So, you have always wanted to command a platoon of Panzers (yourself and three wingmen), or perhaps a platoon of American Sherman tanks (again yourself and four wingmen) is more to your liking? Well this and much more is available from Psygnosis’s publication of Wings Simulations Panzer Elite.
This first person (tank) perspective game will leave you actually believing that you can jump into one of the twenty-two German and American tanks depicted and fight the enemy, whomever that may be! This is a truly engrossing game.
Is it easy? No.
Is it worth the effort to pick up and do well in? Definitely!
Panzer Elite covers a myriad of tank actions between the German and American tank commands during the course of World War II. Parts of the North African Campaign, Italian Campaign, Normandy Campaign and the entire Sicilian Campaign are simulated in the scenarios. You pick your action. Twenty-two tanks with over twenty different choices for main ammunition rounds alone make this a somewhat formidable game to get into.
This game has a steep learning curve, let there be no doubt about that. But the fullness of the simulation and the feeling of accomplishment as the American, or German, enemy tanks lie burning at your treads make the effort well worth it. Once you have gone through a few scenarios, the logic of the hot key layout will become evident and the interface will become a bit more intuitive and easy to use.
One drawback in this area is the absence of tutorial scenarios (which are in the development stages from what I hear.) The best way to get familiar with this complex tank simulation is to tackle the easier scenarios several times, from both sides, until you become familiar with the controls and game play. Be prepared to lose the first few, but if you start by making your tanks invulnerable and the enemy crews green (yes, there is crew quality in the game) then the ramp up will be less painful. You can then replay the easy scenarios with slightly more difficult settings (yep you can set the difficulty level to suit your needs and desires) until you are finally playing and winning at the normal settings. Then continue to raise the levels if you dare! The excellent game manual provides to be a great asset in easing into the tank commander’s seat.
It seems that significant design and research effort was put into the detail and realism of Panzer Elite. The graphics for each tank is detailed down to the individual bolts and rivets, which will allow true students of World War II tank warfare to differentiate between the various models that make up Panzer Elite. Hull mounted smoke pods and close defense grenades will be a lifesaver in the urban combat scenarios and any action where angry enemy ground troops can surround your tanks.
Crew quality will affect every aspect of game play but will improve in the scenarios as you win, but decrease if you get your butt kicked by the artificial intelligence. There is also off-board artillery that can be brought to bear in certain scenarios. Panzer Elite supports force feed joysticks (joysticks that transmit the vibrations associated with being inside a moving firing tank) which furthers the realism. The same attention to detail is in evidence with the various terrain types you will run the tanks over, from the steamy deserts of North Africa to the dense, almost impassible bocage of northern France, not to mention the varied terrain of Italy and Sicily. Panzer Elite is indeed a game full of richness and a pleasure to view as well as play.
This simulation of World War II tank conflict can also be described as immersive, right down to the sound effects of incoming and outgoing fire of the various weapons systems simulated. The shouts of your crewmen in your headphones and other external sounds all combine to make for a very realistic simulation of just what it is like to command a tank. The graphics are great, yet the gameplay quite smooth.
And you are not alone. This is a platoon level simulation, which means that the Germans have four tanks to command while the Americans have five. But, unlike other platoon level tank simulations, your wingmen are not throw away units. They can be invaluable assets when used properly.
For example, you can leave one behind to guard a key objective. They will also provide valuable information on what they can see, which may be more than is visible from your command tank. They can be put on various orders, including my personal favorite – Fire at Will. If you are careful and don’t expose the wingmen to unnecessary guns, they can be the difference between victory and defeat in many scenarios.
The package contains forty scenarios that can be played as either side, German or American, totaling eighty scenarios to be played and enjoyed. I would personally recommend playing scenarios from each side, at least at first, to give a better overall feeling for the game and the differing abilities available for the two sides. Panzer Elite also supports Internet play and local network play. Up to four players can combat over the Internet while up to six can face off over a local network.
This game garnered a GiN Gem rating of four and one half Gems as it is head and shoulders above what I have played to date in the world of tank simulations. It is well worth the investment of time and energy to become proficient at, and will provide many hours of enjoyment for those that want to get inside a tank and take on the enemy. Is there something better out there? Not yet, but you never know in this market! For now, Panzer Elite is king.