A clunky action oriented tank simulator that requires tactics and an iron will.
The Republican Guard has seized Kuwait and its resources. The US sends in a squadron of battle tanks called Team Kuwait in response. The enemy is quick to take hold of many key locations, so the job will not be easy. The first US tanks land on Failaka island and that’s where the operation begins.
War in the Gulf is a tank simulator game. It is a sequel to Pacific Islands which was released a year earlier (1992) and is basically just more of the same. In War in the Gulf you take command over four tank squadrons and you will be briefed with detailed mission plans and the general strategy you need to follow in order to complete each mission in this Kuwait campaign.
Before each mission you are given some background story and an overview of the mission area. You need to memorize the key locations and read about what’s going on in the area. When the mission starts the game runs on a real-time basis, meaning that you will need to figure out your plan soon and start putting it into action or else you will fail the mission. You can pause the game when ever you want however, so you can relieve the stress factor somewhat if you need to think things over.
Thankfully the game allows you to use a standard set up of tanks and their armory, because selecting weapons for each tank takes a good chunk of the playtime otherwise. Because of the high difficulty level of the game you can’t hope to survive any of the missions for the first few times playing the game. As you can imagine, selecting weapons carefully only to have your tanks blow up on a minefield before they even had a chance to use those weapons isn’t very rewarding – so save the careful planning for later.
Your tanks can be armed with armor piercing missiles, general purpose missiles or both. You will also need to use smoke screens and infrared scopes to avoid hostile fire. You can even set up air support if you should need it. There are eight different types of vehicles that you can use and they vary in speed, armor and what weapons they can be armed with.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the game is that if you run out of money, you will either have to manage with fewer tanks or even unarmed tanks. It’s very expensive to replace lost vehicles, and if you can’t pay up you’re pretty much done for…
War in the Gulf allows four save slots to be saved on the game disk. Your save file will include your earned medals and kills/loss ratio of previous missions.
When you fail a mission you’re given a debriefing but it’s not very helpful as it basically just tells you to follow orders better. A more detailed debriefing would have helped a lot because there’s always the risk that you fail a mission not exactly knowing what went wrong.
If you manage to complete the first three missions, you will get orders to move inland, closer to Kuwait where another 22 mission areas await. The stories behind the assignments are well written and really gives the game a proper tone – you’re stuck between hostile forces and the strict orders from the general and the lives of your squad depend on your moves.
Even though all the missions are quite similar, you’ll be fighting in some varying environments such as forests, coasts, rivers and cities.
Most if not all missions require you to spread out your units, meaning that you must be able to manage everything on the same time very quickly – it is very stressful, and really introduces a whole new level of difficulty.
It has to be said though that this is an ambitious attempt at a war simulation.
The game is played entirely with the mouse and you’ll issue move orders to your tanks using an overview strategic map. At the beginning of each mission you are allowed to spend money that you’ve earned on different tanks and their weaponry. Each squad can have four tanks, so that means that you can equip up to 16 different tanks for each mission.
The game is pretty unique in that the screen is divided into four sections – one for each tank squadron. When you engage hostile forces you will use the mouse cursor to aim your fire.
Moving your tanks around is a bit clunky. You must constantly switch between the overview map and the outlook view of all the tank squadrons in order to get a good view of the surrounding terrain. You can drive through forests, but you won’t be able to see anything while doing so. You also need to keep an eye out for minefields and hostile forces.
The real problem becomes clear when you come close to the enemy. They seem to have superior sight and chances are that you’ll start losing tanks to something that seems like an invisible force – but that’s just the enemy tanks firing from afar. Even when you happen to spot an enemy tank, you need to double check that it’s not your own – and that’s not so easy in the middle of all the chaos.
By holding the right mouse button you can pan the turret of your tank, allowing you to survey your surroundings and aiming fire. Shooting is pretty much as simple as point-and-click but if you shoot at something that is far away you aren’t given any visual or auditory feedback on whether you hit or missed. Luckily you can switch to a full screen view (instead of having it split up in four screens) in which you get a more detailed look at what’s going in. But even then it can be hard to tell where your missiles are going. There are laser sights and zoom scopes to help your aim, but it’s simply tedious to use them when the going gets tough.
The graphics in War in the Gulf are pretty standard – there’s nothing that strikes you as outstandingly good here. The game does look a little bare with its vector based landscapes, and the user interface is pretty sterile. The visuals does give the game a distinct look and feel which is in favor of the game and its theme. However, the animations are jerky and the game runs pretty sluggishly overall. The loading times are fast and switching between screens happens only in a matter of seconds, which, at least is nice.
The sound in this game is at a bare minimum. The theme song of the game is dull and uninspiring. In the field you will be treated with a deadly silence – the only sounds you will hear are the sounds of your weapons. It just doesn’t seem like the game is complete because it’s so damn quiet.
To sum it up, War in the Gulf is a menacingly hard action oriented tank simulator. The difficulty level may not be for the main stream player. Its biggest strength is that it allows tactical thinking and requires you to experiment with different strategies, and it’s split screen gameplay is refreshing albeit hard to manage.
I’m well aware of that games like this will never reach a mass market. Its concept is simply not a money maker for a huge audience and perhaps that’s why games like this aren’t made anymore. As such, this game represents a lost gem. A cursed gem.