M1 Tank Platoon (Second Review)

Title		M1 Tank Platoon (Second Review)
Game Type	3D Combat Sim
Players		1
Compatibility	All (512K)
Company		MicroProse US, 1989
HD Installable	Yes
Submission      Bill Silvey

M1 Tank platoon is the quintessential land combat simulator available for
the Amiga. Released in 1990, prior to the second Persian Gulf war, it
strives to simulate a "what if" nightmare scenario of a U.S. armoured team
under your command versus varying numbers and types of Warsaw Pact forces
fighting in the rolling hills and plains of Central Germany.

Players start out in command of a single unit (a platoon of four M1 Abrams
Main Battle Tanks). A pair of optional training scenarios are available
to familiarize the player with each tank's various weapon systems and
views, all of which are available (save that of the Loader, a largely
"non-interactive" portion of tank simulation). A player can drive,
command, and control the main gun of each tank. Two auxiliary machineguns
are available for use versus "soft" targets as well. The traning
scenarios consist of a static "Drive to and blow up" shooting range, plus
a combat scenario in which "inert" units rush forward and must be engaged
and destroyed before they reach a certain point on the map. This,
according to the game, is based on two different types of gunnery/command
training exercises.

These two missons serve to familiarize the user with each system; further,
as is gone over in greater depth in actual missions, "support units"
consisting of off-board artillery (in three forms: M109a6 howitzer, MLRS
rocket launcher and M106 self-propelled mortar), air support (AH64A Apache
attack helicopters, OH-58d "Cayuse" observation helicopters, and A10-A
attack jet), and other armoured units (M2/M3 Bradley AFV/Scout units, M113
armoured personnel carriers, Bundeswehr Leopard 2's, National Guard
M60A3's and M933 TOW anti-tank vehicles) are all represented and can be
used. However, while these support vehicles can tip the balance of a tough
mission into the hand of the player, they are not drivable. Simple
commands may be issued to them such as "move to" or "use smoke" or "fire
at will", and a smart commander will use the "view from" option to place a
"camera" of sorts above and behind these units to get a different
perspective on the 3D battlefield not afforded from the deck of a tank!

In the case of air support, these vehicles are fragile and have limited
fuel and ammunition, and thus can stay in the fight but a short time.
Artillery, so as not to be counter-struck and destroyed, must "shoot and
scoot"; that is, fire a barrage designated by the player and then move
before it can fire again. This can take time, so if artillery assets are
limited (e.g., only one MLRS battery), careful plotting of artillery must
be made.

Actual gameplay consists of two major areas: A tactical map, where the
position of enemy  and allied vehicles and their disposition is displayed,
and each of the above-noted positions within the tank itself. A cautious
player will have to learn what balance of in-cockpit and in-map views to
use; too much of either can lead to defeat.

Each "world map" is randomly generated and can produce some often annoying
weaknesses in gameplay such as giving the computer a totally unassailable
position for it to defend, however, most of the time the placement of
hills, streams, buildings, woods etc. is very logical. Careful routes
must be plotted for armoured thrusts: bog your units down in muddy fields
and they will slow and become sitting ducks! Roads and behind woods are
excellent places to stage quick advances of Warsaw Pact units. Also,
night, day and adverse weather are represented, with night and adverse
weather being to the advantage of the player as it affords use of better
night-fighting capabilities.

The AI in the game is serviceable; however, one quickly realizes that
certain units always deploy in the same manner (e.g., two forward and one
to the rear) and thus can easily be destroyed by a precision artillery
barrage with no danger to your tank platoon. On the attack, the enemy can
be anything from nigh on incompetent to skilfully ferocious depending on
the difficulty level chosen; I've seen entire Motor Rifle Battalions
destroyed by a well-placed anti-tank vehicle platoon at the Easy level,
while a single company can leave your tank platoon and air support smoking
wrecks on the higher difficulty levels.

Like the U.S. forces, the computer-controlled Warsaw Pact units have
artillery and air support as well, both of which can pose a danger if not
dealt with. Fortunately, the computer seems content to throw armour and
infantry at you, rarely bothering with other types.

Overall, M1 Tank Platoon is a thoroughly enjoyable sim with spartan
graphics but the typical Micro Prose ultra-fine detail. Not for the
novice, it does however bring a smile to this grognard's face; recommended
listening music is "Anvil of Crom" from the Conan The Barbarian soundtrack
whilst ambushing a Soviet armoured column.

