Let’s get one thing out in the open here: I’m not the target demographic for WWII Tank Commander. Sure, I took a semester of WWII history, but I can’t tell you much about the Fourth Armored Division, which this game features, and I can’t identify German panzers, which this game also features in mass quantities. I might be missing out on the historical significance of some events in the game, but what I do know is that this is a mediocre experience, even for a bargain title.
WWII Tank Commander puts you in the turret of a Sherman tank near the end of the war. You are part of the final hammer blow that seals the coffin of the Nazi rule of Europe, but they’re not going to just roll over. Wave after wave of enemy armor and infantry stand in your way as you move out with friendly units.
It’s an interesting aside in the slew of WWII-themed first person shooters. Sadly, it starts going downhill from there. The first problem is that the tanks you pilot just don’t feel right. They’re bouncy and drive more like a stripped down Honda Civic than a steel-plated rolling cannon. The recoil from firing the main gun ups the difficulty, and the rough ride makes it difficult to move forward while firing, which is solid design, but the overall feeling just isn’t that of being in a Sherman tank.
The feel of the tanks could be overlooked if the missions were fun and engaging, but unfortunately they’re really not. Each mission is broken down into several objectives, but most are simple checkpoints. There’s an occasional ray of light with some truly interesting objectives, but they’re the exception. Most of the missions are fairly easy and straightforward, especially when you have some support from other tanks. You’re also severely railroaded: you cannot roll over simple wooden fences and the edges of the map areas are lined with insta-death minefields that keep you from going where you?re not supposed to.
The controls are extremely simple, which is a plus, and, combined with the low difficulty and straightforward goals, it would seem that WWII Tank Commander would make a good choice for the casual gamer. They might be turned off when they realize that if you die during a mission — even if you wandered into a minefield by accident — you have to complete all of the objectives again. Your progress isn’t saved at any of the checkpoints and you can’t save mid-mission.
The presentation is what you’d expect from a budget game. The graphics are last-generation, but solid, with no obvious errors aside from a little terrain pop-up. The terrains are really well developed, with roads winding past bombed and burned-out buildings, as well as plenty of areas of cover for enemy emplacements. The sound isn’t as good as the graphics, with dull weapons fire, lackluster explosions, and repetitive music.
All of this — the lukewarm presentation, low difficulty, and lack of variety — could be overlooked if the action was enough to keep the game going. In places, it is, but the excitement is so sporadic that it can be hard to keep playing to get to the next big battle. Don’t take this the wrong way; when it’s good, it’s really good, but the lulls break things up too much. Most progress consists of moving forward to meet a handful of enemies, stopping, taking them out, and then moving forward to the next group of enemies.
Is the WWII setting played out? Honestly, WWII Tank Commander has a good concept, but a poor execution. If you like the setting, are interested in armored combat, and want something that isn’t too taxing or too lengthy, dropping twenty bucks on this game isn’t a bad idea. As far as the WWII theme goes, there are better games out there, though they’re not all as undemanding of computer hardware as this one. This isn’t going to be game of the year, but it’s not pretending to be; it is a nice diversion if you’re between games at this early point of 2006 and can’t decide what you want to play next.
Gameplay- 6 Missions and objectives are straightforward but uninspiring. Controls are simple and efficient, but the tank physics feels a little off. Some points of the action are great, while others seem like filler. Railroaded areas are a minus.
Graphics- 6 Nothing special here, but you can’t expect much with such low system requirements. Some nice effects and well designed maps, but you’re not going to see any graphical breakthroughs.
Sound- 4 Below average, with tired and repetitive symphonic scores and sound effects that don’t deliver the impact they should.
Value- 8 Games don’t get much cheaper than twenty bucks, and there’s just enough action here to give you your money’s worth. It’s neither too short nor too long, and the few genuinely pulse-pounding battles are worth the price of admission.
Curve- 7 Give this game a chance, and it might surprise you. It feels different from your run of the mill FPS, and comes at a good time, while the gaming scene slowly gears up for E3.