M1 Tank Platoon logo

Publisher: Microprose Price: £29.99

Microprose has long been one of the best in the simulation business, with a record that speaks for itself. However, although titles such as Gunship, F-15 Strike Eagle and F-19 Stealth Fighter have established the company as a leader in airborne battle sims, it has never threatened to shine in any other area. M1 Tank Platoon should more than redress the imbalance.

M1 is a massive game in the best traditions of the genre, with more depth and detail than you could shake a Sherman at. Simulation is all about realism, and realism can only be conveyed by attention to relevant details and an eye for the essentials of what is to be simulated. It is in this area that M1 sets out its stall.

Unlike Team Yankee, which goes for instant playablility, M1 demands a great deal of reading before you actually play, especially when things begin to expand beyond the basics.

By this stage, any shoot-em-'up fan who has inadvertently bought or borrowed M1 will be giving up in disgust and going back to Xenon 2. I wouldn't be surprised if even your average strategy fan baulks a bit at the game's sheer size, but the simulation addict will be leaping for joy. There's nothing like a really beefy game with wadges of realistic detail and a manual like a phone book to excite the simulation freak. M1 is lucky in that there are plenty of those in the Amiga world.

You take the place of Platoon Commander in charge of four M1 Abrams main battle tanks and various other support vehicles, calling in air and artillery support, and coordinating mechanised infantry, AA units and other tanks platoons as the scenario demands.

This rapidly becomes unbelievably chaotic, with up to 16 friendly vehicles and any number of Soviet units rumbling around firing at each other. After a few minutes issuing frantic and often contradictory orders to my bewildered brothers-in-arms, I was forced to turn to the manual for help.

The manual is excellent. If you want to get into the game quickly, the relevant sections can be rushed through and enough knowledge of the game controls can be garnered in about half an hour's study.

In the Amiga version, almost every command can be input either via the keyboard or by clicking with the mouse on the appropriate instrument or switch. So you can often guess where to click if you're not sure of the correct command. This definitely makes life a bit easier for the beginner.

Play is controlled from the mapboard and if you're smart about it you'll spend most of your time here. You can order your vehicles around and give them every order they might need from this section. If you allow them to fire at will, they will fight the battle for you.

One grumble I had with the mapboard concerns the huge number of available command. I know that flexibility is important to a game like this, but it's very easy to get confused.
The initial confusion doesn't last long, however, and you soon master the command system in enough depth to allow the simple deployment of your forces. As long as you avoid leaving your tanks stupidly exposed to Soviet fire, such as sideways-on or outlined against the horizon at the top of a crest line, you should have little difficulty in eventually getting through small engagements against inferior opposition. This, however, is the tip of a rather large iceberg.

One of the first nice surprises the program offers is the chance to create your own platoon of tankers, complete with name, rank, promotions awarded, and skill level. After each successful battle you will have a certain number of awards and promotions to hand out to the survivors, thus increasing their skill levels and boosting the whole platoon's rating.

The role-playing element is a very nice touch as it gives you the chance to become attached to a platoon. This discourages tactics that would lead to high casualties and encourages a deeper involvement in the game as a while.

With your platoon of rookies in two, you go on to choose static or moving gunnery practice, single engagements of various kinds, or a whole campaign for them to battle through.
Luckily you can vary the experience level of Soviet troops from second-line to elite, giving you complete control of the difficulty level. The latter options are recommended only for the more experienced player, but the beginner won't find the easier ones a walkover.

When you finally get down to playing the game in a real shooting environment it soon becomes clear just how good M1 is. Take, for example, a scenario where you must assault a well-defended position in which the Soviet troops, even if they are only second-liners, are dug in and ready for trouble.
In a real life situation, American tactics would be to order up air and artillery support to soften the enemy's resistance, then attack from a position designed to minimise casualties. In addition, you would expect US troops to act in a highly individual way, using fire-power to its greatest effect.

M1 Tank Platoon allows you to closely simulate exactly this sort of situation. In the above scenario, you would have artillery support available in the shape of mortars, howitzers or MLRs rocket launchers, air support from scout or Apache attack choppers, and even Thunderbolt A10 tank destroyers. These can be called up at any time and in the case of the artillery, can be directed onto any target on the mapboard.

From the same screen you can organise flanking attacks, smoke screens and a variety of complex tactical moves and formations, controlling not only your own platoon, but any other attacked unit or vehicle if this is where your preferences lie you need never leave this part of the simulation, putting yourself more in the role of overall company commander.

