M1 Tank Platoon
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Ever Since Battlezone (The Original arcade game, not Activision's action/strategy hybrid) blasted onto the scene way back in the 1970s, gamers the world over have been hooked on tank games.
A decade later, when the original MI Tank Platoon stormed onto the scene in I 989, it set a new benchmark for ground war simulations, winning numerous awards and a place in the hearts of dynamic war game fans.
Now, almost another decade later, MicroProse are about to release the sequel, with the promise that it will blast the opposition into oblivion.
We first caught sight of Ml Tank Platoon II almost a year ago, at E3 in Atlanta. It was tucked away in a corner, vying for attention next to some alpha code of the glorious Falcon 4.0, the licence to print money that is Starship Troopers, and a rather different-looking X-COM game that we later discovered was to be called Interceptor. At first, we assumed we were looking at a rolling rendered sequence, something pretty that the artists had put together for the show. Closer investigation proved that what we were gawping at was, in fact, in-game code. It was quite a step up from the graphical standard of the first game, to say the least
More recently, we were given the opportunity to sit down in front of some beta code in the company of MVs original visionary and creator, Scott Spanberg, who took us through some of the earlier missions and explained why MI Tank Platoon II will roll over every other tank game developed thus far.
From the offset, it's clear that MI Tank II is very much a sim. more akin to a modern-day flight sim than something I ike NovaLogic's Armored Fist II. "We wanted to recreate the modern battlefield in exacting detail," explains Scott "We've managed to reconstruct the MI A2 with breathtaking accuracy, and applied the same levels of detail to other vehicles and the terrain. We want the player to appreciate exactly what it's like to be in the middle of a war zone."
From what we've seen so far. graphically MI Tank II will not disappoint, as long as the now prerequisite 3Dfx card is in evidence. That said, Scott is keen to point out that unlike some other graphically charged pixel-fests, MI Tank 2 will not be what we call at Zone a 'fur coat, no knickers' experience. The idea is to create a campaign world that is fully active and reactive to the player's actions. "As the player attacks and destroys enemy targets, their effects on future actions will be taken into account, just as it would in a real campaign,'' claims Scott. "Also, the active world is not just limited to the player's actions. Targets will also be destroyed by opposing units, and some of them will have the ability to repair themselves if they're not fully destroyed. "Our ultimate aim is to create a dynamic environment that encourages the player to feel like he's actually taking part in ongoing war effort. What he the decisions he makes and how successful he is will affect the course of future missions and ultimately the whole campaign."
While the campaign mode promises to be a bit Special, the single-battle mode looks to be just as immersive. Players will be able to select to fight randomly generated battles against front-line Russian forces, or opt to engage the enemy in prebuilt missions based on battles fought in the Gulf War or Nato-Warsaw Pact confrontations. There will also be a Battle Builder mode that will enable players to construct and design their own battles, with several campaign areas to choose from, including Morth Africa, Ukraine, the Far East and Korea. Each area will be faithfully recreated in glorious 3D, and players will be encouraged to use the terrain and natural features, such as trees, for cover.
Scott's also very proud of what the team have accomplished with the game's artificial intelligence. "Success on the battlefield depends on constant reassessment of a situation and a measured reaction to the enemy's action. Players will need to communicate new orders to different units and be assured that they'll respond in the correct manner,"' he says. "This means the AI has to be really competent, or the whole thing just falls apart. The player's got to be able to rely on his units to follow orders, although sometimes mistakes will be made just to keep the whole thing realistic."
You're under orders
As the commander, players will be able to send detailed orders to each platoon or to individual tanks, and instruct them when to hold position, evade or engage the enemy, change formation, and call in air support in the shape of A-10s or combat helicopters. In an attempt to encourage the player to look at their war effort on a grander scale, units wilt actually improve with the more action they see, while vehicles that are damaged will need repairing before they can be used for further missions.
If you're thinking it could get rather complicated and messy, you'll be pleased to heat that a training mode will be included where players can learn to control an MI A2, shoot properly, develop tactics, etc, There will also be a rather flash multimedia bit that you can delve into to get information on the numerous vehicles and weapons featured in the game.
All this, along with multi-player support over a LAN or via the Internet, and Scott's assurance that it's going to be the "best tank sim ever", should be enough to convince fans of the original and tank fans that MI Tank Platoon 2 will be more than worth a look when it's released later this year.
Download M1 Tank Platoon
MicroProse's MI Tank Platoon II is one of the best sims there is, full stop. And it's so realistically modelled that anything that works in real life works in the game.
