Task Force 1942
I need an exterminator!
Task Force 1942 is a great idea for a game. It has a lot of different types of ships, all heavily researched and accurately represented in terms of their statistics (armor thickness, gun size, types of guns, etc.). The graphics are very good (not great), and there are a lot of interesting details (ships can burn in multiple locations, they stream smoke, they can run aground, some will continue to move as they sink as in real life, etc.).
All 3 dimensions of war are represented: land, sea, and air. This is awesome... very few games feature all 3.
The music is pretty good. The little newsreel-type cutscenes are great and create a real WWII atmosphere.
BUGS! This game had more bugs than an ant farm. The first version was horrendous (ships would go through land, among other things), and they released a patch which fixed some bugs but introduced new ones.
Here is a list of some bugs I found: Can't stop search planes. The speed of Task Groups would go to maximum and you couldn't change it. Windows cover the ships. The time acceleration rate on the tactical map will change randomly. Japanese ships will sometimes go to 30 knots regardless of their type (we're talking transports and slow ships which are supposed to have a maximum speed of 12 kts!). Torpedo director refuses to lock onto and track a target. Lead ship or other ships in a Task Group will sometimes go off on their own and refuse to respond to orders. Ships will refuse to turn when you order them to. You will magically get 2 or more of the same ship. And on and on!
After I bought this game, I swore that I would never buy another Microprose game, and I didn't until 1998 when European Air War came out (six years later). There is absolutely no excuse for a game to have that many bugs.
It's very difficult to see the shells you fire during day battles. You need a high contrast monitor with the contrast turned all the way up. It's hard to see them at night too.
The aiming and firing system uses one similar to actual WWII ships, which used an analog computer that took data in from various sources and tried to figure out the "firing solution", the correct elevation and amount of powder to use for the barrels and shells, respectively. When you lock onto a target in TF42, the solution will gradually increase and eventually reach 100%, at which time you'd think that if you lined up the crosshairs it would guarantee a hit. Not so! Aiming the guns is really hard unless you're close to the enemy ship.
This means that the whole aiming and firing aspect of the game, which should be the most fun part, is very unrewarding and needlessly difficult. If you can hardly see your shells, and it's hard to aim, what good is that? The only other option is to just sit there and watch the computer aim and fire the guns, but that's pointless... firing the guns is really the most "interactive" part of the game. You might as well rent a WWII movie.
I realize that making it hard to aim does make it more realistic, but too much so. I think they needed to find a better balance of realism and fun. Having a game fully realistic but impossible to play isn't fun, and fun should be the bottom line for any type of game.
Also, some of these issues bring up a question: are these things bugs (for example, ships going off on their own) or just poor implementations? I could see that maybe they were trying to show the "fog of war", in which units can become confused because of all the action going on around them as happens in real war, but I couldn't find any references to this in the manual. If this is what they were trying to show, there should be some way of letting the player know why the ship is going off on its own (for example, the unit doesn't have line of sight to the target and is trying to find a way around the smoke). But to just have it go off for no reason and no explanation in the manual leads me to believe that this is a bug.
Even though there is fighting on land, sea, and air, it could have been implemented better. You have very limited control over the air units. Basically, you can only control search planes; attack planes (bombers and fighters) act on their own. You should be able to choose the planes and what they attack. I know this wouldn't work with the premise of the game in that you are the naval commander, but maybe they should have expanded the player's role in order to make it more interesting? In addition, you have no control over the marines other than transporting them and transporting supplies to them. You have no control over if, where, what, and when they attack. It would have been really awesome if they could have incorporated some sort of RTS battle system for the land battles, but that wasn't their focus.
The sound effects are good, but there aren't enough of them. You can only hear explosions (guns firing and when the ship is hit) on the one ship that you can control at a time. They should have made it so you could hear explosions all around the ship, splashes, shouting, metal twisting, ships creaking, etc.
The Bottom Line
Don't waste your money. It could have been great, but everyone in the testing department must've taken leave of their senses!
I wrote a few letters to Microprose telling them about all the bugs, and they sent me another full copy of the game thinking that something might be wrong with my disks, but that wasn't the problem... the game was just poorly programmed.
by Raphael (1245) on November 10th, 1999