This has been a long time in coming but it’s here now and I’ve finally had a chance to buy in and spend a few minutes with Tank Crew – Clash a Prokhorovka. This is the first WWII tank sim in years and its all part of the IL-2: Great Battles Series which means that the combined arms simulation aspect comes built in almost as a default. I’ve only had about an hour with Tank Crew so far so these are just some of my first impressions of Tank Crew and the new Kursk map!
Tank sim in a flight sim
Tank Crew is an incredibly cool concept but also one that is difficult to pull off. 1CGS has launched what is potentially a new sub-brand as part of the IL-2: Great Battle Series in the form of Tank Crew. If its successful, Clash at Prokhorovka could be one of several tank related content packages spanning other parts of World War II in the coming years.
1CGS is certainly doing everything they can to try and make the experience good for people interested in tanks although it will take some time to truly evolve. This initial foray into building a tank sim within the IL-2 series focuses on the biggest tank battle in recorded history and that seems like the ideal place for a sim that has spent several years building out its eastern front content in the air.
Everything I’m about to talk about is still, what I’d consider fairly early in the development of the product so there’s a lot yet to come both in terms of content and features. It’s going to be fun to see the vision of this title come into view as 1CGS adds features and content.
I have to hand it to the 1CGS team along with the third party contributors because the two tanks I’ve driven so far, the KV-1S and Panzer IV are brilliantly detailed and modeled both inside and out. War Thunder and DCS may have slightly better looking tank exteriors but 1CGS comes extremely close with theirs and then they go to a whole other level by adding full blown interiors with animated tank crew members. They have recently added crew to several tanks… putting the tank crew in Tank Crew. Sorry, I had to.
Its that latter part that suggests to me that Tank Crew is the more serious simulation and probably the most serious tank sim to drive towards the sim market in quite a long time. If this is something that appeals to people who liked titles such as Panzer Elite remains to be seen.
Though I’ve yet to experiment with the modifications for each of the tanks but suffice to say that 1CGS has gone with a tried and true method of adding options to tanks. Side skirts, different ammo types, and potentially other upgrades are all possible through the same interface that they use for their aircraft. Tank Crew tanks also come with skins and while there are only a small number now – I’m sure more will come later!
Both tanks I drove so far have working systems inside and out. The gauges and levers all work (at least the ones I saw) and the sounds match up with the actions. Start-up sounds are distinct between both tanks as well with their own distinctive noise and resulting hum once the engine is working.
The thing that struck me most was the interaction between the throttle and the transmission with simulated shift points between gears. Give your tank full power and it trundles along towards its top speed, hesitating and pausing between gears. Fantastic! Doing a hard turn at speed can cause a spin out of the tank as well.
This feels so much more real than what War Thunder is offering, which is really my only personal point of comparison, and I think we’ll see depth here that may be appreciated by people who want to go to the next level after enjoying that other title.
Not content to just offer a small playground for tanks, the Kursk/Prokhorovka map is centered around a key battle area for tanks but also brings over 100×100 square kilometers to the party ensuring that fans of the flying part of the series can very much be a part of the battle. Man is this good!
The new map is interesting because it brings new technology to the table. Trees can be toppled (though we’ve seen this on Kuban as a test), highly detailed buildings can collapse, and the terrain mesh within a small area is substantially more detailed.
Performance on the map was good on my admittedly powerful system but I did experience some pop-in of parts of the terrain mesh at some odd times. I did have one performance hiccup over one of the more detailed towns too. I seem to remember some of this happening a lot on the Kuban map so there may be room for improvement here as the team adds polish.
The enhanced terrain mesh actually feels like less of a big deal than I expected. That said, it is still better than the default and certainly welcome. So too are the more detailed towns and villages that dot the landscape in that sector.
From the air, the map is excellent everywhere. The 1CGS map team once again shows off how good they are at making the Digital Warfare engine create some beautifully drawn landscapes. The towns have an organic feel, the fields feel well integrated with the terrain, and there are some nice touches all over the map with rail stations in key places, denser urban centres and small towns alike.
The thing I like most is how unique the map feels. Endless fields you’d think would have a similar feel to the Stalingrad map but the art team makes sure that these grasslands feel different than the steppe and similar lands near Stalingrad – infact they are quite distinct especially from the air.
Gameplay and future considerations
Unlike Battle of Bodenplatte that is being built inside an already realized flight sim with several years behind it, Tank Crew is essentially ground up. It’s drawing on the benefits of a very good simulation engine and adding a whole new element of warfare. Tank Crew is not anywhere near finished and it shows with lack of gameplay options with the Quick Mission Builder (QMB) being your only real option for single player. A few servers now support multiplayer tank battles too.
That said, two campaigns are planned to release with Tank Crew later so an immersive single player experience is still coming. From what we hear, 1CGS plans to incorporate things like field repairs and battlefield crew replacements that include vehicles and some sort of animations associated with those events.
Features such as an enhanced damage model are also coming. So too are damage effects including smoke and fire within the tank (also coming to aircraft). Those along with the rest of the tank line-up, two single player campaigns, and the possibility for multiplayer becoming part of a bigger combined arms experience fills me with hope and suggests a strong potential future for the series.
It’s a bit tough to get into right now in this early state but if your a tank fan and you’re looking for something with more dept than War Thunder’s tank mode, Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovoka should be on your radar.
There will be more coverage to come on Stormbirds as this tank sim inside a WWII aviation sim takes shape. The interactions between ground and air should prove to be interesting.