Tank Racer - Retro Reflections - TBT

Tank Racer by developers Glass Ghost, Simis and publishers Grolier Interactive, R & P Electronic Media—PC Throwback Thursday retro reflection written by Hamza. 1999.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

They say great surprises come unexpectedly and often in small packages. How true this axiom proved to be with Tank Racer for Windows.

Developed by Simis and published by Grolier Interactive (known for their interactive encyclopaedias which I’ve personally used two), Tank Racer is a hidden gem, bursting with wonderful and satisfying surprises. Not since BattleTanx and the tank from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have I enjoyed controlling a tank so much. Just like in BattleTanx, the environment in Tank Racer is pretty much destructible. That means the Cadillac that’s parked in front of the Church can be flattened and converted into a makeshift path, so that the next time you pass that area you get more elbow room and thus, a better chance of gaining the lead. Fences can be broken through, camp sites can be crushed under the rollers, road signs can be uprooted; this is the most enjoyable form of destruction you can take part in without being scolded by your parents.

Tank Racer is a fully 3D vehicular combat racer with a bright and colourful presentation. For a game released in 1999, it still holds up pretty well to this day. The primary premise of the game is basic enough: be first and destroy some enemy tanks along the way. Ranging from offensive to defensive to upgrades, the weapons and power-ups you get are pretty standard fare, though they’re indeed enjoyable to use. What adds more spice to the combat is the turrets are capable of turning a full 360 degrees. This means if you happened to pick-up a homing missile but overtook your opponent, instead of slowing down and letting him pass you, you can turn the turret in his general direction and blast him off to oblivion.

Going back to the graphics, they are well done and very easy to the eye. The attention to military-themed details is also commendable. Several fighter jets fly above you at whizz speeds; army trucks wait around the corner just waiting to be flattened; and oddly enough, livestock are included too – though for what reason I do not know. You can mow down the livestock (no gore I can assure you of that) and all they do is give out their respective sounds.

In conclusion, Tank Racer is probably the first (thus far) racing game I’ve played which literally invites you to carve your own path by going through fences, caves, roadblocks et al. Genuine shortcuts are indeed present, but the point Tank Racer is trying to emphasise is you can create your own, at totally no expense. You won’t end up the wrong way, and you may not get the lead, but you might acquire a weapon that will increase your chances of moving up one or two spots in the rank. With a little less than an hour of full gameplay, I thoroughly enjoyed Tank Racer and left almost nothing to be desired. A wonderful surprise in a small packaging indeed!

Score: 9 / 10

Note: Screenshots from all platforms that were available at the time can be found here at Moby Games.



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