Combat Tanks – Under Fire

Tank combat games are nothing new; there are quite frankly dozens of them out there, so why cover Combat Tanks from Aussies AI Studio? Well, Combat Tanks tries to do something different, something a little out of the ordinary: split screen multiplayer on the iPad.  You and a friend grab hold of one end of the iPad each (not too hard though, you’ll break it and they’re really quite expensive), take control of a tank and attempt to shoot the living daylights out of each other, moving around the game’s ten different maps, avoiding the tank traps along the way.

It really is as simple as that, which is a good thing, but sadly there’s another side to that coin.  Simplicity in games is great. I love simplicity in indie games that strip things back to basics and really focus on solid gameplay. However, in the case of Combat Tanks, the rubber band of simplicity was taken to its limits and it snapped. The game is so basic that it feels as if it was released six months early, before all the finishing touches were in place.

Combat Tanks

During gameplay, you and your opponent have a basic cannon on your tank and unlimited ammo. You can pick up a few different power ups to help you out such as rockets, bouncing bombs which ricochet off walls, mines, health and a shield, but they really don’t change how the game is played.  There’s very little room for tactical play or trickery, you just very slowly find your opponent (thankfully made easier due to the mini-map on screen) and then you fire at each other from close range as fast as possible until one of you blows up.

First to ten is the winner, unless you change that in the settings. Good luck changing these settings, though, because whenever you do, you’ll lose those preferences when you finish the round.  Each time you return to the main menu screen you have to set everything up again. Prefer the virtual analogue stick for movement rather than the fiddly and frustrating d-pad? Like a certain map? Want to play to 5 kills instead of 10? Then be prepared to choose those options repeatedly because the game just won’t remember and will reset to the defaults every time.

As frustrating as the menu is, though, the game does have some good points. The music is definitely fun; the game comes with five different backing tracks, each giving a classic military air to the battle experience. Local multiplayer is a rare thing for an iOS game, and I did have fun for a little while shooting at my colleagues and being able to laugh about it to their face instead of over an internet connection.  I can see it being the sort of thing you could hand to your kids to kill time at an airport or on a car journey to keep them busy.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it would keep them busy for long as the replay factor is near enough missing in this title.  That ‘need to play another round’ feeling just isn’t there. Playing the game earlier today with my other half, she actually asked if we could stop playing midway through the first round, it was just that dull for her. There was no “oh, I’m going to get you back now!” to it, just “OK, well, you won, well done, what else can we play?”.

CT

My main gripe with this game doesn’t come from the fact that it’s basic, has menu issues or a lack of replay factor, though.  What really winds me up is the shooting system.  It’s got a number of problems. Firstly, you can’t move and shoot at the same time. If you want to give chase to a fleeing target you’ll have to either take pot shots as they run or chase after them slowly like an asthmatic cat crawling after an elderly mouse. Not only that but the projectiles firing from the tank are so small that you have to get your aim exactly right otherwise you’ll just be firing wide of the mark, even from relatively close range. It feels like a real ordeal to actually hit your opponent which is why I often found my matches ended up with us just firing at each other while nose-to-nose, simply so we’d hit each other.

The game also comes with some single player challenges if you’ve got nobody to shoot wildly at.  I say challenges but really it’s just the same challenge over and over. One tank, a number of boxes lined up next to each other in a block, and the objective to shoot them all before they can respawn. That’s all. The only variation is the number of boxes you decide to shoot at.  It is quite challenging, to be fair; trying to get them all before they came back into existence did prove tricky, but it didn’t prove to be fun. Part of the reason it was so tricky is because of the shooting system.  Some more variation here could make single player a lot more entertaining.

11_full

I really wanted to like Combat Tanks as the idea of a local two-player shooting game sounded like a lot of fun. I’d love to review Combat Tanks again in six months, and give it a little time to break away from its training wheels (or treads); hopefully by then a lot of these frustrating issues will be worked out and the game will be a lot more playable.  Until that time though, it just isn’t good enough to warrant $2.99 on the App Store.

