Armored Fist 2
|a game by||NovaLogic|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||7.0/10 - 2 votes|
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"On my way."
Until recently, Interactive Magic held the Distinguished Service Medal for its IM1A2, the only serious simulation of the M1A2 Abrams battle tank. However, graphics problems such as feeble rendering of terrain prevented the game from attaining Medal of Honor status among a broad audience. While NovaLogic's Voxelspace 2 technology does not paint perfect terrain, one of its strengths is depicting shapely hills and valleys upon which armored vehicles emerge and descend, firing, exploding, and smoking -- the meat and potatoes of tank warfare.
Armored Fist 2 training kicks off with four classy introductory videos featuring a serious Robert Duvall-like Marine captain. Following each clip is a beginners' mission hosted by a strict but comical drill instructor who rants "Blood makes the grass grow," and "You eat concertina wire and piss napalm." Next, the player faces 40 progressively harder missions in five campaigns, conquering renegade Russian arms smugglers, escorting UN peacekeepers through a rebel-infested Congo, and battling the usual Iraqis and other foes. The campaigns constantly challenge, the missions maintain pace and action and the new tank commander learns deadly skills as Echo Company "kills the people who deserve to be killed." A refreshing post-cold war feel envelopes the player as the M1A2 helps shape a new world order with modern weapons systems and sheer force.
I was afraid that like with so many other sims, the player would have to weed through text-laden toolbars with endless menu commands in order to master control of a complex killing machine like the M1A2. To my surprise, operation was very user friendly. The reason for this is that NovaLogic has incorporated redundant controls into the view screens. Most views present some form of the gunsight, overhead map, damage/threat display and weapons load. One can command, fire, drive and load from virtually any position. During the throes of battle, tank commanders can worry about strategy instead of rummaging through text.
Directing the four individual tanks in one platoon demands patience. Coordinating 24 tanks in the final mission, "Big Honkin' Land War," is a challenge for any commander. Stay back and plot waypoints around land mines and tank traps, call in airstrikes and artillery, or succumb to the temptation to abandon tactics and jump into the fray. The good part is that after being destroyed, one can simply hop into another tank and hopefully finish the mission.
Only a few minor weaknesses appeared on the gameplay side. When my 120mm cannon barrel actually touched a BMP vehicle, I fired and obliterated it with zero damage to my vehicle. Even though the thermal site did a poor job of contrasting terrain heat with vehicle heat, I was anticipating a night mission with which to use it. There wasn't one. Also, I never saw any of the tough T-90s that were hinted at in previews.
Like Comanche 3, the beautiful terrain and sky make graphics one of Armored Fist's greatest strengths. The detailed explosions, translucent smoke, moving shadows, tank treads kicking up dirt and snow, and bulldozable trees, fences, and sometimes buildings were visually enthralling. Given all this vivid destruction, I don't recommend the game for hardcore environmentalists.
No 3DFX support is built in. However, the MMX-enhanced graphics compensate superbly. Barely evident, the tennis court-sized pixel blocks visible in the Armored Fist 1 terrain have been shrunk to a tolerable size. I had no complaints with the graphics running the highest detail on a P266.
NovaLogic took the care to record actual M1A2 tank sounds. The game also uses Dolby Surround Sound. Several different sounds often overlapped each other without distortion. Speech from more than one person, engine rumble, and weapons fire were clearly audible at the same time. This greatly enhanced the adrenaline factor in battle.
The crew members conversed in discernable accents about weapons loads and targets, stirring panic, sadness, or courage according to the situation. At times when the enemy gained significant ground, one terrified crewman screamed, "Do something!" This type of well-executed speech is often missing from today's games.
The subliminal sounds of collateral damage can often give the edge to a war game. Ricochets, near misses, and shell impacts from air and artillery give important clues to a tank commander. Battle sounds were plentiful, but a little inconsistent. For example, one might look around and see a nearby vehicle explode or an Apache fall from the air with no accompanying sound.
While the ground AI did not behave as PhDs in Military Science, they certainly obeyed orders well and fought valiantly. In fact, had the tank AI used smoke to cover themselves, they would have outperformed me on more than a few occasions. The air AI could use a few more hours in cadet school. Dragon squadron -- the same suicidal Apache squadron as in Comanche 3 -- insisted upon rushing into the center of the action and attracting fatal fire. I chuckled once after I spotted my desperately awaited air support arrive, only to hear "Echo lead, this is Dragon Six -- Mayday! Mayday! We're going down." To compound the struggle for air superiority, the tank commander can only call one Apache or A-10 at a time, the maximum number of aircraft per mission being three. As for the enemy side, I downed SU25s and Hinds with modest effort. In general, the AI did not seem to fully comprehend danger spots, smoke masking, and terrain cover. But, then again, they are AI.
NovaLogic has kept their bold promise that the multiplayer experience "will be fun." Two-player modem, 8-player network and Kali play are allowed. A stronger emphasis has been placed on the multiplayer aspect than in NovaLogic's previous releases. In addition to the standard Co-op and Deathmatch play, Red on Blue Exercises split participants into two teams and give each player command of a tank platoon.
After testing the game on Kali, I found all three forms of gameplay quite addicting. The Red on Blue exercises became my preferred mode of play because I could compete against only one opponent, but with an entire platoon, air support, and artillery under command. The result was usually a good connection, smooth gameplay and lots of action.
I was disappointed to discover late during testing that the player scores were sometimes reported incorrectly during and upon finishing Deathmatch games. Initially, the game's overpowering fun kept my mind off the numbers. Later, the discrepancies haunted me. If this problem is not addressed, it could impact the staying power of the game.
Most sims inundate the player with specs on every vehicle and weapon in the game (sometimes to make up for poor gameplay). While all the how-tos of game operation are included in the Armored Fist 2 manual, most sim enthusiasts are accustomed to having at least a summary of the equipment that they are fighting with and against. That's the easy part.
Required: DOS, Windows 95, minimum Pentium 120 processor, MMX (for better graphics but not required), 4X CD-ROM drive, PCI or VLB SVGA sound card, 16 MB RAM, SoundBlaster compatible sound card. Armored Fist 2 supports the Thrustmaster FCS and WCS, CH flight sticks, Microsoft SideWinder, Wingman Extreme, and standard joysticks.
Armored Fist 2 does indeed "raise the standard for tank sims" as NovaLogic claims, clearly out-gunning the agingIM1A2 from Interactive Magic. However, in the coming months, Armored Fist 2 will have some heavily clad competitors to beat. Microprose's M1 Tank Platoon II and BMG Interactive's Spearhead are both expected to be phenomenal M1A2 Abrams tank simulations. A solid, enjoyable game that projects a clear picture of tank warfare, Armored Fist 2 will no doubt be saluted by sim veterans and civilian gamers alike. Considering myself a choosy gamer, I spent hours immersed in the Armored Fist 2 campaigns and will likely spend many more both in single and multiplay.