The game plays acceptably fast on a 7mhz/68000 with all details on (faster
with them off), and faster processors and more RAM do work. No AGA
compatibility problems. Copy protection is picture identification from
within the well-written and (as is typical for MicroProse) voluminous

Graphics: 6
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 7.5
Replayability : 8

Overall: 8.75

Further Details
Display: 320x200/ECS or better.
Control: Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick
Copy protection: vehicle identity "keycode" type.
Author: Andy Hollis

Editor's note
Some time after writing this review, Bill posted an imaginative
description of an M1 Tank Platoon encounter on comp.sys.amiga.games.
I felt it was too good to let slip, and with Bill's permission it is
included below:

I think one of my fondest memories of the game was getting two detachments
of M901-ITVs to cover my flank during a spoiling attack.  It seems that
Ivan had his own plans that night, and none of them factored in my
superior NV equipment.

There I was! Up to my neck in MOPP-IV gear and ready for the Red Hordes
in CentAg! I gave the ITV detachments orders to march north at top speed
to support from Hill 413 as a stationary base of fire, using
bounding-overwatch to supply a defense-in-depth of ATGM support to the
flank of my axis of attack. I figured if Tovarish Ivan got cute and tried
to pop up forward observation units to hit me with artillery, he'd have a
rude awakening in store when the TOW-IIb missiles rained down on him.

Unknown to me, Ivan had jumped off, with Aachen on his mind and blood in
his eye! As I was bringing the '66 track into position, the 'net came
alive with shouts of "TARGET - T80 - GUNNER - ENGAGE RIGHT."

Steeling myself for the impact of artillery and communist ATGMs, I yelled
for quiet on all bands - but none of my boys were engaging anything. A
flash as bright as the sun reflecting off of Lenin's bald pate and
emanating from the northeast caught my eye. Knowing I couldn't see jack
from within the '66 track's cupola, I threw open the hatch and grabbed my
NV binocs - the Reds shouldn't be there, on that vector!

A picture of grim joy greeted my eyes. Four burning T80's and a brace of
destroyed FO/FIST BDRMs lit the German countryside with an eerie
corpse-light as they consumed their own fuel and ammunition - and men.
The Soviet disaster wasn't over yet, as I caught the distinctive
"flash-whoosh!" of another pair of TOWs.

The ITVs were hungry that night, and were feeding well.

Back in the commander's seat, I called for sighting from my team.  Mackall
was the first to spot the rest of the Motor Rifle battallion - later, S2
told us it had been the 2502nd 'Lenin's Sword' team of Army Group Center.

Losing an entire command platoon had thrown the communist offensive into
total disarray. Woefully outmatched, BMP2's had sighted us on their front
flank and begun to retreat across a muddy farmer's field. The fallow
ranks of muddy hillocks spelled doom for the tracks and their cargo of
infantry. Those who managed to deploy before their "rolling coffins" were
burst asunder by APFSDS rounds were shredded by 120mm HEAT rounds.  A few
Spandrel ATGMs and AT8 "Kobra" rounds were hurled at our ranks, but none
found their marks. Fire-on-the-move wasn't in the Soviet combat lexicon,
and if it was, Ivan hadn't studied his crib notes before entering my
"fire sack".

It wasn't bloodless, though.

Two funeral pyres lit the night to my northwest.  The ITVs had cost the
reds a few million rubels in main battle tanks that night, but had paid in
blood. I muttered a silent prayer for the dead and dying - on both sides.
The two remaining ITVs (track 11 and 22, the "wingmen" from each of the
two sections; both command tracks had been destroyed) popped smoke and
moved to defilade to reload and take stock of their losses. I noted the
22 track stopped near the burning wreck of '44, and hoped they were
loading wounded.

All this had transpired in mere minutes.

A single turretless T80 backed crazily across the field, flanked by an
unscathed BDRM.  An infantry squad hunkered near their burning BMP2,
firing RPG-14's as they began to move - slowly - back towards their jump
off point. Two Sabot rounds and a single HEAT round ended the discussion,
and a frightening but uneventful reconnaisance into the ruin of the Soviet
armored column confirmed that their losses had been total.

I moved Team Slammer to the objective in bounding overwatch, and refused
the ITVs into a single unit, ordering them to move to our flank through
the original route plotted out on the IVIS, through the woods to the
northwest. I also plotted the location of the dead ITVs (sadly, all were
total losses, including crews) on my paper maps as well as uploading the
data to the IVIS.

It wasn't the last battle of the war for the Slammers, but it was for
Lenin's Sword.  The ITV unit hadn't been organic to us - since W+5, the
entire CENTCOM area had been running short of everything but casualties.
However, by blunting the point of the Sword, we'd bought the entire
division time to regroup. S2 gave us some much-required time off, and
when we came back from our glorious 18 hours of R&R in the sunny rear area
depot, 3km back, we were ordered on the offensive - we were taking the war
to Ivan, once and for all...

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