Should you want to see a little more action, and I suspect that means most of you, put yourself into any one of the four M1s under your command and in to any of the four crew positions. You have the choice of either watching as the crewman concerned gets on with his job, or of taking over the controls yourself.
Either way, the program ensures that the other crewmen carry on doing their jobs, which makes the job of controlling all 16 men a lot easier.
For instance, from the driver's position you could change course and head in a new direction. The gunner, however, will track whatever he feels is the most dangerous target, and continue to fire at it as long as he has had the 'fire at will' order.

The entire package exudes an air of quality, which bears witness to the immense amount of thought Microprose has put into this game.
From research and development, through the game mechanics, to the manual and general presentation, both attention to detail and the simulation of modern armoured warfare have received the closest scrutiny.
After only a few hours playing the game, it becomes obvious that even the most avid games player will find enough in M1 to keep him or her going for a lot longer than your usual simulation.

In short, if you're looking for depth and realism and if you don't mind spending a good while learning how to play the game, then M1 Tank Platoon is the only choice.

M1 Tank Platoon logo

MICROPROSE £24.99 * Mouse, Keyboard

Take revolutionised warfare during the battle of the Somme in September 1916. They've come along way since those first farcical vehicles, named after labels on the crates that disguised them, and have evolved into sophisticated war machines of frightening power. King of the armoured heap is the Abram M1 main battle tank, $2.5 million from your local tank stockist (Iraq excluded). Microprose however, will flog you a whole platoon at a very small fraction of the price.

M1 Tank Platoon is a heavy-duty simulation and not a tank game. Your job is to command four tanks and their crews through a series of battles, training them as you go. Win a fire-fight and commendations are handed out to the team, which are used to enhance your troop's skills, making them into better gunners or drivers.

After establishing a platoon you volunteer for duty: high-risk missions earns more medals, but you'll have to live to collect them. Training missions are always a good idea before you kick off the real war, because these tank things are awkward to control.
Having chosen your fate, a brusque gent in fatigues introduces the mission and tells you of any available auxiliary support such as artillery, Apache helicopters or A-10 Thunderbolts. Then it's war!

The heart of M1 is the battle map, which shows where everybody is, and it's here that you plan the tactics. Tactics are essential for success: gone are the days when tanks were invulnerable. Everybody wants a crack at these beasts and most have the firepower to succeed. Slugging matches are mutually suicidal because even hi-tech ceramic steel plate has soft spots.

Tanks can be driven from the map to assume tactical positions, but once the shells begin to burst it's safer to use the interior views. As either the gunner, driver or commander you get a ground-level view of the action. Once you're within shooting range the gunner's your main man: tanks you're not actively controlling can fire at will, but as most of the team start as no-hopers, it's wise to take one tank's gun.

All the goodies that the real M1 has, you possess too: infrared scopes, laser detectors, lasersights, distance indicators and a choice of shells with which to kill people. When you take the team out for a spin you'll feel the rush of power as enemies are tagged, but also feel the cold hand of fear when you take a hit in return.


M1 relies on maps for strategy development and single-tank views (or various perspectives) for action. Both are flexible, controlled by keyboard short-cuts or mouse clicks. The graphics have a distinctly PC feel and do not overflow with colour, which is a disappointment. The game screens are lightly shaded and lack any real strength, but the intermediate screens are bright and solid. As with other tank games, sound is not M1's speciality, but there are enough bangs, bullets and blasts to keep you on your toes.


M1 is a simulator and as such is crammed with the long term appeal, once you understand the mechanics. All the controls must be mastered before you can even start to get to grips with the strategy. The split between the map and in-tank view makes the game initially hard to grasp. Swapping between vehicles when giving specific tanks individual commands, for example, proves disconcerting. This may well persuade the less committed player that tank driving isn't their vocation. It has a long term hook, but only if you persevere.


M1 is a thorough simulation and is more detailed than any other tank bash about. Yet this may be to M1's detriment as a game, because there's too much for the fist-timer to cope with. Simulations have to be accurate and M1 is spot-on, but they must also be reasonably accessible.
M1 stutters here, requiring some serious manual spadework. Then, at last, you'll appreciate the depth of this simulation and get into the tactics pertaining to tank battles. This lack of instant appeal marks M1 down as a game for military hardware fans only, not for your everyday tank driver in the street.

M1 Tank Platoon logo Amiga Joker Hit

Nicht wenige Simulationsfans werden den Tag herbeigesehnt haben, an dem der M1 endlich zu ihrer "Freundin" herübergerollt kommt. Naja, wenn man bedenkt, wie lange beispielsweise "Pirates!" unterwegs war, hat Microprose diesmal schon fast die Schallmauer durchbrochen.

