WWII Tank Commander places you in the role of a tank commander in the seat of the immortalized M4 Sherman Tank. From there you venture out into the European countryside striking at German armored columns. To give you a sense of what kind of game this is, you’re driving, loading and firing the weapon in one fell swoop. The reload times in the armor of EA’s Battlefield series might actually be longer than the one here.
Visually, WWII Tank Commander looks impressive. The muddy, gritty graphics actually remind me a lot of the cinematography in Saving Private Ryan. Occasionally, you’ll also witness a cloudy sky with a piercing ray of sunlight creeping in. I liked the presentation, although WWII Tank Commander keeps it simple by sticking mostly with countryside environs, meaning there isn’t a heck of a lot of structure out there.
The game itself, on the other hand, is unrealistic to say the least. Besides the simplified control scheme, you’re part of a tank platoon full of tanks that don’t seem to hit any enemy targets, unless of course they are scripted to do so. Enemy tanks also have a habit of coming out at key points and replaying the missions, you’ll find they will only come out of those key points. And to keep the game moving along, the tanks in your squad don’t die. Suffice to say, this is an arcade rail shooter in which you’re expected to dispatch entire Waffen SS Panzer divisions, and then probably a few more regular Wehrmacht divisions to boot. All those lessons I learnt before about achieving hull down positions and encirclement strategies like the blitzkrieg or the Soviet deep battle tactics thus became useless.
Enemy infantry and artillery figure into the game but they are nothing but cannon fodder. Infantry and well placed anti-tank artillery can wreak havoc on armor in enclosed environments like urban streets. It’s said that George Lucas got inspiration from WWII battles when he filmed the battle sequence at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back – that’s the experience you can look forward to when playing WWII Tank Commander when you come up against anything other than enemy tanks.
The whole campaign follows the exploits of Patton’s armor divisions. I understand the gameplay for allied powers will likely be more popular but the fact that it only focuses on Battle of the Bulge makes the game limited. I found myself wishing there were some other tank battles like the epic ones at Kursk or Kharkov. Or the exploits of the Desert Rats or Afrika Korps in North Africa? None of these exciting tank scenarios are to be found in the game. It’s a shame too since it could include different vehicles. The M4 Sherman is arguably one of the tanks that helped win the war. It’s not so much how great your tanks are as how many of them can you put in the field. But there were several other positive tank designs that I’m sure WWII Tank Commander could have picked up on, like the King Tiger, the Jagdpanzer variants, the sloped armor of the Soviet T-34; the list of possibilities is endless. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with the relatively tame Sherman.
While finishing the campaign might do justice to the exploits of American armored divisions in WWII (you beat all the Germans in the end), this game as a whole doesn’t do any justice to the role of armor. You never get the sense that you’re playing a pivotal part in combined arms tactics. Perhaps my expectations were too much for a $20 value title.