3

Good Things

  • Local multiplayer
  • Fun music

Bad Things

  • Shooting system
  • Too basic
  • Preferences keep getting lost
  • No lasting appeal

The Breakdown


Graphics
3
Gameplay
3
Sound
4
Lasting Appeal
2




There are 5 comments

Add yours
  1. AI Studios

    Hi,

    Developer for Combat Tanks here and I would like to thank you for the review. Even a negative review is quite useful from a developer standpoint, as it highlights any issues we might need to address.

    Thankfully, many of the issues you’ve raised have already been identified and will be improved/changed in the next version.

    Examples:
    —Tanks needing to stop to fire was incorporated in order to add an element of realism (bracing to fire from the recoil) and an element of tactical play. Some really liked it, however it has already been identified by others to slow play and make it seem less fluid. As such, the next version will include an “arcade” mode, which does away with the stopping requirement and implements a few other changes to speed up gameplay. The reviewers here and the original playtesters played the game very differently. We had a much more tactical approach, firing a shot or two then ducking for cover, which made the stopping requirement very useful (firing nose-to-nose was not common). Now, both styles will be accommodated in the next version.

    —The settings reset was done deliberately, to make resetting easier, but has already been identified as a mistake. Clicking “Play Again” after finishing a round will launch a new game with the same settings, while “Options” returns you to the default settings. Changed settings will remain in the next version until a user specifically resets them to default.

    —Many users have identified the analog controller as their preferred input method. As such, this will be the default input method in the next version.

    —Don’t worry too much about the lack of singleplayer challenges. Combat Tanks was primarily designed as a multiplayer experience and the singleplayer challenges were added late in the development cycle, it is known that there is much that can be improved here. The existing set was created based on play testing experiences, and there are many more completely different ones planned for future versions. ;)

    Thanks again for taking the time to review it. It may hurt to receive such a low score, but at least it shows that everything being done for the next version is on the right track!

    P.S. If anyone who’s played it wishes to contact me with further feedback or suggestions, they are welcome to do so through Twitter to my personal account, @GoAus (http://www.twitter.com/GoAus), or the official AI Studios account, @AIStud (http://www.twitter.com/AIStud).

    • Richard Moran

      Hi guys,

      Some reviewers on other sites like to trash things just to be spiteful, but I really get no pleasure from writing a negative review. I always want to love every game I play, however it’s my job here to be honest with what I saw. I’m very excited to hear that some of the things I noticed are things you’ve already picked up on and are looking to change/improve. I’ve kept the game on my iPad so I’m looking forward to playing it again with the changes in place once they’re released. I’ve got high hopes for what it could become!

      Richard

  2. jsnyder

    Just to comment on the “Tanks needing to stop to fire was incorporated in order to add an element of realism (bracing to fire from the recoil)” statement. Modern tanks are not required to stop before firing. Most, if not all, are capable of firing while on the move.

    • AI Studios

      I thought this argument might come up. ;)

      Well, to be fair, the correct word would be verisimilitude (the appearance of being true or real), rather than realism. It’s kind of the same reason that silencers in movies have that pathetic “poot” sound, because the general movie going audience has been conditioned to think that it’s real. Why this one element and not others (e.g. rotating turrets)? Because, in play testing, it made the experience feel more real, it made gameplay more tactical, and it did it without incorporating a a level of complexity that made it too difficult to control on a touch screen tablet. (As mentioned, the play testers enjoyed it, but since being released, some people don’t, so this will be resolved.)

      The actual model of tank has never been specified, though it was never intended to be modern. I believe the model it was kind of based on was a relatively early one.

      Finally, the game was demonstrated to a retired army veteran, looking for any comments, criticism, or necessary changes. He was actually very impressed with the requirement for the tank to stop, commenting on how it made the game (which uses colour coded tanks) feel more real.


Leave a Reply