Windows - 1999
Description of Tank Racer
Oh joy, another arcade racer! That may or may not be a sarcastic statement... I happen to be very fond of arcade racers. I bought my first 3dfx card to improve my MotoRacer game, which I played to death. I also bought Motorhead the nano-second it appeared on the shelves (and it happens to be the best arcade car racer in existence, IMHO). However, the market has become somewhat saturated lately, particularly by games with a console-ish feel to them. Your average punter may be wondering which one to exchange their hard-earned groats for... So, with that in mind, here's the low-down on Tank Racer
PUTT PUTT PUTT
No prizes for guessing what the guts of this game involve. Yes that's right Timmy, it's about racing tanks. Installation is quick and simple, and within a few minutes you can get behind the wheel (or whatever it is tanks have). The controls are fairly simple, although you'd be hard pressed to make much use of the turret controls with just a keyboard. This isn't really a problem, though. You'll find yourself too occupied with driving the tank to spare too much digital-dexterity for fancy turret-waving displays. The tanks are well rendered (they've got a chubby "toy tank" look, the "screaming death machine" look is obviously outthis season) with nice shiny bits, and reasonable detail. There are a lot of 2D sprites in the game however, which is surprising considering the hardware requirements. Most non-building type objects are squashable--and for a tank game, they damn well better be--but some of them are somewhat lacking in detail. On the other hand, once something's been run over by a tank, you don't need a lot of detail. This isn't too worrying, as the rest of the scenery is fairly well executed, but not eye-popping. The colours are bright, and almost cartoonish, which fits in well with the game's atmosphere. The wildlife leaves a lot to be desired, though. Cows, ducks and other assorted squashables are scattered over the landscape. They look sprite-based and have a somewhat 2D appearance--an appearance which is perfected when you run them over. Instead of exploding into doggie-snax or Pink Mist, they just fall down like cardboard cut-outs. Bleh. I don't know of this was a deliberate anti-gore decision, but it's so out of place, it's almost jarring.
The game's physics are also a bit odd. The tanks don't have a lot of grip, and their turning radius is quite large (even the tank with the best handling suffered from this). These two factors made racing them somewhat frustrating. I'll accept low traction, so long as I can shove my chosen vehicle into a sideways drift around the track when I need to, but the large turning radius prevents this from happening. In the end you just have to allow yourself a large margin of error for course corrections, and let the scenery shunt you in the right direction. The racing doesn't feel particularly fast either, but very few games get that right, and you wouldn't expect it in a tank game... so what doyou expect?
Of course, the real question in any tank game is "what about the firepower?". Well, this is a racing game, first and foremost. None of the vehicles can be destroyed (or even damaged). This was a good move, IMHO. The Carmageddon games do allow the total destruction of the participant's vehicle, and that shifted the gameplay almost entirely away from actually racing. The shells just give the target a slight knock (or a big one if you've got the right power-up), but because the tracks are relatively short and winding, even a slight shove can lose you a place or two. This gives the game a degree of tension which would otherwise be lacking in such a slow feeling racer. The turret's elevation (and therefore your shell's range) is determined automatically, and the bearing is also fairly generously automated. You only have to be pointing roughly at your target to hit it, with a margin of error of roughly +/- 10 degrees. his means you can actually compete fairly well against the computer's internal trig tables. Aside from a Big Bomb, other power-ups include a homing missile, mines and (of course) a turbo boost. There's also a UFO beacon, which causes the target to be picked up and dropped a depressingly large distance back down the track. It's basically game over if you get nailed by one of these. Other than that, playing Tank Racer is a relatively un-frustrating experience... something which I value very highly in a racing game. The AI isn't too demanding, and the courses are relatively easy to learn.
The sounds in Tank Racer are also a mixed bag. The engine noises are reasonably good, but if I'm driving a tank, I also want a nice satisfying explosions when I pop off a shell, and when they hit something... and Tank Racer doesn't really deliver them. For me, this detracted greatly from the game's atmosphere. The game sounds are in straight .WAV format, though, so replacing them with something better is an option, but not really an acceptable one. The soundtrack, though, is well executed. There are close to a dozen original compositions, and despite their Euro-techno sound they're a cut above the usual boom-chaka soundtrack arcade racers usually end up with.
Like a lot of games that try to merge two genres, Tank Racer suffers from a little schizophrenia. It's not exactly a top-notch racer, and the tank aspect isn't as well implemented as it could have been. All of which is something of a shame, because for all its shortfalls in the design area, Tank Racer is actually a well-implemented game. I encountered precisely zero bugs, the engine is slick despite its dated look and the interface is easy to navigate. Once you get used to the way the game works, it's a fairly solid racer... but it's missing too much originality and punch to elevate it to the heights of greatness. Having said that, I personally like my racers fast and brutal, but if you're looking for something a bit more fun than it is furious, Tank Racer might just be your cup of tea.
Review By GamesDomain
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