Tank Universal is an odd little shooter that harkens back to the VR craze of the past few decades. And I’m not talking “The Matrix” level of VR, I’m thinking all the way back to TRON. In fact, I really couldn’t get that old movie out of my head as I trudged my way through this tank/arcade homage to the VR genre. Usually quirky little indie titles like this appeal to me, but sometimes they just miss the mark.
There’s really not much to Tank Universal. The story begins with an old fellow getting some seriously bad news from his doctor. Along with this tragic revelation comes a VR headset, which he (for whatever reason) plops over his eyes. And instantly, Our Hero is transported to a land of red and blue lines, right in the middle of some sort of virtual uprising. The story is a bit confusing, and really not all that important, as Tank Universal is pretty much just a tank arcade shooter with stylized (some might call it “outdated”) graphics.
Players soon find themselves at the helm of a polygonal tank, ready to carry out the various missions as required. The controls take some getting used to, with the turret and treads each requiring different and simultaneous controls. To make matters more interesting, the primary weapon fires in an arc, necessitating some careful placement of shots. After a little while, however, I was able to get the hang of things and quickly worked my way through the missions. The goals of the missions were standard FPS fare, sprinkled with search and destroy, capture the flag, and some “keep all the switches flipped” levels. There were even a few (frustrating) non-tank levels, requiring our Virtual Hero to wander through the virtual battlefield on his own two virtual feet, with nary a weapon to be had. The difficulty wasn’t too bad, but I would have really liked an in-level save feature, due to my fractured gaming schedule.
Although played in a tank, Tank Universal felt much more like a team-based FPS than a vehicle simulator. Many of the levels consist of AI-controlled teammates helping out in the various fights. Dying is generally not an issue, as players respawn quickly (although often an annoying distance from the fight).
The graphics are underwhelming. I generally overlook all the (lack of) bells and whistles in indie developers’ titles, but sometimes I’m just not able to do so. Some may find the old-school look appealing, but I just find it tired. The look was clean, and the other tanks and vehicles had enough character to nicely keep up the VR theme, but that theme just didn’t appeal to me throughout. On the upside, simpler graphics means Tank Universal runs quite smoothly. There’s a decent musical score in the background, with a heavy techno beat that fits nicely with the VR theme. Things go “boom” when they’re supposed to do so, and there is very little voice acting (usually the bane of these smaller titles). I didn’t discover a way to skip the cutscenes, which is something that I find more and more annoying as my gaming years go on.
All in all, Tank Universal was, at best, mildly amusing. I just couldn’t get into the VR world, I certainly didn’t find the story compelling enough to drag me through the dozen-and-a-half or so levels, and I had to seriously fight to make myself boot this game up once I wandered away for a while. For the price, I suppose it could be an appealing little diversion for those wanting an old-school FPS/tank outing, but this is one title I will quickly forget.