Does anyone remember the game Worms? You know, that crazy game with a bunch of Worms that could be French or whatever you wanted them to be, and wielded bazookas and grenades shaped in the form of bananas? It was a simple game, yet wildly addictive. There was a certain charm to it that never let up, and there was nothing more satisfying than firing off a bazooka at a perfect angle to reign death upon your enemies or even friends. The Xbox Live Arcade game, Death Tank, stems much from the roots of Worms, just a little more simplified and with much prettier graphics to boot. But is it as fun and accessible as the charming classic franchise, or a game with too much Tank, and not enough Worm?
Well, a little of both really. It certainly holds a great amount of fun factor, but not to the extent that you'll be playing it for hours.
To begin with, the game's core gameplay bases itself much around the idea of Worms, except that it's not turn based but everything happens in real-time. You and three other tanks are dropped into a randomly generated battlefield, and the entire point of the game is to fire off your shells at the right angles and speeds to take out the opposing tanks as fast and as efficiently as possible. Control over where your shell will fire is very precise; you can put more strength in the fire, and also face it at almost any angle. At first it will feel a little clunky, as getting used to the awkward analogue control aim takes a while, but it grows on you and soon enough you'll be pummeling people with shells in no time. You can also do this while moving too, so if you're really good, you can be popping off accurate shots while hovering through the air on jetpacks. Nice.
Matches generally last about 2 to 3 minutes, sometimes less if you're really good (or you suck and the other guy is better), and are fairly satisfying to play through. But instead of just kicking you back onto the main menu once you're done, the game continues to play through more and more rounds, but in between you can spend money you've earned from destroying people in buying weapons and other cool features for your tank. Some of the weapons are your standard arsenal; you can grab a machine gun to easily finish off opponents at a rapid rate, or cluster shells which split apart in mid-air and pummel congregates of tanks, but the really cool weapons are the most expensive ones. An example is the Nuclear shell which you only get one of for each purchase, but can attribute to extremely awesome and destructive results that makes your eyes water in all its chaotic glory. Then there's the most powerful weapon, Death's Hand, which basically vapourises anything within its way once fired. It's very satisfying to have one of those or the Nukes dropping directly on top of someone, as the results usually bring out some form of a maniacal cackle. You can stockpile these weapons for later rounds too, so you don't need to necessarily use them directly after purchase. This adds a little depth to the overall simplistic gameplay, as matches can get pretty hectic and tactical, especially with the jetpacks. The game supports two to four players online and off, so whether you're into playing randoms from across the globe or just destroying friends at a gamers night in, there's plenty of fun to be had, even with the bots, which are surprisingly decent and viciously accurate at the advanced difficulty levels.
On a visual note, XBLA games aren't meant to support Normal Mapping and all those fancy terms they use nowadays in those big budget titles, but for what some of them do, they look pretty, and Death Tank is definitely pretty. Lighting is really well done in the game, particularly with explosions and shells flying through the air, as you see the light source flick across the ground as the shell passes through the sky. The game is quite sharp in detail too, with barely a jaggy in sight, so it looks clean and stylish, if not a little generic with some of the tank designs. Explosions are the main star of the visuals though, and when you see Death's Hand go off for the first time, you're guaranteed to have a big smile on your face. It's slick, clean and pleases the eyes enough to make people happy. We won't complain.
On the audio side of things, you've got your basic rundown of expected sounds; massive explosive noises, jetpacks going off, and the techno/rock based style of music. It blends nicely really, everything sounds how they should, and though it won't blow your mind from how incredibly varied it is, it does the job well enough to satisfy you when you blast someone to pieces with a well placed bomb.
Death Tank is a fun game. It's not particularly great, nor is it terrible, it's just good. Good enough for the average gamer, good enough to be a quick Multiplayer game, and good enough to get a solid score. It's not a game you could play for hours; it lacks a certain amount of flare to be able to do that, though the game is good fun for those short bursts of time you do feel like playing it. Though it has bots to play against and a simplistic arcade mode, you'd probably end up taking the game online. Ultimately Death Tank gives you the most satisfaction when you're pitted against your friends or rivals, because it never really gets old to see a large bomb drop directly on a friends head. And for the price, you'd be hard pressed to find that kind of thrill anywhere else.