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    Steel Beasts
    System Requirements:

    266Mhz+ CPU (450+ rec)
    32MB RAM (64MB rec)
    225MB Disk Space
    2MB SVGA Card
    CD Rom

    Steel Beasts is a tank simulator developed by eSim Games and published by Strategy First. Once only available online through a smaller publisher, Strategy First has recognized the quality in the game and made it available as a boxed retail version.
    The game reproduces the US M1A1 and the German Leopard 2A4 tanks in intrinsic detail to create a highly accurate simulation with a war element. It comprises of scenarios for the player to take the role of either a tank commander or gunner in one of these vehicles to battle against various opponents including enemy tanks, other armored vehicles, and infantry. A mission can be as simple as taking the role of the tank gunner, to being the commander of an entire platoon including APC’s, IFV’s, and more. Most importantly about this simulation is not a typical drive and shoot ‘em up game but one designed more for enthusiasts with detail and accuracy that could be used in real life simulations. As such the game will most likely not appeal to the mass market but to those with more specific interests in planning, strategy and simulation.
    While the graphics in the game leave something to be desired, there is immense detail in the reproduction of the aspects of tank warfare including terrain and environmental effects as well as features including different ammo types and specific damage impacts on parts of the tank, e.g. communications or the Laser Rangefinder. Some features include the tank being harder to detect while it is amongst the bush rather than having the skyline behind it, or the tank’s mobility being affected by the terrain that it is on.
    Formations are another important factor, from column formations for maximum speed, to line formations for maximum firepower and everythign in between.
    There is also a level of AI so that the tanks can act intelligently for actions such as avoiding minefields or automatically finding the best tactical location within a short radius of their designated position.
    In order to attack a moving enemy tank, its distance, height and lateral speed needs to be calculated in order to set the trajectory and to calculate how far to “lead” the target. For all this to take place modern aspects of tank warfare such as lasing the target, thermal imaging, and gun stabilization are implemented into the game. You can even call in an artillery strike!

    The controls for the tank are just as complex – you’ll find yourself using almost the entire keyboard and mouse in the plethora of commands available including basic maneuver commands, changing views, as well as other advanced options such as radio orders to other units under your command.
    To make it easier for you to keep in control of your platoon(s) during the actual mission there is also a planning phase for every operation. This includes a mission overview, consisting of an overhead contour map with information on your forces, terrain factors, and known enemy forces. Another important feature is the Line of Sight map – a strategically vital feature only available while planning your mission. In this view clicking on any spot in the map will shade in the surrounding terrain to show which areas have direct LOS, no LOS, or partial LOS to your tank. It also shows areas where your tank will be in a more protected “hull down” position. These features are vital in planning ambushes or determining safe positions during the mission.
    The planning phase also allows you to create specific instructions to your platoon while on the mission. These range from behavioral instructions, which give directions on what tactics to use if confronted by enemies, to movement instructions, such as proceed to point A and wait for 5 minutes before proceeding to point B.
    Conditions for actions can also be set; such as an instruction to retreat once a certain amount of damage has been sustained.
    Steel Beasts allows the freedom to take direct command of the weapons to engage the enemy forces, where even if your Laser Rangefinder is destroyed you can guesstimate the position of the enemy and manually target/fire. Or if you feel like it you can take the commander’s view and watch the battle unfold through the conditions you set in the mission plan.

    The sound effects and music, while not spectacular, do compliment the game well. These range from radio transmissions to sound effects for movement and weapons fire.

    Replayability is offered through the multiplayer options, adding a new dimension into planning, coordination and gun fighting against a real foe. Additionally missions can also be created/edited through the mission editor where you can create an entire platoon of tanks and infantry under your command.

    There are a couple of drawbacks to the game, including the mediocre graphics, which are only available through software rendering. The game also lacks weather/lighting conditions or any air support.  There is also no actual campaign available, instead a range of individual missions each with different objectives and units under your command. The need to command an entire battlefield in the heat of battle may also prove overwhelming at times.

    The game sounds extremely complex – and it is! The developer has provided many tutorial maps within the game to help you master it, as well as an extremely detailed 100+ page manual. The learning curve for the game is fairly steep, and will take significant amounts of time to master but is well worth it for those willing to sacrifice superficial gameplay for a more sophisticated experience. There is a realistic and intense feeling provided by laying in wait for the enemy hoping that your gunnery skills will take them out before they even knew you were there.

    There is also an interesting section in the manual detailing the history of the tanks, as well as information on amour, ammo, technological advances etc. There is information from the birth of the tanks, choices on design decisions with speed, mobility, firepower and amour, right down to what fuel consumption is required. Also included is information on various types of tank ammo, anti tank weapons, amour types and more.  It is quite an interesting read and goes to show the level of research the developers put into the game.
    Final score: 80%

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    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

    An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.

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