Tank Crew is the talk of the IL-2 community right now and with it, a growing multiplayer presence and growing interest in the content of the sim now that it’s a complete product. One of the questions I’ve seen come up in recent weeks has been what the difference is between the free tanks that all IL-2 players have access to and the tanks in Tank Crew? Let me try and help decipher what the differences are.
IL-2 has free tanks?
Not everyone is aware that buying any title in the IL-2 series will entitle them to access two free tanks. The T-34 STZ 1942 and Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L were the first two tanks added to the series and they came to the sim years before Tank Crew was announced. The tanks were a proof of concept that the IL-2 team worked on in their spare time (over weekends we were told) to see just how robust the sim engine was and if tanks could become meaningful parts of the IL-2 sim experience. They never really made much of a splash but they did help pave the way for what became of Tank Crew.
We have these tanks but how do they compare to the tanks in Tank Crew and can they be used as an accurate gauge for what tank crew tanks are like? Let’s take a closer look.
First, the basics of controlling the all tanks in the IL-2 series, both the ones in Tank Crew and the free tanks are the same. The same basic control setups are present and you can bind and operate the tanks in the same way. My unique method of controlling the tanks using the 50% mark on my throttle as neutral (with anything above as forward and anything below as reverse) and the Z axis on my joystick to steer is still the same with these free tanks.
What is not the same are how many controls are available. For example. Spawn in to the T-34 STZ 1942 and you’ll see the drivers interior position. It’s a simplified version of the driver’s position and not one that has been given a ton of artistic attention – it was a proof of concept after all. It looks very much like this.
Now, compare that with the same position in the T-34-76 from Tank Crew and the differences are stark. For one, the entire rear compartment is modeled along with the rest of the crew. Note that the texture work and modeling are all at much higher levels albeit they are slightly different versions of the T-34 so not everything matches precisely.
The sames comparison can be made with the Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L which looks like this.
Meanwhile, the Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. H from Tank Crew looks like this.
The differences elsewhere are even more pronounced. For example, the gunner station for the free tanks jumps you straight to the turret sight. There is no turret lock and there’s no supporting visuals outside of the gunsight itself. It’s only recently (in the last patch) that you’ve been able to make use of the ability to do things like fire a flare gun, a pistol or make use of the binoculars.
There’s another gunner seat that’s not available in either tank. And what about the Panzer III’s commander cupola? Not present in any way on the free Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L but most definitely present on the Panzer Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. H.
The 3D visuals for the Tank Crew tanks are also far in advance of what we see with the free tanks. Once again, they are a product of their time and at the time this was the level of detail needed for a tank in the IL-2 engine. Now, the developers are pushing detail levels much further ahead as Tank Crew takes the fighting down to the ground level.
While the free tanks are less detailed and have fewer features, they do help you get in on some of the fun of driving around a tank in the IL-2 series. From what I can tell, their ground handling is much the same or at the same level as the Tank Crew tanks so they do give you a sense of what driving a tank might feel like in the rest of the series. They are also eminently capable of being part of the fight.
Armed with the same types of cannons (and the different available ammunition types) and co-axial machine guns, these free tanks can still fight, and, with the right tactics, prevail against the other tanks from Tank Crew. Though you’ll want to be wary of some of the best tanks in the field including the Panther and Tiger tanks on the Axis side and heavy weights like the KV-1S and SU-152 on the Soviet side.
Although 1CGS has recently done some work to ensure that their free tanks are at least minimally competitive with the ones from Tank Crew, I wanted to ensure that everyone knew that neither T-34 STZ 1942 nor the Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L are truly representative of what Tank Crew tanks are like. The two tanks are perfectly adequate on the battlefield, they served their purpose as testbeds for what ultimately lead to Tank Crew, and you can definitely have fun with them.
Don’t look at the free tanks as being on the same level of modeling detail or polished artistic work as you will get on the tanks in Tank Crew. These tanks as they simply don’t have the added modeling, details, or refinement of the tanks found in the full sim. They will give you a sense of the gameplay and they help get a few more people involved in the multiplayer ground battles and that’s not a bad thing!