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  Panzer Commander
Light rain drizzled down as we huddled over our map of Northern France. We were separated from our Sherman tank platoon and were trying to see a landmark to identify our position. Suddenly our driver, Hank Klever, yells that he hears motors and they don't sound friendly. We scrambled back into our M4 and I yell at the Loader, Wilbur Davis, to make sure we have armor-piercing ready to roll. He slams in an AP round and I grab my binoculars and brace myself against the cupola. Sweeping the field just beyond our camouflaged position, I see a German Panther tank break the crest of a hill. I yell the distance estimate at 650 yards. The Gunner, Junior Tyson, is ready on my command and I can almost feel his tension as he fingered the trigger of the 75mm. I told him to hold fire until we got the Panther's profile or rear end. Suddenly the German tank turret slew away from us and I saw one of our M4's break the horizon. The German fired and the M4 exploded into a fiery geyser. As the Panther started to turn, I yelled " Pump that bastard Tyson! ".
Preamble:
Mindscape, SSI and Ultimation have combined to create the Digital Combat Series with this tank simulator- Panzer Commander. With a multitude of armored vehicles to use (see company line below on details), PC is the latest entrant in the tank game frenzy that software game companies are offering. From the introduction to gameplay, PC is a very good looking game to behold and gives the game player control over different positions so that you can experience the action first hand. The graphics are excellent and the sound is authentic. The 3d support makes PC even more realistic with terrain details and vehicles rendered very well.

Company line:
Panzer Commander is a comprehensive WWII tank simulator in which the player is given the task of driving a WWII-vintage German or Allied tank in a variety of combat scenarios. The player will be able to play selected missions or participate in 1 of 6 campaigns, each of which consist of a series of linked missions, the outcome of which will determine the course of the campaign. Players will be able to play on either side and will be given a selection of Axis and Allied tanks to drive. In addition, successful players will be given command of a platoon of tanks, which he can deploy in several different formations. With the popularity of network games on the rise, Panzer Commander will naturally allow players on separate computers to participate over a local network in head-to-head combat over a variety of selectable terrains.

While you will want to play one or all of the campaigns to get the most out of Panzer Commander, we have provided 40 stand-alone scenarios that might be more appealing for the casual gamer or for those moments when you want some quick action. Putting you in the Commander's cupola of German, Russian, American or British tanks, these scenarios are based on special historical settings that didn't fit into the campaign structure.

Gameplay:
With a choice of single player scenarios, campaigns, editor, and multiplayer for the gamer, there are many ways to enjoy PC. The game is very configurable with joystick and keyboard. You can even set realism by choosing to enhance certain features or leave them at a 'realistic' setting.

I jumped right into the single scenarios and got very excited about what I could do commandeering a tank and going to battle. Using hotkeys, you can jump from the cupola to the drivers seat to the gunners’ position and have full control in each spot. Targeting took me some time to get used to and I was killed several times trying to get a handle on it. Driving is fairly simple and finding waypoints was similar to many flying sims. There are two different ammo types that you have to be aware of as well as machineguns. Each has an application and since you must use each so as to conserve ammo, you have to get up to speed quickly in ID'ing targets. You get two extra tanks to assist you and can order them to help you in a firefight or just hold and defend. There are goals to attain with some time limits in some cases. The enemy may use artillery or aircraft to prevent you from attaining these goals.

What's in the box:
PC comes with a CD, manual and a quick reference card. Plug the CD in and do the install. Pretty straight forward. The manual is high quality and well written. Though some players may initially use the sparest amount of information to get into the game, reading the manual is fundamental to comprehending all that PC offers. The quick ref card is essential at first to playing and I keep it by my monitor all the time.

Downside:
Unfortunately, there are some issues that have to be resolved. At this time, SSI is going to issue a patch to address some of these things. I found some omissions that bothered me and hope that they are fixed. There are no ground troops to be seen anywhere. In WWII, ground troops were a big part of the war. And what about the inability of not being able to lay down smoke. This should be addressed. The AI has a problem with directing vehicles around obstacles and they will get hung up and not continue. At one point I got into a firefight with a Hotchkiss 39 and even after several pointblank rounds into his rear- no effect. And I was destroyed for all my efforts. Destroyed vehicles continue to 'bounce' in place- very peculiar. There is no map available which creates havoc in multiplayer games. A team only channel would help here to in talking to other players on your side instead of broadcasting your intentions to everyone. I think that PC may have been released too early and beta-testing was incomplete. All of these problems should be looked after.

In the end:
PC has some very nice things that are good reasons to buy it. The AI problems are the first to likely be fixed in the upcoming patch. But the outstanding issues 'have' to be addressed to make it a successful tank sim. So far it is really a arcade game and needs that extra touch.

Review ID Number: 162
  Product Details
Ultimation
Review Date: 2001-04-20
Reviewer: Nick Sardy
Rating: 7 out of 10
 
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