Panzer Elite takes World War II tank enthusiasts through North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy as commander of a German or American tank platoon. The player must learn how to subdue enemy forces while preserving the lives of his platoon. Panzer Elite was developed by a small German company called Wings Simulations and published by Psygnosis.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The very first thing one always does in a tank game is start the engine and begin running over trees and buildings. This is best performed after a stressful day at work, preferably a Monday. When I tried this maneuver, I noticed my M4 pass through a French farmhouse with no damage to the structure. I did hear distinct crunching sounds as the ghostly juggernaut made its transition through the walls. I continued and with subsequent attempts was able to topple several structures to my relief.
There is more to Panzer Elite than bulldozing the area. The modes of play are familiar: Instant Action, Single Scenario, and Campaign. They all contain the motif of German versus American armor tactics of World War II. The German forces consisted of powerful, but slow, heavily armored tanks like the Tigers and Panthers while the Americans relied on lighter, faster tanks like the Stuart and Sherman, which eventually outnumbered German armor in Europe. The player must learn to master the terrain to defeat the enemy. Duck behind hills and hide behind trees or houses. A total of 84 units are modeled including infantry, jeeps and artillery. Panzer Elite attempts to achieve realism through meticulous vehicle and damage modeling.
The interface is designed to accommodate the player by displaying a mouse-clickable icon that allows the user to change views and see the turret perspective. The player has more control with the mouse than the joystick. A Homeworld-like free movement is achievable by right-clicking. The idea was impressive, but overall, the controls lacked fluidity.
The graphical scenes look great from a distant perspective. As one draws closer, problems begin to appear. Tanks bleed into each other -- ugh!!! Surprisingly, objects from outside even protrude into the inside views (gunner, driver, etc) when close. The houses and foliage possess obvious 2D, sprite-like appearances when scrutinized.
I liked the gun and engine sounds very much. The voices seemed a bit contrived and chatty at times. The American briefings contained a voice that was obviously performed by a foreign actor. The German accents sounded quite authentic. Wonder why?
Panzer Elite supports Windows 95 and Windows 98 using DirectX. The minimum system requirements are: with 3D Card: Pentium 166MMX, 32MB; without 3D Card: Pentium-2, 233 Mhz, 32MB.
Panzer Elite comes with a thorough instruction manual on World War II History and a Unit Data book. I don’t think that the manual lacked anything and the History book was loaded with interesting information. No separate key card was available.
Why are good tank sims so darn difficult to create? With great interest, I followed Panzer Elite’s development beginning last year. I was amazed at the screen shots, intrigued by the detailed damage modeling, and quite impressed with the developers’ zeal. Obviously, a great deal of hard work went into creating this title. Expectations were high, but somehow, the magical element of entertainment turned up missing in the end. Weekend warriors beware. Panzer Elite will likely be a game enjoyed by die-hard historical tank sim lovers.