WDL Thundertanks

Gamestyle Archive intro: one of the better 3do titles receiving 4/10. The publisher was all over the PS2 launch. Writer JJ, published March 2001.

LINK: www.3do.com



Society doesn’t look kindly upon destruction, violence and carnage, which is what makes videogames such great escapism.   World Destruction League Thundertanks doesn’t hide what its about – instead it embraces and glorifies it.   You and you vehicle of choice must destroy ever opponent on your way to winning the league, which of course is live on television.

If you have ever played any of the Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8 or previous 3DO instalments on the N64 you’ll know what Thundertanks is all about.   Arenas are scattered across the world and you must blast your way through any opponent or drone that gets in your way.   Although spread across the world apart from the odd local building i.e. Japan, you will be hard pushed to spot the differences between the continents.   The layouts lack variety, for instance the arenas are always set on a square layout with bases in each corner.   Add an open area in the middle and maze like corridors in between and you have your arenas for this game.   Poor design is an understatement but at least you have several modes to select from: tournament, death match, capture the flag, family, domination and frenzy.

You have a wide selection of tanks and clichéd drivers to choose from, a shame that you couldn’t customise the vehicles in some way.   Each one carries a unique type of weapon and will offer different levels of speed, armour etc.   It’s a bit hit and miss in the beginning but eventually you will find a tank suitable to your own style.   It would have been a simple idea to include the ratings of each vehicle on the selection screen but this is indicative of the poor presentation throughout.   The power ups that you can collect on the arena floor range from the mundane (grenades, health, mines) to the more exciting (air strikes, homing missiles, nuke) weapons of destruction.   Sometimes the gung ho approach doesn’t work and you are best saving the best weaponry for moments when needed.

The whole presentation of WDL is similar of that to the popular American Wrestling Federations that dominate Sky Sports on most evenings.   The commentaries are very loud and grass; full of those one-liners, which really make you wince in pain.  Thankfully we have the option such over the top commentary off.   The whole style will either delight, more likely younger gamers or wrestling fans, or make you want to reach for the eject button.   The menus are very static and boring, without music and took me back to the days of the Megadrive, sorry poor Megadrive games.   The sound is similarly weak when it does appear; it is often in varies in quality and volume level.   While the commentary is very poor it is relevant to what is happening and is well recorded.   The crowd noises and tank introductions are very poor, badly recorded and sounding like a badly sampled mono recording from your dads eight track machine.

The graphics are at a high resolution and the frame rate is constant and very quick with only a marginal slow down on the multiplayer modes.   The lighting effects are also very good but this seems to be an area where PS2 excels in.   What Thundertanks doesn’t do so well is offer a variety of textures, everything is similar, bland and very boring.   Your tank suffers from the same problem that blighted Sega Rally 2, your tanks tend to hover above the surface.   The default camera can be a problem as it is too near your vehicle, often limiting your field of vision.   Instead the aerial camera is far more effective, showing the more of the arena floor but it does reduce the game to a 2D battle tank game – a bit pointless if you’ve got a 128-bit machine.   The control system is difficult to begin with as it utilises both analogue sticks and initially you will struggle to drive over the power ups.   After some practice you will be able to drive in while direction while pointing the turret in another.

The single player mode is instantly forgettable but where Thundertanks comes alive is when your mates come round.   While offering nothing new the multiplayer mode is fast, frenzied and great fun.  Without this, WDL Thundertanks would be a very poor game indeed.   Still as there are few decent four player games currently on the PS2 you may want to consider picking this up solely for that reason.   Several of the 3DO games are on special at many retailers so shop around and pick up a bargain!

Gamestyle Score: 4/10


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