M1: Tank Platoon II
Take command of a tank platoon and supporting units in a variety of topographies and campaigns or single combat missions. As platoon commander, you will be responsible for getting your unit through tough odds and heavy fire. Can you identify and use your strengths to expose the enemy's weaknesses?
Before you even begin to play, M1 announces itself loud and clear as a simulator. The large, fold-out quick reference, which takes a few minutes to look over, makes that very clear. The controls become complex fairly quickly, as Microprose openly declares in the documentation. There are four pages of instructions devoted specifically to listing the keyboard controls before describing their functions. I take care to mention the complexity of the controls not to knock the game, but as a warning to those gamers not looking for a complex simulator. Microprose spent a great deal of time and effort to create a realistic-yet-playable simulator of tank warfare.
As with any game, there are a few glitches. The attention to detail Microprose included during gameplay impressed me. They created the typeface, language, and format of mission briefings consistent with military operation orders and incorporated information on the standard operating procedures for US and Russian tanks in the game's AI. However, I was not far into the game when I began to find typos, repeated words, and rally points described with two different names. Although none of these directly affected gameplay, I found the errors distracting and disappointing given the rest of the detail included. Another problem I found was with the game's AI. During gameplay the effectiveness of the AI was uneven. The enemy computer units, while not perfect, are well done and made intelligent decisions. However, the AI for your allied computer units failed to come up to the same standard. This made for challenging missions, especially considering the already tipped odds. Rather quickly into the game, I found myself playing babysitter for my allied units from the top view map, instead of behind the wheel of an M1.
For all the complexity Microprose put into the controls of M1, they put an equal amount of effort into the graphics. They are impressive and incredible, to say the least with texture rendering few games attempt to include. Detail on individual infantry units reveals the care and time put into the game. Like other 3D rendering engines of the day, there are some shaky frames and goofy looking polygons at times. However, this is definitely near the top of a short list of games that have impressed my eye with pure graphics.
If the graphics do not raise your heartbeat to new heights, then the audio will finish the job. Although the game does lack, or ignores, the consistent background noise of an engine, or the wind whistling through the open view ports, it goes overboard on the sound details. The crackling radio, inter-tank communication, and battle sounds erupt in 3D around you. Beyond the radio sounding like a radio, the callbacks and operation of the radio greatly add to the game becoming more than a game, but a true simulator. Calling for artillery support has the artillery calling you back with appropriate status. Watch the ground erupt around your enemy while you hear the radio announce "Splash!"
IBM PC 133MHz Pentium compatible or faster, Windows 95 and DirectX version 5.0, 16 MB RAM, SuperVGA graphics for 640 x 256 colors, hard drive (200 MB free), 4X CD-ROM drive, mouse, DirectX-compatible sound card
As with any simulator, the documentation contains a vast amount of information. However, the 280 page "Operating Manual" actually measures fairly light in my experience with simulators. Page 125 marks the end of the game instructions and details, and marks the beginning of the facts and details about the vehicles, weapons, military doctrine, and other facts simulator fans will find immeasurably important for game play, or interesting as trivia.
Simply put, if you enjoy simulators M1 should find itself onto your must buy list. However, if you find simulators too complex to enjoy, then M1 will not change your mind. Microprose has put together an incredible package with M1.