As in the real world, planning is the key. No plan ever survives contact with the enemy, but without one you're sunk. Look at your assets, the units the enemy is likely to have and the terrain involved. In offensive operations, look for safe corridors that will shield you from fire as you move into position - low ground is ideal. In defence, analyse the terrain and look for killing zones where you can damage OPFOR without taking risks.
Don't just head straight for the objective when you attack, identify lesser objectives that will lead to the main one. For example, drive the enemy armour off hills overlooking the objective, or deploy long-range anti-tank missile-capable units such as M2 Bradleys to cover high ground behind the objective. Focus on your mission - it might seem like fun to deviate from your plan to knock out a few hapless T72s at 2000m, but it wastes ammo and can jeopardise the mission.
Scouts are vital, so if you have infantry vehicles, detach one or two for scouting - minus their infantry complement. Just keep them moving fast and close to cover. When they do spot the enemy, pull them straight back. Choppers, which can spot over a wide area, are excellent scouts too. Just call them up and send them wherever you think the enemy forces are.
Don't waste your artillery or air support by only calling it up when you're in trouble. As soon as the game starts, begin pounding likely enemy positions.
Move in dispersed formations but fight en masse. Bunched-up forces are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, so move with your vehicles well-spaced. When you attack, do it with everything you've got. If necessary, halt your lead elements and wait until the rest catch up before launching the actual assault. Try to concentrate your forces against smaller enemy formations. The chances are that you'll annihilate them without loss.
Know Your Enemy
Know your enemy and learn how to prioritise your targets quickly. M1s are largely impervious to anti-tank fire from over 1000m, so target any tanks - even T72s - inside this range. T80s and T90s up to 2000m are also a threat, while the least appreciated threat istheATGM. Forget the BMP-I s, as their AT-4 Spigot ATGMs can't penetrate an M1, and neither can BRDM-2S or BTRs. However, later vehicles like the BMP-2 and 3 and the BRDM-3 carry effective ATGMs with ranges up to 3000m, so don't ignore them.
If you're attacked from the side, almost anything can kill you, so be ready to back up or face your attacker very quickly. The Shift-G hotkey, added in the version 1.2 patch, is vital, as it turns your tank to face either the CITV or 50-calibre gun, depending on which view mode you are in.
Poor Bloody Infantry
It's very tempting to leave your infantry vehicles - Bradleys, LAVs and M113s - undercover and fight it out with your MI s. However, TOW-equipped vehicles like the M2 Bradley have long-range firepower (up to 3750m) that shouldn't be ignored. They can be placed between 1000m and 2000m behind the M 1s and still do some damage.
US infantry units consist of four or five soldiers armed with AT4s, Javelins and Stingers. Although the AT4s have a range of only 300m, the Javelins can kill at up to 2500m. The Stingers are also excellent against antiaircraft weapons. The main problem with infantry is that they can be spotted at unrealistically long ranges and can't go to ground, so are always vulnerable. The best tactics are to dismount infantry on reverse slopes, where they can hit anything coming over the crest very hard.
Spread your men out. The default formation is close line abreast, so one shell can often take them out. You need to manually move them a unit at a time to make them less vulnerable.
The only worthwhile cover for men is a burning vehicle, although they are less visible (it seems) if placed next to trees.
Ten To Tips
- Beware of roads - the enemy AI expects you to use them.
- When crossing a crest line, do so with as many tanks as possible. That way, if there's a nasty surprise, you don't have half a dozen 125mm shells heading towards just one vehicle
- When advancing, keep your infantry-carrying vehicles 1000m or more behind the spearhead MI platoon. However, keep your air defence vehicles just behind the M1s for maximum effect.
- In an assault, place your MI s in wedge formation in the centre, with Bradleys or LAVs in echelon left and right to form a large wedge formation. Use smoke generators to create a screen, and call in artillery to keep the defenders' heads down.
- It's hard to hit moving forces with artillery, but if you use the zoom map to work out a rough speed and direction, then lead off several hundred metres, with practice you should get the strike right. The other trick is to call for artillery straight on to the first OPFOR scout vehicles you see. By the time the rounds start hitting their target (hopefully), the main force should be arriving.
- Before calling in air support, do your best to get rid of air defences (called SEAD - suppression of enemy air defence - in US military jargon). This includes ZSUs and self-propelled SAM launchers.
- The best defence against infantry-launched ATGMs is to call in mortars or artillery right on top, then launch smoke and take evasive action.
- Don't split your platoons except for vital scouting missions. Single M1s will be punished severely by OPFOR. Splitting a platoon into two two-tank sections for overwatch purposes is acceptable, but losses tend to be higher.
- Don't just look for one firing position, look for several. Fire three or four shots and then retire or advance to the next firing position, and so on. This minimises the chance of an OPFOR artillery strike - or a visit by Havocs and Hinds.