I can remember a time when I played hardcore sims of just about any kind, as long as it involved shooting. Probably the only sim that I didn’t play in those days was Microsoft’s Flight Simulator because I just didn’t see the point of taking off, watching blue skies pass by for eight hours and then land my plane again. I didn’t mind trying every button in the cockpit of whatever I was flying, sailing or driving to make it work. In-game tutorials had not been invented yet but games in the genre came with encyclopaedia-sized manuals that had so much cool information in them that they were interesting to read even if you never actually played the game.
All those years of training did not prepare me for WWII Battle Tanks: T-34 vs Tiger. My review copy did not come with a manual (the retail version does have a manual) and the game lacks any form of in-game tutorial. As a result, I had to make due with a handful of very basic instructions. After having spent quite some time with the game, I have to conclude that it poses the steepest learning curve I have experienced in years.
Not easy to get into
In WWII BattleTanks T-34 vs Tiger, the player commands a tank during Operation Bagration in the summer of 1944. During this extensive campaign, Russia drove the Germans away from their lands, straight back to Poland. The game starts with offering you a choice between commanding a Russian T-34 or a German Tiger. I opted for the T-34 as I have always been intrigued by its rich history as an instrumental part of the allied victory over Nazi Germany. A short rundown of my mission objectives followed and the next thing I knew I was looking at a fairly detailed T-34 that was sitting still in a hilly, forested area on the map.
I think I spent fifteen minutes just trying to figure out how to get the tank to move. A frustrating experience that almost caused me to stop playing altogether. The next two hours weren’t any less frustrating. The controls, the various actions required to move and operate the tank and the speed at which my enemies made mincemeat of what was supposed to be a powerful hunk of steel, were all equally diminishing to my enjoyment of the game.
Yet slowly but surely I managed to get the T-34 to do what I wanted it to. I became more adept at successfully firing off the shells and managed to hit a couple of targets before they destroyed me. I started to make better use of the allied tanks that accompanied me during the missions, letting them attract enemy fire so that I had more time to seek out and destroy my targets.
An inside view
As mentioned before, the tanks look fairly detailed. They can be viewed from the tank crew’s perspective as well, though it is a little disconcerting that you won’t actually see anyone inside. Your tank is controlled by ghosts it seems. The rest of the graphics could have been contrived back in 1999 as they are bland, utterly uninspiring and lack any form of detail. I suspect most hardcore sim fanatics couldn’t care less however, especially considering how rare tank simulators have become over the past few years.
Each side in the conflict only has six missions, which makes the game incredibly short, even for one that has been created primarily as a multiplayer game. Despite this multiplayer focus, the tank AI is capable. This is in stark contrast to the AI of the infantry units that occasionally join in the fray. At some point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about their ridiculous antics and ran them over to end the charade.
Love it, or hate it
Despite my growing tank-commanding prowess, my bad experience during the start of the game did not swing into a much more positive one later in the game. I found controlling the tank to be a chore, even with automated help for driving and shooting. The game has some stability problems and a number of bugs that should have been squashed before release, especially since the game has been out in Russia for some time now.
I fear that the steep learning curve will deter any but the most diehard sim-enthusiasts from playing and liking the game. Perhaps I can no longer count myself among that group, but I do recognize a decent simulator when I see one. Fans of the genre will be thrilled playing WWII BattleTanks T-34 vs Tiger online against their friends, skipping the weak single player campaign entirely.
No Pros and Cons at this time