T-72: Balkans on Fire

By Bob "Kaptkirk" Riegel

Maybe this has happened to you, too. While playing Battlefield Vietnam or Dangerous Waters, you found it necessary to refer to the manual for a certain feature. Manuals have a habit of escaping to a shelf or drawer so a little searching is required. And there amid the dust and cobwebs lies your old copy of Steel Beasts or Armored Fist. Ah, the memories of the glory days of tanksims, when game companies were releasing new titles several times a year. Has it really been nearly six years since Steel Beasts and Panzer Elite were new sims? What a dry spell! Fortunately, Battlefront is preparing to unleash a successor that should ease your pain.

T-72  takes place during the Yugoslavian civil wars from 1991 to 1995.You, the player, are a Russian volunteer tank commander, supplied with Russian built tanks; the T-34/85,T-55A and the T-72B.Your opponents include the M50 "Super Sherman", Leopard 1A4, SU-100 assault gun and the BRDM-2 APC, and just for fun, the Mi-8 assault Helicopter. During game play I had to navigate and fight in forests, river crossings, hills and valleys plus urban areas. The beta provided a campaign of 18 linked missions, 5 single missions plus 2 training missions which are detailed and informative.

bone18You can play as the driver, gunner or commander and the AI crew handles whatever station you are not managing. In any role you can pass on orders and instructions to the other two AI crew. For example, as the gunner you can tell the driver to go to a waypoint, instruct the commander to scan for targets. If he finds one, he will tell you. You can order the driver to stop and face the target or find a hull-down position. It makes playing as any one role very easy and fun.

Damage modeling is extensive. All types of gear can be knocked out and you can suffer losing a track, immobilizing your tank. Under some conditions, you may be able to repair the track. Trees in forests can be knocked down but recklessly ramming trees can tear up your tank and have your Russian crew swearing at you.

Game engine:
The graphics, while not up to Half-Life 2 standards, are sufficient for a tanksim. The terrain is varied;  hilly mountainous regions strewn with rock gorges and rolling open spaces, rolling plains, and moderately dense forests. From the driver's position you can see individual flowers and grass sway with the breeze. The weather and day and night are represented in good detail, complete with rain drops on the vision blocks.

The AI is smart, able to adapt to your tactics or lack of of them. Your AI crew is good without having to be told what to do. With all settings maxed out on both my systems I had no visible frame rate loss or stuttering of sounds. After three weeks of play I did not have one crash to desktop or lock up, although a few times the menu load up took awhile after extended play .

 

Game play:
One of the first missions in the campaign is to go from point A to point B...simple. I hit the starter, and after much grinding and whirring the T-34/85 came to life, releasing the brakes and goosing the throttle we proceeded down the road and up the mountain. The T-34/85 shifts nice but steers like a real lateral system...all over the road till I got used to it. Gauges reflect my speed and RPM's, and the sounds from the tank lull me into pure enjoyment of a nice ride in  the country side. That is, until I topped the crest and a "Super Sherman" ended my joyride!

A nice feature is when you're KIA, the outside view shows who killed you...so back to the motor pool and a change of tactics. The next time I tried to climb the hill from a different side which I found was too steep. While in low gear ants walk faster. Cutting across the slope I find myself looking far down the valley. APC with troops running around!! Jumping to the gunners seat I zero in and miss....and a well hidden RPG team sent me back to get a new tank. After several more tries I finally toasted the M-50, co-ax'd the troops and made a nice bonfire of the APC. Later on I got a rebuilt T-55a. The T-55 is a real monster to ride in, big and robust but surprisingly fast on the road. Having been in a T-55 I can honestly say it looks like one inside and out, no flashy paint or unnecessary things to look at.

bone17During the rest of the missions I played I found if you go too fast down a hill, your crew jumps to safety. Big rocks will turn you over. Always remember to turn on all electrical systems and never get tunnel vision while engaging the enemy, someone will flank you. Tank gunnery is very realistic, complete with a great main gun sound with all the clanking and banging of a turret in combat mode. The Russian style sights take time to get used to but later on in the T-72 you get to really do some pinpoint first shot killing of tanks...if you live long enough to marvel at your handy work. In the "Kill the arms dealer" mission, it took a few hours of rethinking tactics to get to the objective, let alone counter the tank assault that always seemed to happen right when I knew I had out maneuvered them. Finally, it's worth commenting that the ingame voices of your crew are genuine Russian and funny as hell. If your tank takes a hit, you can hear the driver curse and exclaim, "I've had it with this tank!"


Conclusion:
After three weeks I'm still playing it and getting ambushed by large caliber AT-guns or forgetting to hang out with my infantry support. When BATTLEFRONT release this baby later this summer, turn up the volume and get ready to ride in a first class tank simulation.

Visit Battlefront.com for more info.


 

I used a home system for most of the evaluation: AMD Athlon 2200 XP clocked to 2.4; 512 DDR; ATI 5700,256meg; SB Live 32
DX-9c; XP Pro

For Laptop usage: HP Pavilion z5000; AMD Athlon "64" 3000; 512 DDR @798
nVidia mobile 64meg; DX-9c; Sound Max,Harman/Kardon onboard sound; XP Home

 

System Requirements

Minimum:

1 GHz Athlon or Pentium III CPU; 256 Mb RAM; DirectX 9.0 Compatible Video Card (ex: GeForce 2/4 MX or Radeon 7500); DirectX 9.0 Compatible Sound Card; 2 Gigabyte free space on Hard drive; DirectX 9.0c; Windows XP or Windows 2000 Operating System

Recomended:

2.8 GHz or Higher Athlon XP or Pentium IV CPU; 512 Mb RAM ; DirectX 9.0 Compatible Video Card (ex: GeForce FX5600 or Radeon 9600XT) ; Sound Card with DirectX 9.0 Hardware Support (ex: SB Audigy 5.1); 2 Gigabyte free space on Hard drive; DirectX 9.0c; Windows XP SP1

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