M1 Tank Platoon 2

By  Jack Black

        Night falls with a rush in the Saudi desert. You have received your orders and briefing a few minutes ago. Your tank platoon will operate with Phase lines Banjo and Takedown. You strap your helmet on, key your mike, and order your platoon into the night. Beneath you is an American battle tank--the M1A2 Abrams--arguably the deadliest armored platform in the world.  As you scrutinized the dim green screen of your CITV (Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer), you vow that you will utilize the countless hours of training and tactical study to the utmost. By morning, there will be no basis for debate. The blackened, smoldering hulks of enemy tanks will bear silent testimony that the M1A2 Abrams has earned the nickname "Whispering Death" and is indeed the King of the Hill.

m1tp2_a.jpg (67679 bytes)        Welcome to the world of modern armored cavalry. And you have Microprose to thank for getting you there with their immersive tanksim M1 TANK PLATOON II. Released in 1998, M1TP2 as it's known caused a sensation in the sim community. It was a sequel to M1 Tank Platoon released in 1989 and in nine years, hardware and programming have come a long way. M1TP2 allows the player to "experience the modern combat arena as never before". 

m1tp2_d.jpg (43798 bytes)        M1TP2 comes with an extensive manual, one of the best I've ever seen, with game info, weapons and ammo info, tactics, historical studies--it's almost a deal by itself.  You may choose to complete the tank tour first, which I recommend. You get an in-depth description of the working of the tank complete with 3D models and cutaway animations. It's really neat and educational. The training program is intensive and well-laid out--nevertheless, a "Play Now!" gamer may feel put off by the need to to read and study before getting his treads dirty. You can start right off in a single mission but the time it takes you to learn the interface and basic commands while playing (and getting blasted!) would be longer than simply reading the first 50 pages and running through the tutorials. This is tough on the tanksim novice but oh-so enrichening for the pure at heart (that's us tanksimmers!).

        The game types are the standard Single, Campaign, and Multi-player, with the bonus of a Random Game Generator. You will need to create a platoon and then you're good to go. Mission theaters range from the Iraqi desert, the Fulda Gap, Germany, and to the marshes of eastern Poland. A lot of emphasis is placed on your command accountability in this sim. Accomplish the objective but suffer unacceptable losses and you could be subject to censure. So in order to achieve advancement in rank, you have to take this sim pretty seriously.

m1tp2_g.jpg (55035 bytes)        Gameplay is best done with a joystick and keyboard in tandem. The joystick handles the views and gun sighting, the mouse can be used to actually click the controls on the commander's and gunner's stations, and the keyboard allows quick access to other functions as well as steering the tank using the arrow keys. 

        The graphics  are first rate. Tanks, Humvees, AH-64 Apaches, SA-13 SAM launchers, SU-25 Frogfoot aircraft, and many other vehicles are modeled in M1TP2 and they all look sharp. The terrain is usually flat but hills and ridges do add some depth and allow cover. The forests look pretty good, a little better than Panzer Commander. Farm houses, Quonset huts, and other structures are generously included in most battlesets. Explosions are good with the caveat that the fire looks a little pixilated, but not too much. The horizon and distant objects have just enough of the haziness to make them look very real.

m1tp2_j.jpg (15442 bytes)        Even better, individual infantry are present. They are reasonably lifelike and their presence does pose a threat to you and the tanks in your platoon. Ignore them and invariably one grunt will rise up and run a TOW missile up your turret seam. 

        The functions of the tank seem well executed. It turns and accelerates at realistic rates. The 120 mm cannon booms and fire blocks the view momentarily in the gun sight. The crew voices are perfect--"HEAT, up!"  You can use the gunner's sight or the CITV mode to aim and fire. At night, hit the "T" key and us the infrared mode to sight targets. The program allows a tank crew member to help you spot targets so if you don't see that T-72, someone in your crew will usually call out its position and alert you.

        While the graphics are great, there's no mistaking the sound profiles are even better. Thunderous cannon roars, tanks whine and rumble, shell hits clang and explode! You can hear the whistling, tearing sound as shells rend the air. It's terrific--all of the battlefield ambiance brings M1TP2 to life. If you have a sub-woofer, situate it under your desk and feel the sound blow the hair on your legs!

m1tp2_m.jpg (45461 bytes)        The theme music is worth noting.  A raucous heavy metal guitar punctuated the average cut scenes.

        One nice feature is the ability to jump into other tanks. If your initial tank is blown apart, a simple SHIFT-F2 will place you in command of the #2 tank, and with four tanks in a platoon, there's a lot of opportunity to yell "Follow me, boys!" over and over.  In addition to commanding the tanks in your platoon, you can direct and view the other groups of vehicles on the ground or in the air. Although you cannot take a first-person control of the Humvees, Harriers,  and Bradleys, you can  instruct them where to go, order them to unload and load their troops,  and where to engage the enemy.. If the heat gets to be too much (too much is perfect--ed.), most missions allow you to call in support, such as artillery and air support. And if you want to succeed, this will be an important part of your job. Once you ID enemy units, the the howitzers take out as many as they can before you engage them. M1TP2 is more like a tanksim and a theater commander rolled into one.

m1tp2_r.jpg (47343 bytes)        The AI is good but usually the only thing that will defeat you is superior numbers. Then you must employ speed and maneuver tactics. Smoke grenade launchers can buy you time. Against like numbers you can slug it out. Enemy aircraft will strafe you and if you feel really froggy, you can try to shot them down with your .50 cal machine gun. It can be done, but you better know how to lead. One glitch that occurred frequently was during a change in direction, my platoon tankers would bang into each other. Really irritating! I guess I learned to rationalize it as my guys really liked to haze each other--"Take this!" 

        I've put countless hours into M1 TANK PLATOON II and I can heartily endorse it as a first-class tanksim. It's relatively new and now that Microprose is out of sims (no M1TP3--sniff!), this is as good as it gets for a while.  The manual is better than most books on the subject of tanks and the sim is tactically satisfying and aurally excellent.  With the multitude of units and your tactical control, this is more than a tanksim. M1 TANK PLATOON II is a tanksim tour de force.


Rating:  92

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Program stability Multi- play
17/20 10/10 8/10 9/10 18/20 9/10 14/15 4/5
BONUS: +3 Excellent manual


System Requirements: Pentium 200, Windows 95/98, 16MB RAM, 200MB hard-drive space, 4x CD-ROM,  3D SVGA graphics card, DirectX-compatible sound card

m1tank_menu.gif (174626 bytes)

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