Like your gameplay slow? Can you read Japanese? Ever dream of driving in a vehicle whose acceleration is akin to you trying to run away from an attacker in a fever dream ( you can never quite run fast enough, can you...)? Then Panzer Front might just be your kind of import. Now, these WWII games seem to be finding their way into my lap, and I admit this is somewhat by design. All it takes is a little black and white newsreel footage during a game intro and I start salivating. But after the intros are said and done, they either keep my interest (a la Medal of Honor) or try my patience. Enter Panzer F
It's a tank sim, plain and simple, with supposed authenticity (I'll have to trust them on this one... it all looks well researched) and battles taken straight from the annals of our nation's "Good War". But here's a nice catch... you can man a tank for any country you like. Yes, ASCII has eschewed any sense of moral judgment and decided that tank selection is more important than instilling any kind of retro-patriotism, and I heartily agree with them. I mean, we all know that those German tank drivers were motivated by a decidedly suspect ideology, hatched from the skull of an Austrian madman, but why should that keep me from knowing what its like to pilot their sweet, German-crafted hardware? You can choose tanks from the UK, Germany, Russia, and of course the good old U. S., all rendered to look and behave like their historic counterparts.
The battlefields are pretty freaking cool, allowing you to rumble through deserted French towns, the snowy flats of Russia, and the muddy marshes of... well... no one's got a monopoly on muddy marshes. The terrains affects how well you can mosey, so you can usually get a pretty good trot going on a main throughfare, but you will go mind-numbingly slow up hills or through a patch of mud. The settings are well done and atmospheric. In particular, a tank battle during a red-tinged dawn gave me a huge case of the creeps. I was, to the game's credit, able to imagine something of what it was to be hunted and out-numbered in a lumbering hunk of metal while the sky had that particular hue of blood. Hard to believe people actually did this. On a picky note, however, some objects such as trees are rendered in shocking 2-D, and very pixelly 2-D at that. But you'll be glad to know that you can bulldoze them in your war-machine should the need arise. Timber!
There are three different control schemes you can choose from, outlined in the almost entirely Japanese instruction booklet. The one the game starts you off with is a little tricky to get the hang of, with each analog trigger operating the tread on the corresponding side. Thusly, if you press the right analog trigger, you will actually turn left, and both triggers must be pressed in order to move forward. While logical, it's a bit counterintuitive, though you can overcome that by simply envisioning the controls of Battlezone in trigger form rather than joystick, or perhaps the ill-fated tank driver towards the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ("Gegen die Mauer!") if that's your sort of thing. In fact, I bet that tank they use is in this game. The controls are actually really nice once you get the hang of them, offering precise, though sluggish (hey, they're tanks) control over all sorts of terrain. The cannon moves independently of the tank control, so you can move one way and fire shells another (very cool), and the viewpoint switches from third-person to a first person periscope view when targeting a plausible target. You can choose from machine gun and a wide variety of shells on the fly, with a flick of your thumb.
There are a lot of cool things about this game, such as the foot soldiers that run around the fields (I assume they're actually performing tactical duties, but they just seem like cannon fodder to me), or the little animation that tells you how long before your next shell is loaded, while you're staring down another tank 100 feet away knowing that they're trying to load theirs first. There are also alot of annoying things, like the way they interrupt the action to zoom in on a destroyed tank every time someone gets killed (and that's quite often), or the horrible music they loop when you play on the German side. In the end, I'm drawn to this game because of the atmosphere and choice of tanks. But it is a sim, and if you don't speak Japanese it will be painfully clear that there are major aspects of the game (in regards to tactics especially) that you will be unable to exploit, hence limiting your enjoyment. I doubt this game will be coming out in the U.S., but I have a feeling there are better tank sim games out there anyway, and all in English, to boot. Still, I think they did a pretty good job with this game, but can I recommend this game to you if you're not some kind of tank freak? Sadly, no.
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