Review: Tank Universal

It’s been a pretty long time since a game has sucked me in for hours, to the point that I forget that I might need to be cooking food to eat, or getting the laundry out of the washer…or even the fact that I should be doing something more productive. Tank Universal, a fantastic retro throwback very much reminiscent of Tron, is that very game. Since I got the opportunity to check it out, I’ve logged quite the amount of hours basking in the glow of my little laptop that could.
Tank Universal, in its simplest form, is a tank battle game similar to First Battalion or even Pocket Tanks. We all know how fun it is to ride around in style in an enormous tank while taking out our teeny tiny enemies. It’s always fun to feel invincible while manning such a behemoth vehicle.

This tank game starts off with quite the strange twist, however. You are a man named George who has just received some bad news from the doctor. Apparently you don’t have too much longer to live, so to take your mind off things in an odd twist of fate, you are given a special virtual reality helmet in which you enter the strange world that is Tank Universal. Upon entering the world you will become part of a compelling story that pits tyrants against a resistance that wants to see good done in the virtual world. Where and how do you fit into the equation? I won’t spoil it here, but rest assured that it will grab your attention quite roughly.

Getting through the game is relatively simple. When you’re not taking control of tanks, you are doing reconnaissance on foot. With each mission you move one step closer in the storyline, so every time you complete some objectives you’re completing more and more of the game as a whole. Some missions will require you to tag “glyphs” for collection, and others will require you to retrieve keys from enemy bases that you will need to bring back to your own. You can collect parts from fallen enemies that will greatly aid you in your ventures, for example awarding health or power bonuses with which you can complete your mission.

While moving around in a tank most of the time can be a very entertaining thing to experience, sometimes it will get slow and tedious. Tanks do not move very quickly, so you will find yourself getting anxious and wishing there were some way you could speed up the process. Even though most of the time you will know where you are going and what you are supposed to do when you get there, actually getting there will drag you down to the point that you may wish to stop playing. For gamers with little patience and those who do not enjoy waiting around all day in a game to reach important points, this is a very glaring stain on an otherwise fun and exciting game.

There are 20 missions in total to battle your way through, which will spread out to a very nice length due to their difficulty. Sadly, there is no multiplayer mode, so you’ll have to satiate your hunger for blowing others up in the campaign mode. In the future it would be a very welcome addition to be able to lob shells at my friends and family and laugh maniacally as their tank is blown to bits. I’m not quite sure why this was not added in the first place, but the campaign is top-notch, and makes up well for the absence of multiplayer.

While some missions can be inherently tedious and boring, the sheer amount of places to explore, tank battles to take part in, and the old-school goodness of it all makes Tank Universal a formidable challenger in your game library. I have logged countless hours already on this little gem, and once you start playing it’s very tough to want to stop. The story progresses at a very nice pace, which draws you even deeper into Tank Universal. You will want to know what happens in the end, and getting there is a blast. Besides, it’s always satisfying to blow things up with tanks.

If you took Tron and combined it with a raver’s candy-coated fantasy, you’d get Tank Universal. What you have here is a world very much unlike any environment you’ve ever seen before in a video game. True, it was done in Tron, but it is built upon so much more here that it’s tough to remember what was so special about Tron’s environments in the first place. Neon colors aplenty and ominous buildings abound. Both sides of the color palette are utilized very well here, with large amounts of cool neons complementing the warm, fiery reds and oranges perfectly. It’s clear there was much love put into the graphic design process.

The futuristic setting that we are presented with works very well. Even the way the buildings are mapped out is quite believable, and would not be out of place in a modern science fiction movie. Things are, however, quite dark most of the time, and there is an overabundance of black in some areas. Also, the grid-like flooring and architecture of the world sometimes make it hard to judge where your shots are being fired, as well as how far an enemy is in relation to you.

Aside from that, though, the game is a treat to look at. It’s so completely different from any other game currently available that you can take one look at the game and instantly recognize it.


Accompanying the strikingly gorgeous hues of the in-game world is the engaging techno beats that boom from the speakers when you’re playing. Some of the tracks can be downright creepy, which definitely fits the tone of the game. Sometimes you’re faced against impressive odds, and the music does a good job of expressing the pressure you’re under to do an outstanding job for your faction. While there are many tracks in the game that are by no means standout musical selections, the music does an impressive job of keeping up the mood.

There are no voice-overs in the game, though. When there is speech there are short bursts of robotic sound effects, but dialogue is there to be read. I would have enjoyed hearing the enemies in the game taunting me, or giving austere orders to their troops, but then simply reading what they have to say gives the game a very impersonal touch that surprisingly fits the tone very well.

It’s rare these days to find a game (an indie one at that) that puts so much time and attention into their creation to truly make it stand out from the legions of other titles out there. Tank Universal most definitely distinguishes itself from the rest of potential candidates for your PC. It’s instantly recognizable via the graphics, gameplay, music, and overall feel. When a game can accomplish this, it’s a pretty impressive feat.

Tank Universal is a very well-made independent creation. While it can seem extremely tedious at times, the well-paced tank battles and the intriguing virtual world make up for the shortcomings. It’s a treat to play and to see your virtual soldier rank up. Perhaps there will be additional content released in the future. For now, though, Tank Universal is an affordable and enjoyable romp in an alternate reality that fans of tank combat will no doubt enjoy.

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