The M1 Psygnosis Platoon
Since the release of MicroProse’s M1 Tank Platoon in the late 1980s, many publishers have sought to create a tactical level armored simulation that incorporates the major features of armored warfare. Fans not only wanted combined arms, they wanted a mission-based linear campaign, or even a dynamic operational campaign where their performance affected a wider course of the war. There have been several attempts at such a game, including iM1A2 (Interactive Magic), Panzer Commander (SSI), and M1 Tank Platoon II (MicroProse).
Panzer Elite goes down the same road, focusing upon the armor battles between American and German forces in WWII, from a platoon level perspective.. As the German platoon commander you lead platoons consisting of PzKw IVs, Panthers, and Tigers, while in the role of the American commander your forces are composed of various models of the M4 Sherman.
This is somewhat of a limited armory, but at least a great deal of variants are presented with notable differences between them. Thus, while you can “only” take charge of Shermans, the differences between, for example, an early M4, an M4A3(76)W and a Jumbo Sherman are profound, as is the disparity between a German PzKw IIIH and a Tiger. On the brigther side of things you get 60+ units fighting against you, including anti-tank guns, armored cars and – unique to this sort of game – infantry.
When playing the campaigns, you have more to worry about than the action during combat. Your supplies of fuel, tanks, ammunition, and crewmembers are limited and must be carefully distributed and just as carefully expended. It’s not unusual, late in a campaign, to have a tank but no fuel or AP ammunition, particularly on the German side… which might be realistic but not necessarily fair game-wise. Your pool of crewmembers consists of men with a range of skills, and one of the most important tasks you have is assigning them to your tanks.
Your role is the tank platoon commander, which translates into leading a platoon of four tanks for the Germans, five for the Americans. Panzer Elite is intended to be a true simulation of the tank commander role, and that results in some design decisions that may surprise veterans of PC tank sims. First of all, you can’t jump into any tank in your platoon and take control of it. You can give each tank orders, and you can switch to an external view of any tank in your platoon, but you must rely upon the AI crew of every tank but your own to actually run the tank operations.
In your own tank you can switch from position to position (e.g., gunner, radio-op, driver, loader, commander) but you will need to stay in the commander’s position for much of each battle in order to provide the rest of your platoon with their orders. The AI is mostly tolerable, but there are times in which you will need to give them explicit orders and directions to keep them from making foolhardy charges into open fields.
There is no tutorial to learn the clunky interface and controls – possibly the game’s greatest weakness is its controls – and jumping into instant action just throws you immediately into the fray, with no time to learn how to survive. Your best bet in the beginning is to choose one of the early single missions and take your time learning the game, without worrying much about winning.
System Requirements: Pentium MMX, 32 MB RAM, 2 MB Video, Windows 95