Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Battle Carry Preview

Battle Carry PC, developed and published by AFSL Games.
The Good: Seemingly realistic physics, location-specific damage
The Not So Good:Lightweight tanks, slow performance, spartan graphics

I love independent developers. I think that they ensure the future of PC gaming, as fun, simple games can be created on miniscule budgets and released to the Internet. This brings us to Battle Carry, an arcade tank combat multiplayer game currently being developed by AFSL Games. They had previously worked on a mod for the second Serious Sam, and then turned their attention to tank mayhem. The game is currently in beta, and a demo is available for download. Let’s check it out!

The graphics and sound in Battle Carry are frugal to say the least. The graphics show their independent roots, as the game world is rendered in a 3-D world of straight lines and a small amount of special effects. However, Battle Carry is not designed as a technology demo, so the graphics just serve as a way to show the action. Problem is, I have gotten fairly bad performance on my machine, even with these relatively low-quality graphics. This is probably due to the fact that they game is still in development, and hopefully the speed of the graphics will be improved in the future. There are a handful of good elements in the graphics, such as dirt and snow trails behind tanks and burning wreckage. The sounds are also very basic; there are no environmental effects that I found, just the sound of traveling tanks and the bass-induced rumble of shells being lobbed across the map.

Battle Carry is an arcade tank combat game. The object is to destroy the opposing team’s tanks using a variety of weapons. Each tank has its primary AT gun, and can pick up a secondary weapon from various locations on the map. Secondary weapons include rockets and the like. You can also pick up health (called armor in the game) along with the secondary weapons and ammo around the map. Battle Carry has an interesting mix of realistic and arcade elements. The tank damage models are accurate, as the most armor is in the front of the vehicle. Also, the best position to fire from is hull-down, a tactic used by real tank commanders to minimize the amount of exposed tank while still being able to engage the enemy. Battle Carry uses a lifelike physics model which takes some getting used to. All of the tanks have inertia, meaning they have weight when accelerating and braking that causes them to brake over long distances and shift forward and backwards. There are some liberties taken with these tanks, however. First, they seem to way no more than a golf cart; the tanks can get easily airborne and float in the air for a long period of time. This can get very frustrating when you are traveling at high speed and hit a bump, and go tumbling through the air. Secondly, the tanks can whip around entirely too quick. If you decelerate and turn at the same time, most of the tanks will spin out, and good players can time the move so that they end up facing the direction they intended. The tanks are intended to be controlled while coasting, and some of the models can travel almost across the entire map without applying the gas. You greatly increase your accuracy if you are traveling at a slow, constant speed, which is a very nice aspect of the game. Overall, the physics model in Battle Carry really takes some getting used to, and may not appeal to everyone.
In the released demo, there are two teams with two tanks on one map. Each tank handles slightly different, and each person should find a favorite. The game is pure deathmatch, with two opposing teams. You cannot tell how many players are on each team when you join, and there is no auto-balance option in the game, so you can have a 5 on 1 game and not really know it. It is also sometimes very difficult to tell who is on which team, as the colored nametags only appear when you are directly targeting another tank. All of the tanks look the same from a distance, so shadowing a tank is really the only way to see which team it’s on. There is also no mini-map in the game to tell where other tanks, friend or foe, or any of the powerups are currently located. This may be on purpose to make the game more strategic, however.
For the final release, the developers state that there will be a “total of eight secondary weapons” and “another couple of game play options” including “deathmatch, objective match,” and possible a tag team like game. Also, there will be two additional tanks, one more heavily armored and another smaller tanks that can handle more secondary weapons.

Battle Carry is an interesting game. It has a mix of arcade and realistic elements that may prove to strike a good balance for each type of gamer. Battle Carry is more tactical than Battlefield 2, but easier to handle than T-72. The game misses some features that comparable games have, but those are highly funded and in development for several years. I’m willing to forgive some of the shortcomings if Battle Carry proves to be fun. We’ll see how it turns out when the game is released.