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Gratuitous Tank Battles

Score: 83%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Positech Games
Developer: Positech Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Editor

Graphics & Sound:

The Gratuitous series is all about looks, 'splosions, detail and being able to tweak the heck out of units and tactics. Tweakers can have a field day with the Unit Editor, building up new units, changing out weapons, shields, and tracks. You can build a lightweight, high-speed vehicle to quickly sprint across the battlefield, or slower, heavier mechs with tons of armor. Do you go for firing speed - or range? Increased damage would be nice, but what if it's at the cost of durability? Then, once you've gotten units that function the way you want them, you can fiddle and fuss over what color to make them. Personally, I took a design tip from Tony Stark and when with shiny yellow and hot-rod red. No reason you can't look stylish while your mech is slowly stomping a village to pulp...

The writing (of which there is a good amount) is done from the point of view of the British, but is always written with a good helping of humor. You can, generally, get by without even reading the intros, but they're usually good for a laugh. The manual has this same witticism, by the way.

Gun reports are believable and the sounds of engines running and things blowing up sound the way they should... if you're down at ground level. As you zoom out, these battle sounds quiet, as your perspective is further from the battle. As the war sounds drop away, a military soundtrack increases in volume, such that when you're zoomed all the way out, large gunshots and explosions will merely pepper and accent your valiant score - onward, for victory and crumpets!


Gameplay:

The latest of Positech's Gratuitous series, Gratuitous Tank Battles takes place on an alternate version of Earth where World War I never ended. In Gratuitous Tank Battles, you are basically playing one side or the other of a Tower Defense-type game. When you're defending, you can place a few units before starting the battle, but once the battle starts, you have to carefully manage your spending, as you can run out of funds and find yourself waiting to have enough money to buy that shiny new replacement turret you so badly need.

Tank Battles is much more interactive and hand-on than was Space Battles, but tweakers should still appreciate the depth of unit customization. The difference is that Gratuitous Tank Battles is a bit more mainstream, I suppose.

"Multiplayer" play is, truthfully, still a one player game; it's merely that you can play against a challenge that another player has set up. Players can create (or modify) custom maps or use ones from the game, then record their gameplay. This script of actions is then included in the Challenge, making it an A.I., of sorts. You then play against this setup.


Difficulty:

When I previewed Gratuitous Tank Battles, I originally found the difficulty to be more challenging than I remembered from Gratuitous Space Battles, especially on the scripted battles. However, scripted battles aren't the only option, and when set to the easiest setting, the game seems quite manageable now.

It's important to remember as you're playing through the Campaign Mode, that Gratuitous Tank Battles is a tweaker's game. If you're not fiddling with your units and trying out different strategies, you're not doing it right. Mind you, I'm all in favor of people playing their games the way they want. The problem is, if you don't tweak things around and try to improve your units, you're likely to find the game more difficult. The trick is to have the right types of units in the right place at the right time.

One thing that appears to be new since the last time I played is the inclusion of Air Strikes. These are attacks that must be unlocked, but they allow you to bomb a circular area for a time period. This becomes a necessary tool in some of the later Campaign levels, when there are certain stretches of road that have no buildable locations or trenches near them. You can either use Air Strikes or cry as you watch your enemy traipse across the battlefield uncontested.


Game Mechanics:

There are some people out there who like the idea of "programming" an A.I. for a game (or, in a game) and don't mind a complete lack of interaction once the action starts. Anyone who liked Gratuitous Space Battles for that element, alone, should be warned; Gratuitous Tank Battles is a different beast, altogether.

The main complaint I have with Gratuitous Tank Battles stems from the U.I.: it comes off as clunky, often at times when I really need to do things quickly. For one, you can only zoom out so far, then you have to mouse to the edge of the map to scroll over. This can get really tiring when you're dealing with two separate fronts, one in the upper left of the map and another in the lower right, for example. Secondly, when selecting units to place, you can end up with more unit types available than fit in the tray at the bottom of the screen. When this occurs, you can scroll left or right to access the different types. This scroll bar is touchy and not really geared to allowing quick access to the far edges. Add in the fact that units have a sort of cool-down time before you can add another one and you end up in a situation where you don't know what's available to you when units are scrolled off-screen. Finally, the only way to place a unit is to select the unit from that scrollable tray and place it on the field. Holding down Shift will keep that same unit type ready for dropping additional units, but it would be much easier to deal with if there were hot-keys for selecting certain units. This is probably difficult to do with a variable and unlimited number of units, but I would prefer to be able to set hot-keys to certain units and forego clicking on the unit bar.

Tweakers and fans of Gratuitous Space Battles should definitely check out Gratuitous Tank Battles for the gameplay, Map Editor and Unit Editor. Anyone who likes Tower Defense games should be able to pick this up and have a ball. For that matter, gamers who are interested in game development could spend hours creating units and custom maps and then sharing them with their friends.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/Win7, 1.5 GHz Processor, 2 GB RAM, 3D Graphics Card (128MB Video Memory), DirectX 9.0c, 500 MB Free Hard Drive Space
 

Test System:



AMD Athlon(tm) II X2 220 Processor 2.80 GHz, 4 GB dual-channel DDR3, ASUS Mainboard, CoolerMaster 850watt power supply, Dual boot: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit / Windows XP Home Edition (played in Windows 7), Graphics: ATI Radeon 3000 (on motherboard) / XFX ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB graphics card, Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, 750 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive, Logitech Gaming Mouse G700, Logitech Gaming Keyboard G105 for Modern Warfare 3, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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