Written by  :  Neville (2985)
Written on  :  Sep 29, 2017
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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The war that wasn't

The Good

I bought this one in the middle 1990s in a budget edition, and I got much more than I expected. Since I got my first IBM PC clone, one of the genres I was more eager to try was war simulations, because you rarely got them in 8 bit platforms, and when you did they were versions so cut down it took away most of the fun.

With this one, I expected an action oriented game (didn't we all?) with focus on tank mechanics. Instead, I got something much more complex and big, something like a "land war simulation". Yes, the tanks take the central stage, but rather than taking control of one vehicle you'll spend most of your time on the general map, directing and coordinating the titular tank platoon as well as support units such as helicopters, rocket artillery and others.

There's still tons of action, because once you establish contact with enemy units you'd better take control of the nearest vehicle and gunner, but be warned: this is a completely different beast than more arcade oriented titles such as the "Armored Fist" series.

The game also makes the most of its mechanics, despite fitting in just one 1.44 Mb. disk. Friendly and enemy AI are pretty good. Enemy AI can be tweaked, and as for friendly AI your platoon members will get better every time they survive a battle.

The mission objectives, terrain and availability of support units also make every single battle completely different, despite the similarly looking green scenario.

The Bad

So yes, "M1 Tank Platoon" is a great game, but with still some room for improvement. Let me see.

The game was developed with only one scenario in mind, a vast Soviet offensive against western Europe. It was a very feasible situation, maybe second only to an all out nuclear confrontation. Both Soviet Russia and NATO had plenty of tanks in the area, in prevision of exactly this situation, and some sources claim the Soviets had up to 10 tanks for every NATO vehicle. Had such a war erupted, it sure would have been one of the defining events in the XXth century.

This however means that we'll be stuck in a single scenario, European looking green pastures and hills, without desert or jungle scenarios at all. MicroProse later launched a desert-looking version of the game to capitalise on the first gulf war, but that edition is harder to find.

Also, the game only gives you vehicles as enemies or support units: tanks, BMPs, trucks... where the hell is the infantry? Whenever it appears in the briefings, it just means you'll get to destroy some armoured transport vehicles, but infantry is never found in the scenario on its own, nor included among your support units.

The copy protection scheme is also a bit annoying... at the beginning of every game you'll have to check your manual and identify a couple of tanks. Like in some other MicroProse titles, you can learn to identify some of the most distinctive ones, but it still seems to me like a small nuisance.

The Bottom Line

If instant action and top level graphics and sounds are important for you, this is not the game you're looking for. On the other hand, if you don't mind playing an old game or you consider yourself an armchair general, there very few games that can offer you as much as this one in just one package. The game has a sequel with better graphics and more compatible with modern systems, but I'm told the game mechanics are essentially the same.