Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tank Combat Review

Tank Combat, developed by Crazy House and published by City Interactive on Gamer’s Gate.
The Good: Three campaigns, I suppose
The Not So Good: Bland fighting, complete disregard for real-world ballistics, dumb AI, sloppy controls, horribly outdated graphics, lacks multiplayer, unoriginal setting, no mid-mission saves
What say you? This arcade tank game should appeal to absolutely no one: 1/8

Tanks are cool. This is exemplified by all of the tank games that have appeared on the PC that I name whenever I do a review of a tank game. Add one more to the list: the generically-named Tank Combat. This game is developed by the same people who did T-72: Balkans on Fire, which was not completely horrible. T-72 was a simulation through-and-through, and the developers have decided to go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum for Tank Combat. This is an arcade game that supposed to appeal to a wider audience because you don’t have to worry about things like “wind” or “gravity.” Take that, Isaac Newton!

Tank Combat seriously looks like it came out in the mid 90s. First, the maximum screen resolution is 1280 by 960: who uses that anymore?! Too bad you spent all of that money on a fancy widescreen monitor, eh? Not that you’d really want to look at Tank Combat anyway, as the game features completely bland textures and horrible environments that lack any real detail. There is also a very significant amount of pop-in, even at the highest possible graphics setting. The tank models look OK but they are completely out of place when set against the very underwhelming graphics. Tank Combat needs to join the rest of us in the 21st Century with higher resolution textures and realistically detailed environments. The sound isn’t much better off, featuring delayed voice acting and weird, out of place music. Tank Combat also disables the sound every time I run the game, don’t ask me why. If you’re looking for archaic graphics and sound, then you have found it here in Tank Combat.

First, the good news: Tank Combat features three campaigns. Now, the bad news: everything else. The game takes place in the ultra-original setting of World War II. At least T-72 was in a unique place (Bosnia). Each campaign, one for each of the major forces in World War II (the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) consists of six missions each that consists of simply blowing up enemy tanks that are on the way to the finish line. Tanks will always be placed in the same location and never move unless explicitly told to do so by the level designer. You must finish a mission in one sitting as there are no saved games, manual or automatic. And Tank Combat lacks multiplayer of any sort.

Not only is Tank Combat an arcade tank game, but it takes any sort of realism out of the equation. First, the controls are odd: you cannot turn the tank without moving forward. I swear I saw tanks rotate in pretty much every other game and movie and documentary. Also, you do not need to aim slightly above an enemy in order to hit them, as apparently there was no gravity during World War II. This makes combat trivially easy and completely uninteresting. While I don’t expect an arcade tank title to have super realistic ballistics, there should be at least some challenge when it comes to engaging enemy tanks. Tank Combat certainly does not have an advanced damage model as tanks experience two condition: OK and on fire. Realistically long reloading times for the main guns goes completely against the arcade nature of the rest of the game.

Things do not get better with the AI: they either move towards you or sit there and let you destroy them. There are no advanced flanking procedures, except for the rare instance that the scenario developer explicitly put them there. The objective map shows where everyone is going to be before the mission starts, removing any sort of surprise. It’s actually probably better off this way, as the low resolutions make it difficult to see tanks on the horizon anyway. Tank Combat is point-and-shoot, requires no thinking, and rarely varies the gameplay beyond the very simple.

A game where tanks shoot at each other: what could go wrong? A lot, apparently. Tank Combat has tanks doing combat, but it’s executed so, so poorly. This is certainly not a follow-up to T-72 (which might have been decent). I’ve never understood how a similar follow-up can actually be significantly worse than the first attempt, but that’s what we have in Tank Combat. Where to start? The archaic graphics? The unintelligent AI? The linear and predictable missions? The lack of anything resembling real physics? The numerous missing features (multiplayer, saved games)? Even bad games can be occasionally entertaining, but Tank Combat never crosses into that territory. This is by far the worst tank game I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of tank games. Even at $10 it seems overpriced. I can usually pick at least something good out of each game I play, but there are really no redeeming values here. Tank Combat gets the worst score ever.