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Tank Universal: His Tronish Majesty's Landships

The thing with Tron, which you try to forget, is that it was just a bit rubbish.

Adam Britton dropped us a line, expressing surprise that we hadn’t written anything about Tank Universal. After playing the demo, I can only agree. Those RPS guys are a bunch of slackers. Shun them! Anyway, with the disappointing news about Introversion being fucked around by a magazine, yet still honouring the deal which prevents me telling you about Multiwinia, I was clearly vulnerable for anything touched with the pixel-halo of Tron. And as a Battlezone-derived Tank-war, Tank Universal is clearly one of that eighties kiddie-fi epic’s children. Impressions follow!

You’re a driver/gunner/commander/whatEVAH of – yes – a Tank. It’s a little more complicated than a straight shooter, with two teams trying to steal the opposition’s key from deep inside the fortress. Collectors gather some manner of energy crystal from the battlefield, and transport it back to their bases to… well, I’m not sure to do what, but I figure it was probably helping. The main thrust is trying to disable the opposing turrets and a variety of enemy vehicles in a true Battlezone-esque trajectory combat. In fact, getting too close is generally a bad idea, due to the area-effect of your weapons, especially if you power up the shot beforehand.

There’s a smattering of role-playing elements – your successes lead to upgrade points, which you can use to purchase differnet levels of abilities for your tank. For example, there’s basic things like speed-boost and repair to start with, but even the next two are more esotreically amusing mines and mini-gun turrets. God knows what the other six get up to. There’s a plot in the full game, and the final section demonstrates a little first-person adventure where presumably the narrative continues. In addition to two missions proper, there’s also a challenge mode where you have twenty minutes to kill as many of the opposition as you can – the best way to get your hands on some of the niftier toys in the armoury, as well as have a nice gape at the battleship floating above the battlefield, bombarding you.

It so was.

While highly enjoying both its odd sense of scale and intensity, and the retro-aesthetic, my main reservation about the demo is actually just a small mis-step in the opening level. There’s a support creature called the lifter, which you have to summon to get back onto the battlefield – despite the fact there’s only a tiny wall between you and the world which you’d be better to zoom past. The fact the lifter isn’t involved in the second mission makes it clear that it’s a case of the developer trying to introduce all the major tools in the game in the first level. In practice, it just means an unnecessary annoyance in your initial few deaths – and, of course, since it’s the first level proper, you’re clearly going to have a few.

But if you can grit your teeth though that – I find a little eye-rolling helps excellently – it’s highly enjoyable, especially when you reach that second level. I’d recommend people give it a shot. You can tank me later.

C’mon. Almost a whole piece with no tank puns. That’s good. For me. Yes.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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