Armored Fist 2

By Slugger Jones

        The tone of your training officer in the Armored Fist 2 tutorials tells you this ain't gonna be some stroll in the park. Right away you sense there's an edge to this sim. And you're right. The second in a series of noteworthy tanksims by NovaLogic thrusts you right in the action and doesn't let up. Featuring the fabled M1A2 battle tank, Armored Fist 2 goes to great lengths to get it right. Dolby Surround Sound™.   Voxel Space 2™ rendering technology. Detailed interface screens. Armored Fist 2 strives to be the best modern tanksim there is. 

af2_1.jpg (95515 bytes)        A player chooses between three modes of play. Easy mode is for the casual gamer who wants to drive and shoot right away, without all the manual time some sims put you through. Most of the tank functions are handled by the AI (artificial intelligence) crew, leaving you in command. You may still direct fire in this mode but you aren't overwhelmed with details. Realistic mode gives you more direct control of the different stations and allows you the most direct input into the tank's performance. The third playing mode is a combination of the two, Realistic with Autolock. This is the same as Realistic with the enhancement of the near-perfect gun aiming. You direct the target and your AI gunner tracks the target--and he's good! He rarely misses. He even tracks the enemy aircraft with the main cannon and downs them, often as not. 

af2_3.jpg (101523 bytes)        The interface makes good use of a joystick, mouse, and the keyboard. Everything is laid out quite well. The usual tank stations are present--driver, gunner, CITV, and unbuttoned with the .50 cal. I especially liked a unique innovation that came in the gunner's station. Along with the main sight, the auxiliary sight with its greater magnification factor is on the same screen, in the lower right corner. This is much better than M1TP2 and Panzer Commander, where you have to hit the F-key to switch between the two. In AF2 you merely glance from one to the other. It's wonderful to use the main sight to get the target in focus, then finish alignment with the auxiliary.  


        The status panel has a tank silhouette to quickly show you which side you're taking fire from. And one of your crewmen will assist also, shouting out, "Tank! Front right!".  You can target from the CITV and the gunner will fire or you may decide to target and fire as the gunner. A word of warning: if you play at the most realistic level, without the Autolock feature, get ready for a lot of replays. It is nearly impossible to aim and hit anything while the tank is moving. With a lot of practice and the autostabilizer on, I was able to make 1 in 3 shots count.  I was most effective when I braked, shot, and moved. Of course, that will keep you plenty busy and the enemy will pick you off sooner. Then there's the problem of using just the right touch to get the crosshairs on the target, often a moving one. I found the joystick-controlled gun to be too fast and twitchy, I was constantly overadjusting. NovaLogic's dev team was clever enough to make the "0" key a fine control setting--but then the gun moves too slowly! (Some people just can't be satisfied--ed.) I suppose it would help if the input to the stick was more progressive, but hey, it's a skill to acquire. Using the Autolock simplifies things greatly. With a flick of a joystick button, the AI gunner will wheel the turret and lock on target. Did I mention he rarely misses? 

af2_2.jpg (73670 bytes)        There are over 30 missions in four campaigns, plus a single tank campaign and a tutorial section. The theaters range from Central Africa to Siberia to Iran. All good tank stomping grounds. The terrain has an abundance of features--hills, trees, trenches--and the ground is anything but flat. The tanks are rendered with detail and scale. Blast a building and it slowly collapses. Ram a tree and it reluctantly arcs to the ground. The main cannon recoils and the tank rocks with great effect. They got that part right. The overall graphics in AF2 are above average and are not worse for the wear of three years. 

        You expect to hear a lot of noise in a tank battle and for the most part Armored Fist 2 produces them for you. The cannon and clanking treads sound good, as do the creaking of falling trees, the whine of near misses, and the ricochets of bullets off metal objects.. However, some sounds, such as engine noise, are underemphasized while others, such as the .50 cal machine gun are inconsistent. Fire the machine gun to life and the sounds are frequently delayed. With the crew voices and blasting cannons, you may not notice the smaller defects. The cutscene music is okay but the in-game music is horrible--turn it off! The tank radio chatter is entertaining enough.

        The dev team managed to pull off a feat when it comes to gameplay. The enemy units in AF2 are not pushovers. When you face obsolete equipment, you also face greater numbers than your own side. You can call in arty and air strikes and I suggest you do so if you want a 50-50 chance of completing the missions. Campaign play in AR2 is not merely driving around and shooting. Helos and ground attack aircraft are present on the battlefield. Enemy units vary widely, from SCUD missile launchers, BMPs, T-80s, T-72s and bunkers. No individual infantry. You learn quickly in AF2 to improvise and try different things. You are given waypoint assignments but I found in some cases (not all) bypassing the waypoints and circling around a hill gave me a rear position on a battalion of enemy armor. I destroyed six tanks and escaped around the hill. You will not enjoy cresting hills--as in real life, you are an easy target and you will pay dearly.  

af2_10.jpg (106617 bytes)        Notably missing is a scenario editor or random mission generator. You are limited to the campaign missions included in the sim. While these will take a while to complete and are more than sufficiently entertaining and challenging, any sim--all sims--should have either a random battle feature or a scenario editor to make custom missions. Multi-play is included, either by modem, serial connection, or IPX network with up to eight players. Network play over the Internet is an option only through the Kali network, which has an Armored Fist 2 section. The cost to register with Kali is $20, and for this you can play as long as you want at any time of day with anyone you want. Kali features many other sims and games as well.

        The program is fairly stable, with only the infrequent crash to note. It is a DOS sim but runs very well in Win95/98. I encountered no problems in the setup or performance. 

        It should be noted that one year after this sim, NovaLogic released Armored Fist 3 which represented an upgraded version of AF2. This does not detract from the value of AF2. The hardware requirements are less than AF3 but the fun level is nearly the same--as you would expect from a quality sim company. The missions are challenging and quite engaging. You will need to repeat most missions several times to get it right but you are not restricted from bypassing a tough mission to play a new one. In any case, you won't mind playing them over and over. Though not the ultimate in realism, Armored Fist 2 is fun and feisty. With good graphics, sound, and interface, this sim has a lot going for it. When you button up in Armored Fist 2, you are signing on to a 67-ton thrill ride.

Rating:  82


Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Program stability Multi- play


7/10 7/10 18/20 7/10 14/15 5/5
BONUS:  +2: Good interface


System Requirements: 486, DOS 6.0, 8MB RAM, 10 MB hard-drive space, 2x CD-ROM,  SoundBlaster and Adlib-compatible sound card

af2_8.jpg (58967 bytes)

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