What on earth goes on in the heads of the people who name the more macho computer games? All right, they want something that sounds really hard, because they think the average mug punter will think hes being pretty hard just by buying it. They want something thats short and snappy enough to put on the back of a nylon bomber jacket, so that the aforementioned punter can pretend hes practically a gimlet-eyed tank commander in real life. But what do they come up with? Armored sounds tough, certainly, and Fist sounds threatening. But lets face it, put the two together and it sounds like a worryingly heavy-duty sex aid.
Whatever happened to straightforward naming conventions, the likes of which confronted our fathers when they made their consumer decisions in days of yore? In those days the designers would have called it Tanko! - The Tip Top Tank Game, and everyone would be happy. No embarrassing boxes to carry home and no dodgy logos that inspire sweaty men to approach you on tube trains with lewd suggestions. We had a bit of a poll in the office to come up with some more suitable alternatives. I think youll agree they manage to combine accuracy and evocativeness to a remarkable degree:
a) Concrete Bunch Of Fives b) Structurally Strengthened Knuckle Sandwich c) Painfully Large Dildo
Maybe the last one doesnt quite have it. What do you think? Write in with your own suggestions - the best might even win a copy of the game. But more likely it will be plagiarised by one of us in a forthcoming review.
There are two basic ways to play Armored Fist. If youre the type who doesnt like to get too committed, single battles can be selected from an enormous list, set in scenarios ranging from scorching desert wastes to freezing snowbound wastes. If, on the other hand, youre bang into long-term relationships, the campaign mode is for you, whereby a number of missions are played in order until a country is liberated, a dictator overthrown or a band of travellers routed. The first campaign is actually a series of training missions, which is handy.
The campaign mode doesnt provide a career mode as flight sim aficionados would recognise it. Its more a series of missions around a theme, taking place in one location and designed so that you cant play certain missions until you've completed certain others. There are no promotions, medals or any of that malarkey: you just fight the battles and bog off to somewhere else to fight some more when youve finished. The only reason you have to save a player name is that it keeps account of the campaigns youve completed, the number of battles won and lost, and the number of times youve relieved yourself in your underwear during a surprise attack from an enemy helicopter. Every battle and campaign can be played using the Western (i.e. American) Abrams M1A2 and the Bradley M3, or the Eastern (Russian) T80 and BMP-2. Remember to pick the one you find most ideologically acceptable before you start, kids, or your hearts wont be in it.
War of the monster tanks
The tank games usually fall into one of two distinct approaches: either you speed around shooting merrily at everything in sight with your thermo-nuclear cannon until your turret gets blown off, or you spend days plotting out dreary strategy game-style tactics on a tiny map, finally get into your tank and your turret still gets blown off.
Armored Fist manages to combine a little bit of both. Although it certainly has a great deal of immediacy, theres also enough there for the tactically-orientated to get their yellow teeth into. There are missions that allow you to control anything from one to 16 tanks at a time, and since you have to do it in real time, you have to be pretty nifty with a mouse.
Despite the excellent cut scenes that punctuate the game, first impressions of the game itself arent that good. The external views of the tanks are a bit of a mess, especially when you watch one turn: it snaps from rear view to three-quarter view, and so on. There arent that many soundcards to select from, so youre stuck with SoundBlaster effects and the ingame music is ropey, to say the least - but then nobody wants to drive a tank and listen to music anyway. You drive a tank to listen to the scary noises it makes.
The more you play the game, though, the more it grows on you. The sound effects turn out to be quite good, imparting atmosphere and no little satisfaction when you run a tree over, ram something solid and fire the guns (preferably all at the same time). Basically, if your tanks hit by a shell and it makes you flinch, the game has atmosphere. The sampled speech helps: orders are shouted, information yelled and panicky warnings bawled over the constant noise. If you choose to fight for the West its all in American; if for the East its in traditional film-style English with funny foreign accent.
Pop up enemy
What I call the map screen and what the game, in rather more militaristic manner, calls the command and control vehicle, is where you can get a rough overview of how the scrap is developing. You only get a rough idea because the enemy vehicles arent all visible. Any that you do see are there because your chaps can see them, or have seen them, and told you about it. Sometimes they disappear from the screen. This, apparently, is because your men have forgotten theyre there. Whether in real life youd forget the fact that you saw a bloody great battle tank behind you a few minutes ago is questionable, but the upshot of it is that just because you cant see anything on the map, doesnt mean theres nothing there. If theres a ridge between the two armies, theyll appear from nowhere.
| The lie of the land as seen on the maps reproduces well when youre in the tanks - you can creep along in gulleys, pose on hilltops or drive along at fanny angles to amuse your passengers. You can jump between any of the tanks under your control at any time (as long as they havent just had a surprise visit from Mr Armour-Piercing), either taking over and generally having fun with guns, or just watching what happens. Each platoon will follow its waypoints, shooting the hell out of anything it doesnt like the look of. But it will also almost certainly lose the battle, such is the design of the game. So get in there.
Its quite fast-paced. Theres the expected range of weapons to chuck at your ideological opposite, with each side having a version of the others weapons -although, quelle surprise, the Americans have more and their tanks are all faster. (Cue stacks of letters from indignant military experts: But they are...) Both battle tanks and the more lightweight infantry carriers are equipped with thermal sights or image intensifiers, depending on which side youre on, which alter your view appropriately when selected and help you to pick out the enemy from where theyre hiding among the washing lines (as long as the washing isnt straight out of the hot wash). Theres an automatic aiming system, or you can do it yourself.
Both sides can summon air strikes and artillery bombardment, although theres no guarantee theyll turn up (sometimes theyre on a tea break). If they do, the world suddenly seems to turn into the dining room scene from Carry On Up The Khyber. The infantry carriers also have SAMs, whereas the battle tanks have to rely on their machine guns to see off marauding helicopters. What it all adds up to, like Commanche, is arcade fun galore -except this time theres a lot more longevity.
The mission position
Where Armored Fist scores over its airborne cousin Commanche is that you wont finish the campaigns quickly, because you cant save the game between missions. And when you do finish all the one-off battles and all the campaigns, fighting each from both sides, you dont have to lash out all over again for mission disks because theres a mission editor.
Missions can be locked or unlocked. Locked missions appear in campaign mode to stop you editing them to your advantage; unlocked missions can be edited and used as a basis for your own missions. You can even save your own missions as locked missions to stop you cheating.
Theres a wide range of terrain. Once youve selected the map you want you have a free hand, placing vehicles, plotting waypoints and so on. You can place four types of trees, four types of strategic targets, artillery and air bases. You can also set friendly, enemy and rogue minefields, and dig trenches. The designer is well thought out, with a draggable floating tool-bar. Hours of fun for most people; weeks for the obsessive.
Your armoured death machine can be controlled by keyboard, mouse or joystick. I found the mouse best: its more than satisfactory for everything except aim-locking and firing, which were handled more quickly by hitting the keyboard. If you wanted, you could play the whole thing by mouse - I just found it a pain having to click on the icons in a hurry. A normal joystick simply didnt feel right, but the game is Thrustmaster WCS compatible for those of you who are well off and not ashamed to show it.
Download Armored Fist
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP