After being unsurprisingly disappointed by Interactive Magic's Panzer '44 a couple of months back, I had high hopes for this title after playing the demo. Initially things looked very rosy indeed. Aside from everything else, the graphics are pretty stunning to say the least. Smoking barrels, tank tracks and recoil all make the game feel realistic, although the way in which buildings and tanks meet their end is woefully weedy. Thankfully it's all backed up by some meaty sounds - although the British tank crew have some decidedly dodgy accents.
You will have guessed, then, that Panzer Commander is a WWII tank sim, faithfully recreating over 40 tanks from the era including my personal favourite, the British Matilda. You can play a number of one-off missions for either the Germans, Russians, Americans or British, though if you want to engage in one of the two campaigns you have to side with either the Hun or the Ruskies.
So far it all looks very promising. But soon after you've completed a couple of missions, it all goes pear-shaped. Even though the single missions are varied and the linked campaign's are laudably based on historical events, there are a number of gaping flaws in Ihe gameplay.
First and foremost is the ineffectual way in which you direct the tanks under your command. Because all the waypoints are preordained, and because there is no way to switch between them, you have to lead your tanks to where you want them to go. In effect this means that you usually end up just roaming around en masse, negating any tactical element to the game. If it wasn't for the missions being time-limited you could successfully work around this. As it stands though, Panzer Commander is closer to being a complicated action game rather than the tactical simulation it pretends to be.
Another area where the game loses ground is in the exclusion of any infantry units. There are gun emplacements holding up your advance, but the game feels decidedly empty without any soldiers running around. Also, the AI and route-finding for your units is certainly below par - even if you forgive their initial inexperience. The map screen is also far too small - another hindrance to the tactical side of the game.
M1 Tank Platoon 2 is still the best tank sim, though for WWII buffs we'd have to grudgingly recommend this one. In a purely strategic light iPanzens a lot better, though it has numerous other faults against it. It's a real shame Panzer Commander wasn't given more polish before it was wheeled out. As it stands it looks a peach. It's just a bit too quiet on the intelligence front.
Download Panzer Commander
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2019-01-04 Panzer Commander game added.