PC REVIEW: WWII TANK COMMANDER

Tanks, but no tanks. by Darwin Chance

February 24, 2006 - If you took all the WWII-based videogames that have been released in the last 20 years I'm sure the combined gameplay hours would last longer than the actual war. I've served in that war so many times via videogames that I'm sure I qualify for a vet's pension. Don't believe me? Just get me drunk and let me regale you with my war stories. One story in particular seems to fascinate listeners. It's the story of a man and his tank. It doesn't have a happy ending, but come to think of it, it doesn't have a happy middle or ending either. It's a rather sad tale but one that's worth telling if just to caution those that might attempt such an undertaking.

Let's begin with the disclaimer. WWII Tank Commander is a budget title and that should explain everything. I know that may be an ignorant statement to make since there are some very good budget titles available and that we shouldn't judge the quality of a game by its price. If we did that, WWII Tank Commander should be free.

Commanding a Sherman tank in General Patton's Fourth Armored Division, you are saddled with the responsibility of turning the tide of war as you chase the Nazi's out of France and back to their homeland. Travelling over fields and through burned-out towns you will hunt the enemy down and destroy them where they stand. Unfortunately that's one of the game's biggest problems as the AI just stands out in the open taking shots at you while leaving themselves open to your cannon and machine guns. To make things more challenging, and less realistic, these infantry soldiers can actually damage your tank with their handheld rifles and machine guns.

In case you can't already surmise, WWII Tank Commander is not a sim. This is an arcade-style game with very little arcade-style fun. It's unchallenging and uninteresting. Driving the tank and shooting at things is the meat of the gameplay - and there are no vegetables or desserts served with this meal. There are 10 missions in all, which include escort, rescue, defense and assault. Because events are scripted there's no reason to play through them again as nothing will change. This is actually unavoidable since there are no save or checkpoint areas in the game. If your tank gets destroyed, you have to start the mission from the very beginning.

Although the tank takes on damage from infantry soldiers, it's pretty easy to keep yourself alive. There is a damage meter that lets you see how much more punishment you can endure but all you have to do is destroy an enemy tank and they will drop a health pack for you to drive over and increase your health on the meter. The AI is typically out in full view and the only way you're likely to get blown up is if you're not paying attention - which is easy to do considering how boring this game can be.

You will encounter the odd ambush and nest of enemy tanks that can do some quick damage to your tank. To counter this you can hide behind the fog of war and take pot shots at the enemy with your long-range tank gun and machine guns. Tanks in your division can take unlimited hits so it's advisable to hide behind them under such circumstances. Not that you have much of a choice because if you try to take the lead they will just jostle you back into position.

Virtually anyone can pick-up-and-play this game and for those that enjoy simple pleasures, this game will be a feast. There's no learning curve. Control-wise it's basically a first-person shooter. All you have to do is move, aim and shoot at enemy tanks, soldiers and installations. In some instances you can run over soldiers but other obstacles such as small wooden fences are impassible. Enemy tanks are destroyed in three hits while you can take a lot more damage. The machine gun has unlimited ammo and the cannon reloads itself in about three seconds. This would all be great if you had these features in real life, but in a game I need more of a challenge.

There is nothing offered beyond the 10 missions. Nothing to unlock, no alternate objectives, no difficulty levels and no multi-player. My entire take on the game might have been totally different had a multi-player mode been included. I would even settle for a two-player, though not a co-op. What this game needs is an intelligent opponent and therefore a head-to-head mode would be perfect.

Some of the textures are blurry and the tank models leave a lot to be desired but at least the game is able to convey a sense of depth to the environment. It's too bad that it becomes obscured by the fog of war, but when you're traveling to the next region it's really nice to see the authentically-rendered European countryside with its gentle rolling hills. The sound effects are decent but they aren't varied. You'll hear the same cannon blast and machine gun fire over and over again.

For a beginning gamer, WWII Tank Commander may not be a terrible choice. It's certainly cheap enough. A beginner may tolerate some of the game's shortcomings and may not mind having to replay through a scripted mission to learn where they went wrong. This extends the playing time, though artificially. An experienced gamer would find this under-stimulating and be able to blow through it in a matter of hours. I've certainly spend more money, in less time, on worse things, but it doesn't take an accounting genius to tell me that I've got to stop wasting my money on games like this.

Features:

  • Engage in multiple mission styles with objectives such as Assault, Escort, Defense, and Rescue
  • Take on 30 objectives over 10 levels
  • Take in detailed WWII-era environments
  • Follow well-known campaigns of "Patton's Best"
  • Enjoy AMD64-optimization for better gameplay, visuals, and overall gaming experience
  • BONUS: Electronic chapter from the book "Patton's Vanguard: The United States Army Fourth Armored Division"

By Darwin Chance
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
WWII Tank Commander (PC)
3.0
Graphics
Average at best, but the countryside looks great, even compared to big budget games.
2.5
Control
The controls are far to simplistic. This game could be played on a GBA.
3.1
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are good but they are the same ones over and over.
1.1
Play Value
If war were this boring in real life no one would ever volunteer.
2.4
Overall Rating - Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PC
Dev: Sylum Ent
Pub: Got Game
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1
Review by Darwin

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best