Strap on the tank helmet and pull on the coveralls; this is first-person WWII tank fighting at its finest. SSI provides an up-front, in-your-face tank simulation that will have you smelling of gunpowder by the end of the day. In this unique simulation/strategy game you can be a tank commander in either the German, Russian, British or American army. With the different countries, Internet play, campaigns and scenarios, you will definitely be busy for a while. Just imagine blasting away your best friend over the Internet or daring him to invade Germany. The question is whether you'll be a battle-scarred victor or a burning piece of scrap metal.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Panzer Commander is fairly easy to master; using the online tutorial is the best way to learn all the functions of the game. With the different views of the tank compartments, you get to fully interact with your tank crew, making this game fun and enjoyable to play. A joystick is highly recommended for easier gameplay and control. Learning to use your tank crew will turn you into a fighting machine even faster. In the main screen section of the game is a View Tank button. Clicking on this allows you to view and read about specifications or each tank in a given country's arsenal. This really helps you identify tanks during gameplay. While playing Panzer Commander, you have the option of playing a single scenario (of which there are 40 to choose from) or trying your hand at a military career.
The one down side to Panzer Commander is that while playing scenarios, you have no control over what tank you will be using. Each scenario is based on actual WWII battles, so you are given the tank that was used in the battle, depending on what country you pick. One thing that game players will notice is that the German and Russian tanks are far superior to the American and British tanks. I must say that I felt very manly and indestructible riding around in a German King Tiger or a Russian T-34. Early in the war, though, before the King Tiger or Russian T-34 were used, British armor was quite fierce. So if you are a die-hard Anglophile, you can mount successful attacks and be having tea inside Berlin by noon.
Panzer Commander allows you to play with other people via modem or Internet play. Some of the missions feature head-to-head play, while others require you to work in cooperation with another player, making team play critical in achieving mission goals. The multiplayer option also allows you to chat with people while playing, so you can plan missions and battle formations.
Realistic tank movements make you feel like you're right inside a rumbling King Tiger tank. When driving the tank, you get to feel the jarring bumps and inclines, just like the WWII tanks of old. Buildings and enemy tanks look real and are sized well (for proper identification when on the battlefield). Terrain is very believable, providing roads, hills, hedges, sand, mud and snow. The graphics for the crew compartments are great, with accurate views of the driver area, main gun area and the machine position, making for a very eye-pleasing game.
SSI has taken the time to make the sound fit the graphics like a glove. When you are in the German or Russian tanks, the crew will speak in their respective native languages. You're in the heat of battle, getting blasted by armor-piercing shells, and your driver responds to your commands with "Jawohl, Commandant!" It makes you really feel that you are part of a German tank crew.
In the different crew compartments, the sound changes accordingly. If you're in the main gun compartment, you get to hear the shells being loaded and the gun being fired. The driver view has all the sounds of the motor and treads, while the machine gun view has the rat-tat-tat of your fifty-caliber machine gun.
Windows 95, 4X CD-ROM drive, 16 MB RAM, Pentium 133, 2 MB SVGA card, mouse, 28.8 KBPS modem (for Internet play)
The instruction booklet is typical for SSI, covering all the basics of the game: getting started, tutorials, troubleshooting, game options and tactics. The online tutorial provides excellent instruction; it puts you right inside the game and gets you going quickly. SSI also provides a foldout that contains all the different views, how to get to the views, and what buttons to use in each different compartment. I found the foldout very useful until I had all the views memorized (just a few sessions is all it takes).
After getting my butt kicked in Africa and being victorious in Russia, I can say that SSI has done a fine job making this a realistic and very fun game. It's appealing because you can sit down and be playing in a few minutes. If you are looking to experience what it was like to command some of the fiercest machines of WWII, then this game is for you. Good luck and good hunting.