Atari 2600 Combat on steroids!!
Once in a great while, you come across a game that it is not only revolutionary, but moves you to think - leaving you with a taste in your mouth for more. Every so often, a game breaks the mold of expectation and makes you proud to be an American in a land where you know that you are free. Hallelujah.
Most of the time, though, you have to contend with games like Spearhead. Games like Spearhead make you wonder why they made a game like, well, ... Spearhead.
Spearhead is a tank action simulation that puts you in the seat of a M1A2 Abrams Battle Tank. You command the 3rd Armored Tank Division in the Tunisia desert and are part of Operation Removal, the U.S. response to the recent Libyan invasion. Now although this may sound like an exciting premise to a game, let me assure you that it is not...an exciting game that is. If you took all the excitement of the original Atari 2600 classic Combat and combined it with today's 3D accelerated technology, then you have Spearhead.
To illustrate my point, do you remember those old submarine simulations like GATO? In those games, you were in command of the most lethal and feared weapon of the seas. Sound familiar? You were drawn into buying the game based upon some fancy still shots of the sub (which were not part of game play), and the promise of excitement and tension. Then the moment of truth, game play itself, and you find yourself staring blank faced into the same monotonous picture of your periscope, blue seas ahead of you for 5 minutes at a time before even the hint of anything exciting.
This is what Spearhead is like for the most part. You find yourself staring for 3-5 minutes at a time at open desert as your M1A2 Abrams Tank lumbers forward making the same humming noise. At least this time around you can toggle between various perspectives of your tank, ala Mechwarrior or Heavy Gear. This provides some very momentary relief from the ensuing boredom, which is sure to follow. The opening FMVs and menu seem a lot more exciting than the game play itself.
You can choose to play either 20 individual mission scenarios or engage in a full campaign. On some of the missions I found myself so bored that I turned my attention to my own friendly tanks to my left and right flank and simply began firing upon them. This was funny for a short while, listening to them yell out "We're Friendlies!! " before their radio chatter abruptly ended replaced by static and fire noises. But alas, this too got old.
The graphics are mediocre, even with 3d acceleration. I played this game on a P233-MMX with two Voodoo2 cards yet the frame rates seemed slow and were at best choppy. The explosions and smoke appear flat whenever you blow something up. There are also some serious flaws with the environment. For instance, there are no splashes when you drive your tank off into the water, nor does your tank partially submerge. In fact, your tank rolls around on top of the water. Hey! Wasn't that the Blessed Virgin Mary over there?! Come on - if you're going to make even a remote attempt at a simulation, then shouldn't you get the simple physics dynamics down?
The controls are similar to Mechwarrior and Heavy Gear. There is a drive command to go forward and you use the number keys to control your speed. The arrow keys are used to control your turret and cannon position simultaneously. Very simple, but they do not respond that well at all.
The back of the box says Spearhead was developed by MAK Technologies - the same geniuses responsible for creating training simulations for the U.S. military. As it turns out, rolling around in a big lumbering armored vehicle with enough firepower to decimate half a city block is just not that exciting. Especially when that big armored behemoth makes the same ho-hum, grate-on-your-nerves, vibrating sound as you trek along a bland looking desert in search of enemy tanks to destroy. My advice - go spend your money on your significant other and get some real action.