Sunday, October 16, 2005

Battle Carry Review

Battle Carry, developed and published by AFSL Games.
The Good: Numerous game modes, remarkable weaponry, good variety of levels, some team strategy
The Not So Good: Tanks are extremely difficult to control, less than spectacular graphics
What say you? A promising tank battle game that’s marred by bothersome tank handling: 5/8

I don’t normally write previews, because I’d much rather have a look at the finished product rather than partially complete buggy code that sours my impression of a game. It’s much better to imagine what a game will be like than to play a beta version and get your hopes dashed. Nevertheless, I did write a preview of Battle Carry, a tank battle game developed by independent developer A Few Screws Loose. Make sure you read the preview first, because I’m going to concentrate on the changes from the beta demo and the overall impression of the game in this review. No need to repeat information and waste your time, right? That’s just the kind of guy I am!

Not much has changed since the beta version, except for some optimization and additional weapons effects of the graphics. The graphics are simplistic 3-D levels with lots of bumps and numerous changes in elevation. There is a good selection of environments in the game (there are 11 different levels), showing off at least some variety of locations and some different buildings in the game. The smoke from weapon hits has a slightly cartoony feel (whether that is intentional or not), and for the most part, the levels are bare with pixilated trees and shrubbery. The sounds suffer from the same fate, being truly basic in nature, spanning just weapon firing and tank movements.

In Battle Carry, there are two teams of tanks bent on mutual destruction. There are several game modes available in the game: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and a objective mode where each team attempts to control locations on the map (like Battlefield 2). The third game mode opens up the possibility of some team strategy in the game; since locations are captured instantaneously, you must guard each location in order to win. The maps are also large enough so that you can’t run across the map in time to save the last base your team holds. Since the maps have varied elevations, there is usually at least one location that overlooks each base from a height, so you could watch the base from a distance and engage enemy tanks on their way in. Anything that supports team-orientated play is a plus in my book (which is coming out this Winter…look for it at your local bookstore).

The game features four different tanks to control, each with slightly different stats, suiting different driving styles. Every tank has the main cannon standard on most armored vehicles, and can obtain up to five secondary weapons at a time. They include rocket launchers, rapid-fire cannons, mines, guided missiles, flamethrowers, mortars, and air strikes. The weapons are easy to see against the background of the maps, and explicitly named for easy selection purposes. You can also get several power-ups that resupply ammunition or armor. The main problem with Battle Carry is the physics of the tanks. For whatever reason, the developers decided to make each tank weight less than ten pounds and bounce up in the air every time a slight bump is encountered. This becomes annoying and frustrating very quickly, as most maps are designed with as many bumps as humanly possible. This results in the tanks being almost impossible to control for people new to the game, and probably results in most people quitting. The tanks accelerate far too fast for how much they bounce, and this disparity makes the gameplay much harder than it needs to be. If they weighed down the tanks with some kind of modification, then the game will be much more fun and playable. Taking a realistic bent, tanks can turn much more effectively when stopped, which is a good feature. I wonder why they would incorporate realistic turning physics but allow the tanks to fly through the air like they are on the Moon. As it stands, the tanks are too difficult to control to recommend.

Battle Carry has the trimmings of a good, action packed game. The arcade nature of the tank battles works well, and there are enough game styles to provide for some needed variety. The graphics and sound are substandard, but this can be forgiven if the gameplay is good. And it is, except for the fact that the tanks are airborne far too much. The selection of tanks, weapons, and fast-paced gameplay are all there, but the most important aspect of tank control is not to my liking, and most people I’ve talked to who tried out the release demo feel the same way. Bottom line: Battle Carry is great except for the weightless tanks, which all but ruins the experience.