I visited my local distributor again and they had a few new games in stock. One of those games included something that I saw on the reports for London Preview 08 and that was i-GO’s Panzer Elite. After sitting down (with my son who was with me) and buckling in (the game will not play unless you buckle up) I gave it a try.
First off the cabinet is interesting and unconventional for an arcade as you do not see any screen at first. After you sit down and throw in your coins then a widescreen LCD panel slides down in front of you, creating an environment where you’re completely surrounded in a simulator experience. It’s kind of cool actually but I can see where some people may not try it out without seeing someone play it first. I was told that they are working on a setup where you can hook up an external monitor to the game for both an attract mode and spectator mode. The seat itself is quite comfortable and there are two controllers at the players fingertips – a flight-style joystick on the right and a metallic shift stick on the left. The Panzer game doesn’t use all of the buttons on the joystick so it may look a little more complicated than it really is. On top of all that the entire game uses a motion-base to recreate a simulator experience that you cannot get at home.
So how does the game play? Hit the post break to read the rest!
There are actually two games available in the cabinet – the Panzer Elite game and a racing title. I did not try out the racing title as I just don’t enjoy arcade racers without a real steering wheel. But if I get another chance to play this game I will give it a shot just to experience it.
Either way the Panzer Elite game puts the player inside of a classic WW2 era tank and inside of WW2 tank battles (a little bit like the tank scenarios on Call of Duty). You can choose from three different battles in Europe and play as either an American, British, German or Russian tank commander (the brochure doesn’t mention the British commander for some reason, even though I played as one in the game). When you select the mission you then can choose between two tanks that have different statistics and then the level begins to load. It takes a few moments for the game to load but while it is doing this it gives you a quick tutorial which is appreciated and simple to understand. If you have to stop the game for some reason, there is a red button on top of the coin box (that is protected by a plastic cover so you don’t press it accidentally).
Once the game begins it throws you right into the action. You have a radar in the upper right corner of the screen so you can locate things such as enemy units or ammo dumps as well as the location of friendly units. You are not alone in these battles which is helpful although you have to be careful to not shoot or smash into friendly tanks. The game is broken up into objectives, most involve destroying tanks that appear on the horizon or destroying an enemy bunker. The game is impressive in the amount of objects that appear on the screen without slowdown – this includes a large number of tanks, troops on the ground and objects such as turrets, sandbags, buildings and more. This gives you plenty of targets to blast away and it is fun, although it could have been better.
One complaint I have about the game itself is the lack of accuracy you get out of your cannon. While there is a target reticule on the screen, you’ll point at an enemy tank and fire then watch your shell go over to the side a little. Perhaps they were trying to be accurate you the accuracy of the real thing but it is a pain at times. It doesn’t make the game unplayable by any means as each shell has explosive damage but it would play better if your shots would always be dead on to where you’re aiming. At least when you decide to call in an air strike it’s accurate and pretty neat too as you fire off a canister that spews out red smoke and the bombers come in to take care of the enemies nearby.
Along with the control comes the motion that the cabinet provides. This makes the game quite unique for an arcade as while this same game has been available on different consoles, you simply can’t get this same experience at home. The motion feels pretty accurate and the cabinet is able to tilt from side to side as well as pitch back and forth. It’s not enough to really throw you out but I suppose the presence of a seat belt was to cover their bases for whatever could happen. I have to admit however that the motion didn’t feel great for my head but that is my own personal problem with some dizziness issues I’ve had since August and shouldn’t affect anyone without such problems.
Graphically Panzer Elite won’t blow anyone away and it looks similar to a 3D you may have seen on a PC a couple of years ago. The worst edge of the graphics belongs with the textures lacking a high resolution, jagged edges, and a low-end poly count on many of the 3D models – while the best part lies with the amount of objects thrown on the screen and some special effects such as smoke particles.
The audio is really good – with plenty of boom to your shots and thanks to the (mostly) enclosed cabinet you sit in, the design drowns out anything from the outside of the game so voices are clear.
The price on this game isn’t bad for a simulator – between $12k-$13k and it can also play several other games which increases its overall value. The Panzer game itself is fun although it felt a little easy but only because it gave me more than one life (I am not sure if that is something an operator can adjust in the options or not). I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more tank-based games assualt games actually as they are a perfect fit for the arcade scene.