Simuliert wird hier Amerikas Vorzeigeblechdose, der M1 Main Battle Tank. Besser gesagt gleich vier davon, denn ein Zug (Platoon) besteht aus vier Panzern. Diese haben wiederum jeweils vier Mann Besatzung, sprich, man hat alle 32 Hände voll zu tun. Da aber nur die wenigsten von uns so viele Hände haben, übernimmt der Computer die Positionen, um die man sich selbst gerade nicht kümmert.

Als erstens sucht man sich einen Teamnamen aus und bekommt dann seine (noch ziemlich unerfahrene) Mannschaft zugeteilt. Damit die Jungs was lernen, kann man mit ihnen das Schießen auf stehende und bewegte Ziele üben; desweiteren gibt es einzelne Manöver, wie "Blitzkrieg", Verteidigen der eigenen Stellung oder geordneter Rückzug ("Klemmt euch die Kästen unter'n Arm und rennt, Leute!").

Selbstverständlich darf auch der übliche Kleinkrieg mit all seinen abwechslungsreichen Varianten nicht fehlen: Die lieben Russen haben sich bei einem ihrer Manöver nach (West-)Deutschland verirrt, und die bösen Amerikaner müssen sie jetzt wieder zurücktreiben (oder war's andersrum?).

Das alles ist in vier Schwierigkeitsgraden möglich - die Palette der Gegner reicht dabei von russischen Milchbubis mit verrosteten Spielzeugpanzern bis hin zu hervorragend ausgestatteten Elitecorps.

Ehe man mit seinen viermal 63 Tonnen Stahl und Elektronik auf's Schlachtfeld rollt, darf noch ein letztes Mal Hand an die Panzer gelegt werden; während der Gefechte ist dann der ganze Mann gefragt: Mal abgesehen davon, daß man sich auf den vier verschiedenen Stationen (Fahrer, Kanonier, Ladekanonier, Kommandant) zurecht finden muß, hat so ein M1 auch jede Menge Extras - Nachtsicht-, Vernebelungs- und Warngeräte; dazu kommen diverse taktische Feinheiten, wie verschiedene Tageszeiten und Wetterverhältnisse, wechselndes Verhalten der Gegner und unterschiedliche Geländebeschaffenheit.

Wer es lieber ganz strategisch mag, kann allerdings auch nur auf der Karte rumtaktieren und den Computer die Knochenarbeit machen lassen. Zum krönenden Abschluß werden Orden und Beförderungen verteilt, die sich übrigens auf die (zukünftigen) Leistungen der Mannschaft auch tatsächlich positiv auswirken.

Die Optik entsprich ungefähr EGA auf dem PC; die Geschwindigkeit der Vektorgrafik wird ebenfalls keinen Preis gewinnen, aber man kann gut damit leben. Der Sound ist nach wie vor gehobener Durchschnitt, die Steuerung wurde dagegen verbessert: Man kann jetzt auch mit der Maus lenken, was deutlich angenehmer ist als mit Joystick oder Tastatur.

Handhabung und Ausstattung (200seitige englische Anleitung!) gehören auf jeden Fall zur Luxus-klasse - wer anspruchsvolle Simulationen liebt und nichts gegen Panzer hat, muß hier einfach zuschlagen! (mm)

M1 Tank Platoon logo CU Amiga Screen Star

M1 Battle Tank is the latest in the line of 'formula' products to come over from MicroProse USA. Its instantly recognisable style has all the hallmarks of MicroProse's earlier sims but doesn't mean it looks dated.

MicroProse games use sophisticated techniques, but the majority of their products are forged from good planning, excellent design and an amazing depth of research. This makes for some of the best simulations ever to grace the home computer market, better even than many professional military sims.

M1 is no exception. Granted it has rudimentary graphics and fairly basic sound, but a wealth of realistic detail helps create an outstanding sim. This time you don't play an individual character. Instead, you control a platoon of four M1 Abrams Battle tanks, the US army's top fighting machines.

Each tank is assigned a crew of four: a captain, gunner, driver and loader. Effectively you control sixteen men. Each person has their own rank and ability which affect their overall skill. The highest ranking character is the captain, the lowest the loader. Promotions, decorations and combat experience improve the skills of individual platoon members hence the squad's fighting ability. For the most part these people will obey your orders acting on their own judgement and skill.

If you want to get into the thick of the action you can take over one of the four seats in the lead tank. The driving seat is fairly uninteresting, and you're so low down in the tank you can't see much. It's best to occupy this position when you need to guide your platoon out of trouble in a hurry.

