Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Release Date: February 18, 2009
A little over 10 years ago, when the Sega Saturn was still thriving, two first-person shooters arrived on the system that made owners very happy to own Sega's console. Powerslave and Duke Nukem 3D were loved by owners not just because they were well-made ports of good PC games (and, in the case of Duke Nukem 3D, one of the first online games for the system), but because of their shared secret. Buried deep within each game was another, full-featured title called Death Tank.
A multiplayer strategy game, Death Tank was a hit with Saturn owners because of the great action and fun multiplayer that it provided. It's one of the best and most memorable Easter eggs in recent history. Thanks to the people at Snowblind Studios and Flat Games, Death Tank is now available on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade for those who weren't able to experience it on the Sega Saturn. Unfortunately, the experience is marred by a few things that make it a less than desirable title in comparison to its counterparts.
The premise behind the game is a simple one. You are a death tank, a formidable fighting weapon that's been armed with a limitless supply of artillery shells. Your job is to survive multiple rounds by blasting the opposition to bits, and to do this, you have to calculate both the strength of the shot and the angle at which to fire said shot against your opponent. In between rounds, once all of the opposition has bitten the dust, you are taken to a shop where you can buy weapons and upgrades for your tank. Money is earned through the destruction of others and surviving rounds. After buying what you need, you go back to the field of battle with your newfound arsenal and repeat the process. After the selected number of rounds has ended, the one with the most points wins the game.
From the description above, one would get the impression that Death Tank is a lot like Worms and Scorched Earth. There are a few differences that make it a different game, however. For starters, the game is played in real time. Unlike the other games of its kind, players don't have to wait for their turn to arrive before they can wreak havoc on the battlefield. The real-time manner of the game isn't limited to weapon fire, since players can move while firing. Since these are tanks, though, don't expect tank movement to be very quick. Another big difference is the shop that appears between rounds, which lets players buy special power-ups, such as guided missiles or nuclear shells to help destroy the enemy.
There are a few single-player modes available in the game, though all of them are pretty much the same. You have the basic tutorial mode, where you learn the game's controls and play mechanics. You also have an Arcade mode, where you face off against several waves of turrets and enemy tanks before making it to the next level. Finally, there are two levels of combat where you go up against CPU enemy tanks for 20 rounds. The winner is the one who has the most points by the end of level 20. These single-player modes are fun but fairly limited, acting more as a training mode for the multiplayer game instead of a true single-player mode.
Multiplayer is where the real meat of the game is, and it does a good job of not disappointing. When played locally, you can have four-player matches with all of the rules of the single-player mode. This time, you can adjust the number of rounds instead of just defaulting to 20 all the time. Death Tank proves to be fun when played with others, since you get the same sense of excitement and dread when playing Worms, except this time around, everything happens at a faster pace. When taken to Xbox Live, the multiplayer is bumped up to eight players onscreen, with the same rules and regulations as the offline game. More players make the experience more fun, but there were a few snags along the way. First off, there aren't too many people playing the game at the moment. When you do find a game, there's a bigger chance that it's a player match instead of a ranked match. Also, there have been a few times when lag has appeared; it wasn't bad enough to affect gameplay, but it does occur every so often.
The controls for the game are actually pretty good. Your left thumbstick controls shot strength and angle, while the A button fires. The right thumbstick acts like a weapon wheel, while the left and right triggers control tank movement. Pulling both of them together controls the jump jets, while pulling any one of them while in the air controls flight direction. Jumping and flying are about the only things that people will have a bit of trouble with from the start, but players will get it after a bit of practice.
Provided you have the right setup, the graphics can be quite good. Each background looks great and has plenty of little details to make it look more interesting. In some levels, the water shimmer and blowing sandstorms are great examples of how impressive graphics can be in some downloadable games. The same goes for the explosions, which are very bright and vibrant. Other particle effects, like the smoke trails for each shot and the debris from destroyed terrain, also look nice. The one flaw in the graphics has to come from the size of the tanks; while they may look fine on an HDTV, they are pretty minuscule on a standard-definition TV. The arrows showing shot strength and angle do a pretty good job of letting you know where you are, but it would still be nice to see your actual tank if you're gaming on an old television.
The sound fits Death Tank perfectly. There isn't much to the music, but the few themes do a good job of getting you in the mood to blast things. The same goes for the voices, which are also hardly present. When it comes to sound, the title is big on sound effects. Gunfire and explosions are about the only things you'll hear when you play, but each effect is punctuated with booming bass that's perfect for the game. You really won't find much to complain about here.
The biggest knock against Death Tank is the price. As one of the more expensive titles on the Xbox Live Arcade service, it provides less than half of the gameplay of R-Type Dimensions. While the game provides a good multiplayer experience, other titles like Worms provide just about the same amount of action at a fraction of the price. Couple that with a relatively short and narrow single-player experience, and you end up with an overpriced Xbox Live Arcade title. Unless you and a few friends are craving the next multiplayer strategy fix, hold off on getting this unless the price drops.
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