War in the Gulf logo

Ever fancied getting tanked up and kickin' up your own desert storm? Well here's your chance to cause armoured-geddon in Empire's War in the Gulf.

I don't know what it is, but ever since I've been wending my weary way to AC Towers - which is no mean feat, as it's in the middle of nowhere, seven miles up a pig's colon - I keep getting the war games. Please, don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning. It's just that until recently I was the type of guy who'd trip through blossomed meadows, and go around preaching love, peace and generally non-violent activities.

Now look at me, they've turned me into a child-eating, babe-butchering, war-mongering maniac. But enough of my problems, let's see what's one today's menu.

War in the Gulf is a tank sim from the same people who brought you the award-winning Pacific Island and Team Yankee. Now before you all jump to the wrong conclusions, I'll put you right.
Tanks are not those outdated, large, lumbering pieces of metal. They're no longer the Tony Adams of the military world. Not I the American Chiefs of Staff are to be believed. In fact, a large proportion of the success of the 1990 Gulf conflict was down to the armoured divisions.

This brings me rather neatly on to my second point. This is not - as most of us thought - based on the original flare up in the Middle Eart. Instead, we are swept forward in time to 1995. As always with this renowned hot spot there's trouble. Following a maelstrom of violence and political unrest, Iraq, led by Mr personality Saddam Hussein, decides to waltz back into Kuwait. Is it me or have I experienced deja vu?

Well, there's no prize for guessing whose job it is to take control of matters and free Kuwait. Funded by the extremely wealthy Emir, you and your mouse manipulate the destiny of Team Kuwait. Team Kuwait comprises some of the latest hardware to grace the front drive of the US military, including the lethal M-1 Abrams main battle tank. You take command of four tank units, simultaneously controlling a total of 16 vehicles.

Following some nice intro screens, the first task in hand is to set your forces an objective. Empire are boasting 25 battle zones - so there's plenty to choose from. Being a campaign, the action begins on one particular island and moves inland as you become more adept.

Now it's time to deploy your forces. This is where the first element of strategy shows its face. Obviously different vehicles have varying capabilities, but there's more to it than that. Money-bags himself, the Emir of Kuwait, controls the purse strings, giving you pocket money to buy the hardware to do the job.

Sounds simple enough? Unfortunately he only coughs up on results and doesn't like it when you blast large holes in ancient monuments or other Kuwaiti treasures.

Next option at your disposal is whether or not to set artillery support. Having pondered that one though, it's on to the main game screen. I should really have used the plural there because the main screen really consists of four: each one of the tank units occupies a quarter of the screen.

Next option at your disposal is whether or not to set artillery support. Having pondered that one though, it's on to the main game screen. I should really have used the plural there because the main screen really consists of four; each one of the tank units occupies a quarter of the screen.

All of these areas can be independently accessed by mouse-driven icons. So it's possible to view all of your units at the same time. However, it's highly unlikely that you'll utilise this option too often, as it's hard to determine what's going on and this manoeuvre generally results in all of your tanks being ripped open like so many tins of sardines.
Instead it's a lot more canny to operate from a full screen view. Here, both thank and extermal graphics gain clarity and good old user-friendliness.

The tactical aspects of WITG are all decided within the battle map. Clicking on to this screen displays the geography and topography of the battle zone. It also displays your vehicles and their intended courses. You're also given options on your speed and a whole range of tactical formations.

"Yeah! Yeah! I hear you screen, "This is all very well, but what about the action? Where 's the carnage? The satiating of primeval desires that we all lust for?"
All right calm down, I'll talk about that aspect of Gulf now. The main battle sequences give us external views of the Kuwaiti terrain seen from inside the tanks. Again it's down to mighty mouse to control everything. You can practically carry out any action that the real McCoy can, whether it be a simple turret rotation or use of the laser sights to increase your deadliness. Everything's there in reach of your sweaty palms.

In terms of ballistics, you've got more munitions to hand than Arnie in Terminator 2. Your choices vary from anti-tank missiles through to smoke grenades. Firing is simple enough, moving the mouse off the control panel onto the play area - as if by magic - changes the selector icon into a gun sight.

The play area graphics are courtesy of Empire's award-winning 3D technique. They mix bitmapped, arcade-style effects and vector graphics with great results. The action is fast paced and plenty happens.

