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Game Over Online ~ Spearhead

GameOver Game Reviews - Spearhead (c) Interactive Magic, Reviewed by - Umax / Rebellion /

Game & Publisher Spearhead (c) Interactive Magic
System Requirements P166, 32MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 78%
Date Published Sunday, August 16th, 1998 at 11:40 AM


Divider Left By: Umax Divider Right

The tank sim niche in computer gaming has been relatively small up until the last few months. It was never a very popular area with developers because it logically seems like a rather boring game. It's like chess, with guns, in 3D. However, there have been many excellent releases lately, most notably M1A1 Tank Platoon 2, which have brought the tank sim into the spotlight. In many ways, tank sims can offer more then a tankish game like say, Urban Assault or a military game like Operational Art of War. They usually combine elements of strategy and planning with the physical driving of the tank and shooting of the big howitzer type gun strapped to the front of your toy. Spearhead manages to combine these two elements beautifully.

The first thing most people look for when they hear about a game is graphics and, well lets face it, when a game isn't out yet, and all us drooling fans can do is look at pretty screenshots. A few months ago when I first read about Spearhead, I thought that the screenshots looked rather bland really, with nothing to make them stand out. However, in the game was totally different to me, there were weather effects such as rain, lightening, changing clouds; it was very atmospheric. The game is in Direct3D, which means if you have a 3D accelerator, you will have all the pretty smooth textures and neat lighting effects and other such eyecandy, but lets face it, a tank sim wouldn't have chroming effects on the tanks, or big flashy Hollywood explosions. In the real world, all a tank driver sees is a puff of smoke and a big burning ball on the next hill/sand dune. That was exactly how Spearhead looks. Its graphics are very nice, but not so nice as they take away from the feeling of being in a big, 40ton, dirty, sandy, monster with caterpillar tracks and a couple guns. All of the views were done very nicely, and you could look all around your tank, have a tank chase view, a turret chase view, two different gunner points of view (main gun and machine gunner) and a couple other customizable views. The special effects in the game were minimal, smoke, fire, flames, and dirt effects mostly. The only one that I question was fire, I think they could have made it look a lot better using Direct3D, instead it made me think back to the days of Duke3D fire. To be fair though, it does have transparency effects and its only downfall is its 2D look, from a distance it looks OK. When you do get up close to a destroyed and burning tank, however, you are treated to sparks and bits of shrapnel still flying off of it with little trails of smoke. The terrain is relatively flat throughout the game, but again, that is true to the environment as most of the time is spent cruising the desert.

Sound wasn't terribly thrilling throughout the game, there was no screaming orders from commanders and little radio chatter, just the occasional 'up' or 'high' from your coworkers. The noises were accurate I suppose, but didn't inspire me. Usually what I like in these games is to hear lots of variation in pitch for things like throttle and the grinding noises that the turret makes when it rotates. Spearhead didn't really capture this, and the engine didn't sound like a 1200hp turbine, more like a big truck. The guns did however sound quite good, and when firing the main gun there was a suitable blast and your gunner said 'on its way!' or something equally odd. It would have been nice if there was some difference in the noise made by driving on sand and tarmac.

The game has quite a steep learning curve, you better know how to run your tank, and use it to its fullest or you will get wasted by some rogue enemy tank. There were many elements to the battlefield, like buildings, fuel tanks, vehicles of many types, enemy and friendly soldiers, helicopters and planes and more. Don't be too shocked however when you discover the battlefield is a bit sparse, after all this is a desert, not downtown NY (or Baghdad for that matter.) The controls of the tank were a bit strangely laid out but I imagine with a joystick like the sidewinder the turret control and the tank control would be very easily coordinated. One glaring omission that I noticed early on was that I couldn't get the tank to turn when stopped. Maybe the Abrams isn't capable of this because of its long tracks, or maybe I just wasn't doing it right, if you know how to do this, tell me! The enemy AI in the game wasn't terribly challenging, although they didn't seem to lay around waiting for you to take the first shot. In fact sometimes they were just downright aggressive which was a refreshing change from the lazy enemies in Tank Platoon 2. There was only one problem I found with the game. The power of the main guns on tanks seemed to waiver. An example is this, I played one of the training missions and it took the enemy 1 shot, firing at me standing still, to destroy me, however in the normal campaign mode, it took the enemy 4-6 shots on average to toast my tank. In contrast, shooting the enemy took only 1 or 2 shots almost every time, which lead me to believe this game was aimed at the less experienced gamer. (By the way this was with medium difficulty engaged, not easy.)

