Thunder Brigade is an ambitious but ultimately disappointing ground combat game from Bluemoon Interactive. The game suffers from being rushed out of the door and the unfortunate timing: it was made when publisher Interactive Magic was in its last throes before shutting down. Adrenaline Vault's good review of the game says it all:
"In this review I look at Interactive Magic's Thunder Brigade, an arcade tank combat game developed by the Estonian company BlueMoon Interactive that has tanks that hover above the ground as they move around. Games of this sort clearly throw realism completely out the window, ignoring the actual limitations present in the physics of tank movement in favor of adrenaline-pumping action.
The story in Thunder Brigade revolves around a three-sided interstellar conflict among the Earth Alliance, the Halon Empire, and the United System. You are a member of the United System People's Army, assigned to one of the former colonies of Earth, and you fight against the two opposing federations for your independence. As you succeed in your objectives, you are decorated and rise in military rank. The combat takes place among special hovertanks, 50-ton armored war machines that fly in the air using advanced anti-gravity drives (yeah, right!). Normally you command a single hovertank against an onslaught of enemies; but in many instances you either commandeer wingmen who obey your orders or conduct joint maneuvers with cooperative allied vehicles.
Thunder Brigade takes place in 12 different locales and involves 30 different missions. The game contains many modes for playing alone against the computer: Training Mission, helping you learn the controls; Instant Action, getting you immediately into the heat of battle without worrying about complicated mission objectives; Single Scenario, allowing you to tackle an isolated assignment; and Campaign, combining a whole series of scenarios into a sequential strategic battle plan. In addition, multiplayer mode allows you to play with up to 16 players over a LAN or up to four players over the Internet.
There are four tank classes, Stealth, Battle, Heavy, and Demolisher: Stealth tanks are weaker with lower firepower but are hard to hit with missiles; Battle tanks are the most agile; Heavy tanks have the strongest armor and greatest firepower but are slow and clumsy; and Demolishers are perfect to attack enemy installations but are not maneuverable enough for tank warfare. The six weapons systems at your disposal are particularly disappointing. I was especially disheartened by the intentional decision to make the auto-targeting system for the missiles dysfunctional in the most critical combat situations. The default weapon is the Rail Gun, which shoots out short-range shells that have to hit a target multiple times to destroy it. Far more effective are long-range explosive Missiles, but unlike in most games of this type they will not home in on most buildings or tanks (this omission can be really frustrating).
Both single-player and multiplayer missions are fully customizable with the included scenario editor. This built-in editor allows you to add, move, and delete objects (tanks and installations) on the scenario map, as well as to specify which ones are designated targets. You may also set scenario options such as whether tanks regenerate and how quickly they regenerate, whether targets, installations, and vehicles will be revealed to the enemy, and whether teleporting is allowed in multiplayer confrontations. Overall, I found this editor relatively easy to use, although it takes some practice to give a scenario the right balance of elements, and is a definite plus in extending the replay value of the game.
In the end, I must conclude that the use of floating tanks here is more of a gimmick than a means of really enhancing the play experience. From the way the vehicles handle in this game, they might as well be blimps as tanks; you never at any point have the sense that you are commanding anything like a conventional military armored vehicle. Had this offering included a swiveling tank turret, a view from inside a tank, or the ability to customize tanks, then the illusion of tank combat might have been significantly enhanced. Juxtaposing the feeling here to that of the highly realistic tank combat in Digital Image Design's Wargasm provides a night-and-day contrast.
The saying on the Thunder Brigade box, "float like a battleship...sting like a 50-megaton bee," leads you to believe that what is inside is an exciting arcade action game that contains vehicles with combat potential resembling the boxing skills of the great Muhammad Ali (who of course popularized the saying "float like a butterfly...sting like a bee") in his prime. Instead, this offering plays more like the overweight George Foreman at the end of his career, all bluster and no polish. I would thus recommend this offering only to the most desperate of arcade combat shooter fans."
Developer Bluemoon offers a candid explanation of why the game was not everything they wanted it to be: "Unfortunately, the 25h a day development took its toll on the game quality. While the game was perfect as a software product - i.e. it met all the requirements in the development agreement - it wasn't very fun to play. That's because we had to sacrifice a great deal of crucial gameplay testing/tuning hours in favour of "ordinary" software design tasks, like fixing A-level bugs. That, coupled with Interactive Magic's financial difficulties accounted for the fact that the game sold rather poorly in the end." Too bad.
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Tigershark, Torus Trooper, Take No Prisoners, Thief 2: The Metal Age, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force, Thunder Offshore, TMNT: Tournament Fighters Remix
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