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Game Review: Tread Marks

Game Review: Tread Marks

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Several years ago, I picked up a five-dollar game on sheer speculation. Now, I'm fairly certain that I picked it up in someplace like ACMoore in some bizarre bargain-bin deal, because I remember the rest of the bin being full of various clip-art and crafty things. It cost me all of five dollars and twenty-five cents, and it has provided me with far more than my money's worth.

The game is called Tread Marks, and it was first released in 2000 by Longbow Digital Arts. Longbow was an upstart game company that had as it's lead programmer (read: only programmer) a gentleman by the name of Seumas McNally. I find this game to be absolutely brilliant, which is why learning that Seumas had died back in 2003 makes me very sad.

The game itself is very basic, involving only a few different concepts. Tanks, Racing, Weapons, Deformable Terrain, and Multiplayer are the draws of this game, and that is basically it. Tread Marks does have a story to explain why you are just driving around shooting at other tanks, but if you are the kind of person who is looking for some sort of compelling reason to play this game other than the sheer mayhem, this game is not for you.

There are three different gameplay modes, but they all have two things in common: going really really fast and trying to explode your opponents. Now, while I admit that the words 'fast' and 'tanks' don't often go hand in hand, I forgive this game for taking such incredible liberties with technology. After all, it's a thrill to figure out just when you need to fire when you are circle-strafing so fast that your projectile's path looks like it curves sideways. It's even more liberating when you score a direct hit with a tactical nuclear missile.

Speaking of which, this game has an interesting weapons choice. You start with simply a 120mm cannon and eight shots, but on the field you can find weapons that range from flamethrowers to the aforementioned Nuke. The terrain itself is completely deformable, which means that when you use the Nuke, you get a giant crater that is about four or five Tank lengths in diameter and about the same in depth. Conversely, there is a Matter Missile, which is basically the Nuke in reverse; instead of creating a crater, it deposits a massive hill on the field where it hits.

It does take some time to get used to all of the weapons, and you are further hindered in this effort by being unable to aim along the z-axis. Instead, if you want to change your firing angle you have to find a bit of ruined terrain and drive your tank into it. As well, you are only able to pick up and use one weapon at a time; if you pick up the Nuke, you have to use it before you are able to use your cannon again. While I can understand why this would make some people dismiss the game as rubbish, I feel that it just adds an entire new level of strategy to the whole thing.

The music is not very special, in my opinion, but thankfully it can be replaced by your own mp3 files if you know where to put them. My playlist on the old laptop consisted of mainly Jonathan Coulton songs and other easy listening, because it helped me not stress about the fact that there are nine other tanks rushing around at insane speeds trying to destroy me. I guess I'm funny like that.

As it stands, it's not the kind of game that I can sink more than about twenty minutes into at a stretch. That suits me just fine though, since that's all I really want in a game nowadays. Unless it's a combat flight simulator, that is. Those never get old. The maps themselves do have some variety, but at the end of each round they all look fairly similar, The only maps that change things up any are the ones that mess with gravity and traction (The Moon and Ice World (I am becoming incredibly good at Ice World battles)).

Overall it's a thoroughly enjoyable game for the price I paid for it, but I think that I would have felt slightly ripped off if I had paid anything more than about fifteen dollars for it. Luckily, you can pick it up pretty cheap off of Amazon. So, if you like the concept of simplified tankfighting at breakneck speeds in a completely destructible environments, consider picking it up.

That's all for tonight, especially considering as I need to be at my Sister's baptism in about five hours. Stay safe out there, everybody.
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