WWII Tank Commander Review

World War II Tank Commander is one of those lengthy game titles that practically screams “hard-core sim”, but nothing could be farther from the truth. What we’ve got here is a sheep in wolf’s clothing – a pretty basic arcade shooter in which you just happen to be driving a tank. A FPS that casts you in the role of a Sherman tank during the Normandy invasion sounds like a great idea, but when it comes to execution Tank Commander throws a tread.

Easy pickin's.
I have no problem with action games that take liberties with realism in the name of fun, but Tank Commander goes too far with this and comes across as a Disneyland version of a shooting gallery. Your path through the game’s levels are so constrained that small wooden fences, telephone poles, and even hay bales stop your mighty tank in its tracks. I don’t care if it isn’t a sim; when I drive a tank I want to be able to go crashing through a farmhouse and come out of the other side shooting. Tanks are supposed to be fun to drive, but controlling this Sherman is about as much fun as driving the cars at Autotopia once you’re old enough to realize that they’re on rails and that you’re not really driving. Even the controls are super-simple – the WASD keys are used to drive and the mouse swings the turret and you just need to avoid hitting walls or fences.

I could forgive the lack of weight behind my tank and the total absence of a physics model if the action in the game was exciting … I bet that you know where I am going with this … but alas it is not. First of all there is not much enemy AI to speak of in the game. Enemy tanks have a small detection radius, so most of the time you’ll see them first, fire off a few shots while they just sit there taking them, and then watch the explosion animation. Even when you are detected, the enemy tanks can’t be bothered to move and will only get off a poorly aimed shot or two before combusting. It doesn’t really matter where you hit an enemy tank either – front or back, hull or turret, two to three shots will cause these paper Tigers to explode.

The pacifist German armor has its counterpoint in the overly aggressive infantry. These guys will run out onto the road one or two at a time and start shooting at you with a rifle or machine pistol. I suppose you have to appreciate the moxie of these panzerfaust-less soldiers, but on the other hand you have to wonder what is going through their heads. As far as I could tell they really didn’t do much damage to my tank and were included in the game to give something for me to shoot at with my tank’s machine gun. If this is indeed the case, this exercise was made pointless by the fact that the machine gun is impossible to aim and I just relied on the main gun to send them back to the Fatherland. With limitless ammunition and an automatic weapon-like fire rate, there’s no point in holding back on the big gun in the game.