This all adds to the realism which is generated. The enemy are extremely intelligent and show no mercy when it comes to the crunch, Saddam's Republican Guard being particularly ruthless.

The sound involved throughout is spartan but effective. But let's face it, when you're crammed into a space the size of a filing cabinet you can hardly hear much.

What really grabbed me about Empire's endeavours is the realism. It's not so much the visual quality - which has to be said is excellent - so much as the speed. The game plays at a "real-time" pace. This gives the player little, if no time to react to surprise attacks. There're plenty of occasions I sat there perplexed, pulling my hair out, watching my vehicles being decimated y unseen foe.

The relative cunning of the Iraqi forces makes this an incredibly tough nut to crack. There's little point in sending your forces out willy-nilly. You have to have a strategy. This element of affairs add to the overall addictiveness of War in the Gulf.

I know the Gulf conflict is a bit of a touchy subject in some areas. I also can't help feeling that there's something a mite sad about the marketing strategy employed - riding on the back of a war to sell games. However, it's been done before, and no doubt it'll be done again. So, moralising apart, it has to be said that War in the Gulf is a quality product. It will appeal to both action and strategy punters alike, and is tricky enough to render it boht compulsive and addictive.

So if you're a budding stormin' Norman, this is definitely the game for you. Should keep the troops amused for months.

Gameplay map
War in the Gulf
  1. Large screen display
  2. Split screen display
  3. Engine smoke - useful for confusing enemy
  4. Thermal imaging icon
  5. Dead stop - halts movement of a unit
  6. Zoom icon - magnifies image x6
  7. Rotate turret and compass control
  1. Laser range finder
  2. HEAT high explosive anti-tank round
  3. SABOT armour piercing shell
  4. TOW long range anti-tank missile
  5. Smoke grenades
  6. Machine gun
  7. US/Iraqi strength histograms
  1. ETA icon
  2. Pause
  3. Quit
  4. Finances available
  5. Tank status icon
  6. Play area icon
  7. View map icon

War in the Gulf logo

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the desert, the fighting starts again and you are in the front line. But is it fun being there?

This is what will happen. In 1995 the Israeli and Arab factions will shoot each other. There will be many casualties on both sides. The situation will be somewhat confused for a while, and a slightly surprising result of the fierce fighting will be the development of two divisions of elite Iraqi Republican Guards in Northern Kuwait. The United Nations will decide to send in troops to evict the Iraqui soldiers and once more the world will be ringside for another desert rumble set to go the full 12 rounds.

Take the M1 North
So leaving apart the slightly dodgy Gulf political issues, let us have a closer look at the tanks of the next major conflict.

War in the Gulf is the third in the Team Yankee series. Like Team Yankee itself, and more recently, Pacific Islands, it gives you control of 16 of America's finest and most dangerous armoured vehicles.

Again, as in the first two games, you get 10 M1 Abrams main battle tanks and six missile-firing personnel carriers. These are carefully and artistically arranged into four platoons. The control options enable you to move these platoons separately, so this, really, is the scale you have got to think about.

Ranged against you are the forces of Mr Hussein's elite Republican Guard. Their company cars are t-72s, T-62s plus an assortment of lesser vehicles. Elite they may be, but they do not get the best of the Russian hardware, that is for sure. On paper and in the field your kit is better than theirs.

The problems start when you realise just how much of this not-very-good armour they have. Being Iraqis, and owning the world's fourth largest army, they do not skimp on sending their troops directly towards you. It can be quite unsettling, in fact.

Bunkers on the Gulf course
Each battle is fought out on a map which appears to be about give miles square. There are villages, woods and, certainly on the training screen, rivers. It is just like being in Aldershot, actually, except that it is not raining.

You go to the map view and position your forces as you see fit, bearing in mind the exhaustive mission briefing beforehand. This has such objectives as blowing up ammo dumps, blowing up warehouses, blowing up factories and, if you can spare the time, blowing up the enemy as well.

Until you come virtually face to face with them, enemy movement is hidden. This feature is one of the strengths of the program. You change across enemy tanks and all hell breaks loose. It is feasible to destroy your own vehicles in the heat of battle, and the fog of war is sometimes so dense it is best to stay at home and only venture out if it is strictly necessary.

