a small indie studio based in Poland. While WW3 is themed around a theoretical conflict, it’s based on real-world tensions in Eastern Europe.

Gameplay is straightforward enough, but fine-tuned. There’s a good balance of combat classes, weapons, consumables — everything you’ve come to expect from a modern shooter. What stands out about this game, however, is that nearly everything is customizable and the array of selections is huge. Configure your own load out using everything from dozens of different types of head accessories to a variety of mounted vehicle weapons. With a little sleuthing, I even found that one of the more creative developers snuck a nuclear warhead into the mix — just for fun.

The developers on the floor reiterated several times that everything in their game (well, maybe not the nuke) will be unlockable through playing and not microtransactions. While it seems a little unfair to compare this game to AAA giants, like Battlefield, everyone I chatted with at PAX and gamescom seemed ready to draw the comparison. Regardless of whether the title can measure up to multi-million dollar blockbusters, the best part about this game is the indie price. Early access opens up for PC gamers on Steam later this year and gamers can expect to drop between and to join in on the international conflict.

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(EA DICE)

‘Battlefield V’ (PS4/XBO/PC)

Speaking of AAA titles, World War II is back with EA’s latest title, Battlefield V. EA DICE, longtime developers of the Battlefield series, is hoping to provide a vastly new and improved experience over their original title, Battlefield 1942, which celebrated its 16th birthday this week.

This launch comes on the heels of EA trying to recover from bad publicity stemming from the overwhelmingly pay-to-win gameplay that shipped with Star Wars Battlefront II. It seems EA has learned a little bit from their last release as they’ve made it a point to announce that Battlefield V will not feature any loot boxes or other forms of game-altering monetization. This statement may help soothe the ruffled feathers of the recently upset playerbase, but it also leaves the door wide open for DLCs and other types of traditional paid content.

During my brief time with the game, there’s no question that it’s a solid tribute to previous games in the series but, at the same time, there haven’t been any groundbreaking changes made. This fact didn’t seem to matter much for the masses of gamescom attendees who happily lined up and waited for up to 5 hours just play a single match. That being said, there’s a lot left to be announced and much of the game’s content is still hidden away, including the new, not-yet-demoed “Battlefield Royale” mode and the single-player campaign.

They say you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken — and there are a lot of people out there just waiting for their next Battlefield fix, which they’ll get on November 20, 2018.

MIGHTY GAMING

How video games really can make you a better fighter pilot

Does playing video games and desktop simulators, such as Microsoft Flight Sim, prepare you to become a fighter pilot?

As a fighter pilot, much of our training takes place in a simulator, which is the ultimate video game. Stepping into these rooms, you’re dwarfed by a giant sphere that projects a 360-degree view of your surroundings. After climbing into an exact replica of the cockpit, a motor then pushes you into the middle of the sphere and it’s fights on—You’re anywhere in the world with any weapons you want and adversaries that can be dialed-up in difficulty as needed. And it’s not just you in there, other pilots are in their own pods fighting alongside you on the same virtual battlefield.

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The inside of the cockpit of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Full Mission Simulator accurately replicates all sensors and weapons to provide a realistic mission rehearsal and training environment for pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Flying a modern fighter is difficult—these machines are designed to merge man and machine into a lethal combination that can have a strategic level of impact on the battlefield. The stick and throttle alone have dozens of buttons on them. Most of these buttons can give 5 or more commands—forward, back, left, right, and down—as well as short pushes and long pushes and multiple master-modes that completely change the function of each button: It’s a PlayStation or X-box controller on steroids.

Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, my generation was one of the first to have widespread access to video games. Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, N64—I played them all growing up. Using a controller was second nature by the time I got to pilot training. Now trainers like the T-6 and T-38 don’t have a lot of buttons on the stick and throttle—they’re designed to teach students how to fly. However, the F-16 was a huge jump where we learned not just to fly the aircraft, but to employ it as a weapons system.

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The F-16 comes with a few more buttons than your average X-Box controller. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

There we learned what, at the time, seemed like complex sequences to track targets, launch missiles, and drop bombs. What I noticed was that my time playing video games allowed me to synthesize information while quickly and accurately passing decisions I made off to the jet. Many of my classmates also played video games growing up and collectively, the feedback we received was that we were a lot more advanced than our instructors were when they were in our position.

Now, a decade later, I can say the next generation, who grew up with smartphones and iPads, have an even greater capacity to process the multiple streams of information coming at them than older pilots like myself. The avionics in jets like the F-35—which are essentially 2 large iPads glued together—are second nature to them. So, to answer the question, do video games help prepare you to become a pilot? The answer is yes, to an extent.

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How else are you supposed to master the wing-mounted laser blasters that come on the F-15? (Ace Combat 7)

For future fighter pilots out there, I would say a couple of hours a week can help with processing information, making quick decisions, and accurately passing it off to the controls. Anything more is likely a detriment in that it is taking time away from other things you could be working on. As for the type of video game, it doesn’t matter. Realistic fighter simulators like DCS aren’t any better than Mario Kart: The procedures and tactics in civilian sims are off by enough that it won’t give you an advantage by the time you’re flying the real thing. If it helps stoke the passion, great, that’s the most important trait for success, but not playing them won’t put you at a disadvantage.

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