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.
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?”.
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.
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.
- Local multiplayer
- Fun music
- Shooting system
- Too basic
- Preferences keep getting lost
- No lasting appeal