Operation: Tank Commander is back for a second time around, but this time its taking the war from Europe into Asia. On the surface everything is the same, you drive the same tank and shoot the same enemies, but now a weapon selection between missions has been added along with new character based cut scenes ala Bionic Commando.
Its an arcade game that’s broken up into missions. Each mission almost always take place on a single screen battlefield. The screen fills up with waves of enemies and you destroy them. It might sound simple, but the challenge comes in the skill it takes to win the battle. Completing one mission takes you to the next.
The game controls the same, your tank can only move left and right with the A and D keys. It aims and fires with the mouse, but here’s where it gets into a thinking man’s game. Your primary weapon doesn’t fire straight forward, there’s weight to your projectile so it arcs back down to the ground. You’ll need to overshoot above your target to hit it and even then its tricky to get the trajectory right. I found myself just racing around the battlefield firing forward at laughably short ranges rather than taking my time to aim. As you progress, you’ll unlock an optional blue shell that temporarily disables tanks, but its weaker.
If you want a more direct approach, there is a mounted machine gun which allows you to fire a spray of bullets that will quickly whittle down any enemy. Since you can change weapons between rounds, you’ll also get a flack gun that lets you aim directly at an enemy aircraft and shoot it down with the right click of a button. However, this takes your cursor away from the fast and frantic ground combat where there’s always a hail of gunfire raining in.
With you and your enemies sharing the same plane, it only makes sense that the enemies in this arcade battlefield fire the same way that you do, with arced shells. If you sit still, they’ll hit you and if you drive around crazy enough the shells will find their way to you soon enough. Enemy aircraft fly in swift and attack more directly. Well as direct as they can being so high in the sky.
Each of your weapons has unlimited ammunition, but where it gets interesting is the time it takes to reload. Its an exhorbant amount of time to reload your primary cannon, but that’s why you have a secondary gun. Even if the secondary gun is weaker and inaccurate, its still more accurate and less time consuming than your turret. You don’t have to arc the trajectory just perfect, you can side blast those suckers.
If weapons aren’t enough for you, your tank also has a new support ability such as a field repair kit. Depending on which of the three difficulties you select, you’ll be up against incredible odds, so you’ll need to settle down and repair your tank between waves. An airplane comes and drops off health for you. Its very appreciated and shows that you’re a rogue tank, there’s an army backing you.
Once the mission is complete, a glorious cut scene plays out with the cavalry coming to save you and bomb the enemy. The explosions and little effects look great and play out smoothly. These animations are your real reward for pushing through each mission. There’s a lot of detail and effort put into this game just like the previous one. There’s no background music, but you’ll hear the screams of citizens in a burning city. Its nothing too fancy and I think music would have improved the feel of the game overall.
After each mission, you’re greeted with some written dialog and forth between friend and foe. While I can’t say this holds any meaning for me personally, it does show the effort the developer put into making this sequel stand out from its predecessor. Then its on to select your weapons, and after a few words of wisdom from your weapons specialist, you’ll get to chose your weapons. There’s only a few to chose from at first and the choices open up to other options.
Helping you select your weapons is intelligence between missions showing you just what you’ll be fighting. The only problem is it shows you before the dialog and then you select your weapons. If you don’t have a good enough memory, you might select your machine when you should have chosen your anti-aircraft. Its only a minor thing, but your choice can have great impact.
There are other new things in the game such as tunnels that let you warp from one side of the screen to the next. While its good to leave in a pinch, you need to be very accurate with your positioning of where to enter. I’d prefer this mechanic if it took you to different locales instead of just the other side of the screen. Perhaps a future game can expand this more, but it might put the game in an adventure category instead of the arcade.
You’ll find new enemies like the propaganda blimps. Its a nice nod to the red communist culture. These blimps bolster enemy tanks and make them invincible. Its the perfect way to do it too. More games need enemies that shield and its easy enough to rapidly click these blimps to destroy them.
Since Operation: Tank Commander 2 is an arcade game there are a few power ups dropped from enemies here and there. One to refill your health, one for a speed boost and another that increases weapon capacity and so on. These power ups enhance the game and some like the health are mandatory.
Each death lets you respawn your tank once you hit a key. You only get a limited amount of attempts, but these attempts replenish with each new operation. Every death takes away any power ups, but replenishes your single use ability.
Compared to the first game, I prefer the first for its mission variety. Its great that the sequel includes a selectable variety, but it just doesn’t feel as fun as the first. They’re essentially the same game, which is why I can only fall back on the level design. It felt monotonous this time.
In conclusion Operation: Tank Commander 2 a fair game with a great art style that just needs enjoyable controls. It improves on the sequel while keeping everything in tact. The real problem that I have like the first are the mouse and keyboard controls. I’d much rather use a different method, but you need the mouse for the accuracy. Its just a personal preference and hinders my enjoyment.