Driving a tank is no hassle: nothing gets in your way and you don't so much park as flatten. Life gets more complex, however, when you're in direct control of sixteen armoured units who are standing alone against the might of the Red Army. As Kipling nearly said, "If you can keep your tank while all around are losing theirs, you're a better man than I am, Private First Class Sean Bannon".
Team Yankee, a sixteen-tank-unit, is your charge and everywhere they move, everything they shoot, even what they see is under your control. The Russian army will try to brush your troops aside and sweep into Europe, so you must do your worst to stop them.
The vehicles in your stable are twelve M-1 Abrams, two M-2s, two ITVs and two M-113 APCs. Grouped in units of four (with always at least two M-1 tanks per unit) they must act in concert, supporting each other to win.
The game has two main modes: you're either in direct full-screen control of a four-vehicle unit, or have hands on all the 16 tanks using a four-way split screen view. Tank units are moved by selecting the map, marking a destination then choosing the vehicle formation and speed; then they'll drive to the destination. At any point you can pop inside for the gunner's view of what the lead tank of each unit can actually see, by rotating the turret from side to side.
Flicking between the full-screen views takes time and you may miss something vital, like a barrel-sighted Russian tank waiting for a kill. So it's best to operate all four units from the split window, flipping between map and gunsight windows individually. This way you always have at least three pairs of eyes scouting for the commie scourge.
The game itself follows a five-chapter format. To earn promotion you need to win five sequential battles, all of which test your armour management skills to the full. Rearguard actions and spearheading counter-attacks are just two functions you'll be asked to fulfil as leader of Team Yankee. The battleground features forests and rivers, towns and roads, all factors which heavily influence a tanker's fortunes in war.
All the actual shell firing is done manually, aiming the gun with a mouse cursor. The turret rotation and weapon selection are also mouse controlled, although loading is automatic and scarily slow. Sighting is made easier with a telescopic sight and fighting at night is made possible with an infrared 'scope that illuminates any heat sources out there.
Fighting is survivable when you have the time to fight battles individually in full screen mode; you can stop and examine foes, making sure they're Russian before battling them. Real war, though, demands that four battles are fought at once, forcing you to rely on the smaller windows. This makes identification difficult and blasting your own tanks in sheer terror is a real danger.
With serious tank identification problems, the speed of modern mechanised combat, as well as controlling sixteen vehicles simultaneously, Team Yankee's a real challenge. You give the orders and decide the strategy but must also ensure that no tanks are forgotten.
It's a nightmare blend of planning and action that will have you rewriting the battle-plan time and time again as unexpected enemies pop up in strange and curious places. Team Yankee makes the palms sweat with fear and the head ache in confusion. But remember you're all that stands between Gorby's day-trippers and the free world, so you must give it your best shot...
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The four-view screen is immediately understandable, giving enough detail to win the battle with. The flexibility is excellent: you're only ever a screen-flick away from a full-screen view of a unit on either the map or the battlefield, and the four-quadrant view is always available to see what the others are up to.
The battle view is good, but does tend to pixellise when magnified, making the tank camouflage too effective. This means differentiating between the good (US0, the bad (USSR) and the ugly (the US ITV) rather tricky. This could render the game unplayable, but the map helps out with large flags and a little confusion is only to be expected in times of war. Sounds are limited to a short overture at the start and loads of explosions during the game. Not much, but enough to drop hints that you're being shelled.
The five battles of Team Yankee are fought over and over again as your rise through the ranks. The main differences are an increased number of enemies and more cunning Russians. Five battlefields, no matter how differently configured, cannot be enough to simulate the whole war. Which is exactly what you want to fight once you get the flung of this tank commanding lark. Learning to control the tanks, though, is hard enough, and will keep any tanker busy for a long while.
Team Yankee blends a 3D arcade style tank blast with enough simulation to create a truly playable, if difficult, game. While it is accessible enough for anyone to play by ear, students of armoured warfare need not feel snubbed as Team Yankee's reliance on military technology makes it a fascinating exercise in modern war. Always destined to be a game and not a sim, Team Yankee recreates the feel of the novel on which it is based, not an Abrams technical manual. If you long for the thunder of a 30-ton destroyer then join Team Yankee. It presents a game in a sim's clothing, which when dealing with tanks has to be the perfect approach.