Game Review - by James Allen
Apparently, there is a big et for technically advanced and painfully accurate military simulations computer games. This can be seen from the sheer number of sims out there which span most of the wars from each possible perspective (army, naval, air, etc.). So, the next entrant into the line is Panzer Elite: Special Edition, a World War II tank simulation, which is actually an update to a game published in the simple days of 1999. This special edition adds more vehicles and MOD capabilities among other things. Will Panzer Elite: Special Edition rumble over the competition, or turn into a burning pile of molten steel?
Panzer Elite: Special Edition features a multitude of tanking experiences. If you are the impatient type, you can engage in instant action, where the two sides start out a short distance apart, and the carnage begins. There are eighty different scenarios, which span the entire timeline of the war, from battles in North Africa, Italy, and Normandy. These scenarios can be played from either the American or German side. If you want a line of linked scenarios, choose a campaign, which can be short, medium, or long in length. There is even multiplayer scenarios to partake in.
No tank simulation would be complete without tanks and other assorted vehicles in which to engage in battle with. There are around 100 different vehicles that you can command and destroy, which is a rather impressive number, especially considering that the game just covers land battles. This is one of the most reable features of Panzer Elite: Special Edition, although most of the tanks behave in very similar manners, and the interior views are exactly the same (the outside views are different, however). On top of these, we have a comprehensive scenario and landscape editor, where you can make your own battles. With enough game modes to satisfy each kind of player, and a sufficient amount of tanks available for your driving/annihilating pleasure, the features in Panzer Elite: Special Edition are above the norm.
The sound in Panzer Elite is easily the worst I have seen in any game in a very, very long time. Even though there is a multitude of sound files actually used in the game (close to 2,000), and every text message is usually accompanied by the verbal representation of it, there is a definite difference between quality and quantity. Firstly, the sounds become very repetitive over time. There are no environmental sounds to speak of (birds, planes, etc) which can break up the monotony, so the game feels like it's just you and the enemy forces on some isolated planet which resembles Earth. The concrete block which breaks the camel's back is the horrid voice messages. The American voices are very poorly acted, absolutely annoying, and the sound as if they were recorded in an echo chamber, rather than a sound studio. The Americanized German voices also sound stunningly appalling; you can't tell what they are saying most of the time, and they are delivered in one of the most stereotypical German accents I've heard in a while. Since all of the messages are printed on the screen, why not enable the German voices (they are present in the game) for the American version? The world may never know. Worst of all, all of the sounds are sudden, loud, and startling. You will attempt the speaker shot put soon after you play Panzer Elite: Special Edition; the sound is just that annoying.
The gameplay in Panzer Elite: Special Edition revolves around moving tanks and shooting at things (no big surprise there). The most innovative feature found in the gameplay is the use of the Mousetank. This shows up in the upper-left corner of the screen (check out the screenshots), and most of the commands that you'd want to issue are available from here with a click or two. This works most of the time, as you can steer, accelerate, and issue orders with relative ease. However, you'll still have to use the keyboard commands to do most of the action. Each of the tanks has five different positions that you can move around to: commander, loader, driver, gunner, and radio operator. One thing that I don't understand is that you can move to a position where that crewman is dead, and move his equipment around. For instance, I was unaware that my gunner was dead, so I assumed his seat to aim at an enemy tank. I turned the turret and everything, but once I fired, the game told me that the gunner was dead. How could the gunner turn the turret if he was dead? I'd sure like to know.
Besides the Mousetank, Panzer Elite: Special Edition prides itself on the use of realism in the game. Each tank gets realistic damage, which results in different systems (like the main gun or the radio) or different people getting hurt. The box claims 30 different systems can get damage, but I think that may be a stretch. The guns have realistic ballistics as well, so that makes the game harder. There is a multitude of realism settings that you can make, including engine overheating, manual shifting, showing spotted units, and enemy experience. Finally, the AI sometimes needs some work. Your platoon will take the shortest distance between two points, even if that distance is through a forest, house, or river, instead of following the road. However, driving seems to be the main defect of the AI, as the gunner AI seems pretty good, as the AI tanks will engage enemy tanks as long as you order them to. All of these features add up to a game that may be technically correct, but it just isn't fun. Is this because of the game or me? I'm not really sure, but it's more of a chore to play the game rather than an adventure. It's an important characteristic to make a game enjoyable, and Panzer Elite: Special Edition just does not seem to deliver here.
As I have stated earlier, Panzer Elite: Special Edition was originally published in 1999, and it seems that absolutely no graphical upgrades were made since that time. The graphics would be passable, but still not great, back then, but they surely don't cut the preverbal mustard now. The graphics fail because of one primary reason, and it's because the graphics are very pixilated. It just looks bad, especially when you compare them to the graphical adventures seen nowadays. The ground connects at severe angles, rather than any curved surfaces like in real life, and running over trees and bushes in an exercise in disappointment. The cloud effects are almost believable, but they are not transparent, rather white blobs. There's nothing that is done well with the graphics in Panzer Elite: Special Edition.
Panzer Elite: Special Edition is a game that is obviously geared toward those hardcore simulation players. This comes about mainly because the horrible sound and graphics will not appeal to the general audience as a whole. The gameplay is OK, it's just not stunningly fun or amusing. By adding a couple of new tanks and other vehicles, I guess JoWood was hoping to cash in on a re-release of Panzer Elite. As it stands, however, Panzer Elite: Special Edition is an unreable tank simulation that should probably be passed by most gamers.