The M1 comes equipped with a .50 calibre machine gun which doesn't harm tanks but is great at churning out five hundred rounds a minute and blowing away unarmoured trucks. The best position is the gunner's cabin. Imagine sitting behind a 120mm smooth bore cannon with high explosive and armour-piercing shells, a laser ranging system, 7.62 coaxal machine guns, smoke generators and night sights. Point, target and fire. If you get into a good position you can blow merry hell out of a Russian armoured platoon. This is definitely the fun place to be in a fire fight.

Issuing orders to the platoon is fairly simple, after you've worked out what everything does. There's a map screen showing the locations of buildings, hills, visible enemy, bases and your men. To order the platoon to a set location you must first click on it, then select the 'move to' command and advance. This may seem unnecessary hassle, but it's fairly uncomplicated and sensible when you look at the logistics behind controlling four tanks each staffed with individual thinking, characters.

The platoon can travel in a line, column, v shape, wedge or diagonal line. You can instruct them when to fire, at what, use their smoke generators, or run. Alternatively you can issue orders to individual tanks, although it's advisable to split the platoon if the situation doesn't warrant it.

On a majority of missions you're supported by a secondary platoon of armoured personnel carriers and infantry. These are controlled directly by you through the map screen. On other missions you get the use of scout helicopters, AH-64 Apache Gunships, equipped with smoke and explosive motors and artillery rockets. When you can get hold of one you can cause untold damage in pre-emptive strikes.

As usual the bad guys are Russian. If East/West relations keep improving I can't help wondering who MicroProse will use as cannon fodder in future games. Before the start of a mission you can choose the quality of the troops you'll come up against (cadets to elite corps), and this determines what they're equipped with and how well they'll react to a platoon of M1s storming up the hill they're defending.

Through the game is graphically unimpressive it's very satisfying landing a hit on an enemy tank and this can look fairly impressive. The accompanying sound is flat and uninspiring and could have been beefed up a little.

However, M1 is a fantastic sim. The wealth of things to do coupled with my naturally destructive, violent nature meant that everything I came across, including houses and my support team, fell pretty to my 120mm gun. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game. A fantastic sim in every respect, though beginners might find it difficult to play at first.

M1 Tank Platoon logo

MicroProse, Amiga £29.99

In MicroProse's latest sim you take command of four M1 Main Battle Tanks and a host of other infantry vehicles! With each tank having four positions to command (two Tank Commander positions, a Driver and the all-important Gunner), things could get too complex without the automatic control. Using the battlefield map and mouse control, you can rapidly order either individual tanks or the whole platoon to go to a certain location, adopt a particular formation, turn on smoke, engage the enemy and a host of other Tank-relevant commands.

In theory you can control the entire battle from the comfort of home base but it does no harm to mix it up with the other. Indeed, the computer controlled M1s are pretty dumb initially, so if a battle is not going your way you can join in and even the odds, especially if you have practised on the training ranges or taken part in single conflicts. The briefing before each mission details objectives, enemy and allied forces and shows the terrain (randomly constructed each time for long-term appeal).

Once you have been briefed and your crew chosen it is off to the battle! Through the main options screen you can take part in a number of situations:
Static Gunnery (battle against passive, static tanks), Moving Gunnery (taking on passive but fast moving targets), Single Engagement (one of six situations to choose from) and Start Campaign (a full-blown war with up to 99 missions).

Alongside the M1s (depending on the mission) there can be infantry teams with anti-tank weapons and fast moving light attack vehicles to help on the ground, smoke and highly explosive-launching artillery, and aerial support from A-10 aircraft, Scout helicopters and Apache gunships. Even with all this, things can go horribly wrong as the enemy gets a lot smarter with each new level.

Robin Hogg Those of you expecting F-19-type graphics might be disappointed: the tanks are neat polygon shapes and it all runs very smoothly indeed, but graphic variety is limited and unspectacular. As with most MicroProse sims the excitement comes from the great sense of atmosphere, there is always plenty going on and you don't want to run into trouble too fast! What matters most is the attention to detail in the game design: the mouse-driven map works like a dream and the daunting task of leading four-plus fighting vehicles is easily mastered. Watching the fighting from the map is a highly engrossing occupation in itself; the vehicle orders system works really well (simply moving into attack positions is a demanding task). Joining in is even more fun and the perfect way to experience the claustrophobia of tank combat. It is a shame there is not a wide variety of mission types other than the basic six on offer (minefields would have been a novel feature) but the higher skill levels are tough enough to ensure a very strong challenge.
Actually controlling the tank is surprisingly easy - the ultimate in automation - with only gunnery being particularly demanding. But the strategy of moving your mini-army is difficult and highly engrossing. When the Russians start a full-blown assault you really do find yourself panicking! Top marks to MicroProse!