|Panzer Elite: A New King Tiger
By Neil Mouneimne
It's hard to believe but true. After a long history making one arcade game after another, Psygnosis is finally gearing up to publish a hardcore sim. In this case, a hardcore tank sim, no less!
There's a funny attitude among game developers where it comes to hardcore (ie. serious) simulations. It's not until a genre of sim is firmly well established that someone is willing to take a shot at making a truly serious simulation.
After many years of arcade games, only recently have efforts at realistic motorcycle and rally racing games been announced. The first realistic infantry "sims" have finally appeared. Even X-Wing Alliance now seems to be making a return to its quasi-simulation roots. Suddenly folks all over are waking up to the fact that sims and realism (even faked realism) are okay after all!
Was that a town we just ran over?
Imperial guard outside Mos Eisley spaceport, umm... I mean a Sherman holding the Toum railway station.
Charybdis and iMagic made some notable (if heavily flawed) efforts at making serious tank sims, but when it comes to setting the standard, nobody has been able to touch Microprose. Yet in spite of the excellence and realism of M1 Tank Platoon II it's not really a hardcore sim.
M1 Tank Platoon II is really a middle of the road game - not too much detail, and not too much like an arcade game. And while we have had some great attempts within the modern armor genre, we have never had a truly great WWII armor simulation. (Not having played Panzer Commander, I can't comment on it). With iPanzer '44's many problems were never fixed. Across the Rhine was a cruel joke that fans of WW2 tread will not soon forget. Heck, let's face it - if Shermans and Tigers and Wolverines (oh my!) are your cup of tea, things couldn't get much worse!
Never fear, Wings Simulations is here, and looking to offer the cure. After spending a couple days with the latest alpha of Panzer Elite this game in development shows great potential. With realistic and attractive graphics, dramatic physics modeling, and flexible gameplay options, this simulation is well on its way to creating and setting the standard for WW2 armor fans.
Cruising by the wrecks
For the first time ever in an armor simulation, the terrain is very broken and uneven. If you decide to drive cross-country, you're going to give yourself and your tank a good pounding.
Take a close look at the tread on the tanks in the image above, particularly the Panzer in the background. The tread and the road wheels actually follow the shape of the terrain closely. Additionally, as the tank scrambles over ruts and bumps the whole tank will sway and dip as it rocks on its suspension.
The effect is incredibly dramatic, giving the tanks a real sense of mass and power. In the case of the Sherman tanks, it accentuates how incredibly high their center of gravity is, although it's not clear to me yet whether it's possible to actually roll a tank. (Ed. Note: I have personally rolled a couple...)
75mm cannon vs. a 6x6 APC
There is no escaping the importance of a good terrain system in a tank sim, and this fact is not lost on the development team. The terrain in Panzer Elite has almost the same amazing depth that helped make M1 Tank Platoon II such a stand out in the genre. The usable depth doesn't seem to be quite as extensive as in the latter game, but since engagement ranges in WWII battles were so much shorter than with the superguns and missile launchers of modern warfare, this is not a real problem. The detail is highest where it counts, in the shape of the terrain and in the various objects populating the landscape.
So much for externals. All this moving around isn't limited to the external view. The interior of the turret and hull is actually modeled in 3D, complete with vision blocks, gunner's sight, and in the case of the commander, a hatch and binoculars. If you drive at top speed over rough terrain you'll be jostled violently inside the tank, barely able to do anything until things settle down a bit.
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Last Updated April, 1999