All in all, Spearhead is one of the most solid, well thought out tank sims that's come out in a while. It's easy enough to let new sim fans get into it with relative speed, but has so many features that the experienced, war hardened gamer will drool on their keyboard. It's navigation methods are relatively primitive, only hinting the true capabilities of the real life M1A1 Abrams' GPS NAV system, but that would be too complex for most people anyway. For the time being, Spearhead gets 'best modern tank sim' award. Nothing comes close.

 

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Rating
82%
 

 

 
 

 

 

Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

Crush the enemy in your M1A2, The World's Best Tank. Over the heat soaked deserts of Tunisia the U.S. armored cavalry is called upon once again to fight a dangerous desert campaign. In charge of the Army's best armored weapon, the M1A2, you will be immersed in intense battles enjoying both state-of-the-art graphics and innovative adrenaline pumping gameplay. Spearhead puts you in the gunner's seat, blowing away the enemy using the most advanced group weapon ever created.

When I'm done with a long, stressful, day at work with the US's finest (Yeah that's right, the US Postal Service j/k!), I'd love to come home to drive around in a 80 ton titanium toy I like to call "Rolling Thunder." Woop, just me and my 120mm, a six pack, and a few computer animated Libyans in their little dinky T-72's. Could this be the game to put me in heaven? Well, we'll see.

I started up this game hoping to see my favorite sight, the 3DFX loader, but, alas, it wasn't to be. This game does, however, feature Direct3D. Lets just say, I'm not impressed. The explosions are weak, the fire isn't good, and the smoke is poor. The rain is a nice effect but it's not real enough looking. The tanks are decently done, but the burning hull of a destroyed tank just doesn't look particularly good.

Enough dwelling on the worst part of the game. The sound is good, I cranked up my sub so my whole desk shakes as I'm tracking T-72's across the desert. It does a good job of not blasting you with background noise and it does have some environmental noises like thunder during the occasional desert shower. It has some speech, but it's mainly when the missions load. It easily could have had some more from your units in game. They do acknowledge orders but they should give warnings and what not to give you a better heads up.

The game plays pretty easily, you drive around and shoot at whatever looks like an enemy. Armed with a 120 mm main battery, 2 7.62mm chain guns, and a .50 caliber machine gun, you're pretty much outclassing everything else on the field. The controls are pretty easy and it's not too hard to target the enemies. You get thermals to pick out the enemies in the dunes and you have the scopes to zoom in and give your target the closeup. You usually are assigned two other tanks to your platoon. They'll help you put the shake down on those Libyan camel riders. There's some battlefield management, but in most missions, it's mainly you and your platoon. You'll occasionally get spotter helicoptors and artillery units and you'll be able to direct them around. There's also repair trucks if you're getting beat around but they're few and far between. One flaw I found is that it's much too easy to knock out the enemies spotter helicopters (with a 120mm no less).

It's somewhat fun. It takes some time to make sure you know where you're headed while you're spinning around in the turret. It's pretty simple though, which makes it easy to get into. The tutorial missions are helpful and will get you on your way to becoming "King of the Desert." Multiplayer is quite good and ads to the fun. It's easy to get going and it's pretty much lag free. Get together a bunch of friends and go around blasting the hell out of one another.

All in all, it's a decent tank sim, hampered mainly by poor graphics. The webpage says it supports 3DFX and PowerVR so maybe the graphics will get bolstered down the road. There's not a lot of management so you pretty much get to jump right into combat. It's the first tank sim since M1 Tank Platoon 2, which had a little more eye candy and had more management. If you'd prefer a get-down, dirty tank sim, check this out.

 

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Rating
82%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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