Death Tank is a shooter/strategy game – a little more shooter with a lot less strategy – whose general feel should be instantly familiar to those with experience with offerings in the genre like Worms and Scorched Earth. Unlike those two titles, however, the action is a bit more dynamic and unpredictable as the shooting occurs in real-time as opposed to being turn-based. The controls are actually pretty straight-forward and intuitive. Your tank has an arrow extending from it that’s controlled by an analog stick, the length of which determines the power of your shot and the angle of which determines the shot’s trajectory. The arrow turns from red to green to tell you when your weapon has recharged, with a dot traversing it from top to bottom to give an idea of how much time is left until that occurs. Basic horizontal movement is controlled by the trigger buttons.
The general presentation of Death Tank does well to resemble that of many full-priced retail titles. A huge floating skull with flames exuding from its eyes is the first thing you’ll see once booting the game up and it immediately got me excited to see what was behind this little arcade title. Rock music isn’t exactly my thing, but even the initial heavy metal opening theme did an equally adequate job of getting me pumped. The menus are slick and offer a number of options that many Arcade titles might choose to skip over – Tutorials, combat against the CPU, ranked and unranked online multiplayer, and a practice mode are amongst the choices that this game has to offer. In addition, Snowblind Studios managed to pack in a full online leaderboard and a ranking system similar to FPSs like Call of Duty in which you can level up. Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any real benefits to ranking up other than the right to flaunt your title in the face of your Death Tank buddies.
While the modes against the CPU are ok, they get old extremely fast – probably within the first hour of play. In Death Tank, playing against real folks is definitely where the fun is at. Up to four players can play locally and up to eight can play online. Matches usually consist of 20 rounds as each round can go by fairly quickly. Since this is not turn-based, the frenetic nature of matches tends to be a bit of a double edged sword; the pace makes for some incredibly off the wall and sometimes hilarious moments, but it also creates all too many moments where rounds are won by an unintentionally placed shot or some other stroke of pure luck.
In between each round players can purchase additional weapons and powerups to use in subsequent rounds with cash earned from the killing they did in the previous round. The types of powerups offered are definitely cool and devastating – nukes, jump jets, a target computer to aid with aiming, and my personal favorite, the destructive Death’s Hand are amongst the choices – but this likely won’t stop gamers from getting bored with the selection pretty quickly. After playing a game like Worms with its large variety of unique and innovative weapons, having only 12 to choose from in Death Tank is rather disappointing.
Snowblind Studios also did a great job of providing Death Tank with some simple yet eye-catching visuals. The backgrounds in particular are sharp and impressive with an attractive palate of colors in the sky and water effects. Explosions are good looking as well, with shots discharging into several sparks and particles (in some ways reminiscent of Killzone 2), tanks exploding into flames upon their destruction and nukes leaving huge dust clouds in their wake. The tanks themselves merely look decent and could use a bit more detail on the battlefield. Sounds, other than the previously mentioned intro, are just respectable and don’t do anything in particular to detract from the title.
So while Death Tank is may not be the best entry in this particular genre, it’s certainly a respectable one. There’s a lot of fun to be had here against human players but the lack of single player variety is a real weak point – particularly during those inevitable moments when very few or no online games are available. At 1200 MS points, its price point as an Xbox Live Arcade title is a big issue as well. Considering that Worms can be had for a third of this price, cost-conscious gamers may want to opt for that. If money is no object, give this title a try and you should be in for some reasonably fun and destructive action.