I THINK I'M READY TO JOIN THE ARMY!
Make no mistake, iM1A2 Abrams is definitely realistic. From the various battle situations right down to the sounds that your own vehicle makes, iM1A2 Abrams offers the player all the realism he can handle... and then some that he might not want. To certain groups, this game might very well be the best game ever made, but to the vast majority of those who don't know every detail about land warfare and especially about tanks, iM1A2 becomes just a slow paced tank simulator.
I personally commend Interactive Magic and Arnold Hendrick for all the research that went into this game. You will definitely see the realism even before you play the game when you look at the 192 page player's manual (as a reference, Stephen Hawkins' "A Brief History of Time" is written in only 182. This manual is longer than Time...). After all, this game is based on the actual M1 Abrams tank. You have the option of battling in countries including the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, and the Ukraine. This gives you the opportunity to play on various terrains. You can play the same stage over and over because each time is never the same. As the Tank Commander, you have the ability to command the rest of your team as well as different tanks at a time.
A typical battle situation in iM1A2 Abrams puts you in the middle of the battle field after you've been briefed of your mission. At first you're simply strolling along to your target on driver mode, when suddenly you hear a voice from somebody on your team, telling you to be on your toes. You look around, but you don't see any enemies. Before you know it, you hear fire. You switch to your tactical map and find that there are enemies firing at your team, but you realize that you're facing the wrong way. So you must switch over to Gunner position, choose your weapon, find your foe, and then fire. When you fire and hit the target, you see a dot flying at your opponent followed by an explosion. If you miss, nothing happens. As in real life, you can't fire continuously at the opponent because each shot must be loaded into the gun each time. This can be frustrating since your team is constantly being bombarded by enemy fire. If you don't get your shots out on time, then it won't be long before you hear a big explosion on your tank when you are hit. Since this game is so realistic, it merely takes a few shots to kill you. Then you become nothing more than a black, burning mass on External viewing mode.
That battle situation is but one of many different possible encounters. There are many aspects to this game, but unfortunately I just couldn't get myself to read the entire 192 page manual. For those who are not very patient, iM1A2 Abrams is not the best game to play. It would take almost a lifetime to master all the elements of this game, which is probably why it took almost 7 years for this game to be released following the original M1 Tank Platoon game.
Although iM1A2 Abrams has some exceptional aspects, it can't escape some shortcomings. For one thing, it's a tank game. It just does not have the pace of some other faster vehicles like regular cars, or jets. When you're travelling fast, you're only doing about 40mph! At times, the graphics are sharp and detailed - your gun, for instance. But other parts clearly lack detail. For example, you can choose different weapons, but they all look the same when viewed from your Gunner. As mentioned before, nothing happens when you miss your enemy. This means that you don't even see where your shot landed. Also, aside from the introduction, there isn't any music whatsoever (unlike games like Mech Warrior 2). I'm sure in reality many of the pilots aren't listening to inspiring music while they're driving, but it definitely beats hearing the monotonous humming of the tank, which has the curious ability to put one to sleep.
Overall, the effort by I-Magic is clearly there. This is a very realistic game with ample variety, but it comes short in the excitement department because of the slow pace and complicated controls. It is definitely not a game that you want to watch somebody else play. Nonetheless, if indeed you are a tank fanatic, iM1A2 Abrams is a must buy.