After your first encounter, you are left to lick your wounds and study the recognition charts. At times during the melee you would swear that Empire have used the same sprites for the T-72s as for your M1s.

During the battles, you must fire every shot and make every movement yourself. There are no intelligent crews. The secret is to use the game's multi-view option. This splits the screen into four, and each quadrant can display anything you can see on the main display.

So two platoons can show the map and two can show the tank commander's view. This is a great help when you are attacked unexpectedly. It is also a hindrance when you need to dance between platoons to co-ordinate your firing. Dive for the manual and learn those short-cuts is the best advice.

Iraq in the Kasbah
There is also the weaponry to consider. HEAT rounds, Sabot shells, TOW missiles. It is amazing what they can do nowadays. Each has a different role, and if you know which to use, you will probably live longer.

After each bout you need to re-arm and re-equip your team. This is done by spending a huge pile of cash. You can vary the armaments of your platoons and you can juggle with their strengths as well. What you cannot do is go AWOL with the dosh.

All in all, War in the Gulf is as good as to Pacific Islands and slightly better than Team Yankee. This is hardly surprising since it is virtually the same game. In fact, all that differs between it and Pacific Islands is the colour of the surface your are driving across.

Instead of a putting green, it is now a beige hospital carpet. The enemies use exactly the same equipment and you have precisely the same set up yourself. The missions are different, but not much. Hence the woods, villages and streams.

It is a pity that the game does not advance what is a fun and playable system. There are no helicopters, no new units and no new objects. A large city covering the entire map would have been challenging, for example.

Although there is nothing new here, the missions do seem harder, which does not sound like war in the gulf to me. Apparently, in real life the worst the Iraqis did was damage four M1s. Four out of nearly 2,000, that is. But you are face with quite a task here. Unless you name is Schwarzkopf, moving and firing your 16 vehicles will tax you sufficiently by mission three.

Overall, this will appeal to die-hard Team Yankee fans and maybe those who have never played any of the series. It is the best of the three, but it is just not different enough.


There are four types or rounds in the game (as well as machine guns). Each has a specific role, and it is worth getting to know them and their abilities. 1. High Explosive (HE). This is perfect against buildings, lightly armoured vehicles, ammo dumps and trees.
2. Sabot (also known as Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot). This is a small kinetic round sued to punch painful holes in heavy armour. No explosive capabilities, its speed is its power. Use only against tanks.
3. TOW. Tube-Launcher, Optically Tracked Wire Guided missile. Long range, great accuracy and very dangerous. These sit atop your Bradley M2s and ITVs.
4. Smoke. Hides your tanks and makes you cough.

War in the Gulf logo

Der Golfkrieg ließ die Empire-Generäle nicht ruhen: Schleunigst mußte eine Panzersimulation her, die den Erfolgsschlachten "Team Yankee" und "Pacific Islands" ein weiteres Kapittel hinzufügt.

Somit sind hier eigentlich nur Hintergrundstory und Kampfgebiet wirklich neu: Der rote Kommunistenstern ist am Feindbild-Himmel untergegangen, dafür leuchtet jetzt Saddams Schnauzbart dämonisch über dem Horizon; dazu bigt es tonnenweise brennend heißen Wüstensand, lodernde ö;lquellen, spärliche Wälder sowie jede Menge Gebäude und abschußwürdige Fahrzeuge.

Das Gameplay dagegen gleicht dem der Vorgänger wie ein M1-Abrams-Tank dem anderen, es werden sogar wieder dieselben acht Panzerötypen ins Rennen geschickt.

Als Kommandeur einer Eilteeinheit muß der Spieler insgesamt 25 Schlachtfelder erobern, um die kuwaitischen Bürger und ö;lquellen zu befreien. Nach der Auftragsvergabe stellt er seine aus vier Zügen à vier Blechdosen bestehende Panzerkolonne zusammen, bestückt sie mit Munition und setzt sie auf dem bewährten Splitscreen in Marsch - nach wie vor lassen sich also alle vier Vierergruppen nach Belieben einzeln oder gleichzeitig befehligen.

Und schon geht es rund: Die kampfstarken gegnerischen Panzerverbände, unpassierbare Flüsse und das Zeitlimit sorgen für abwechslungsreichen Streß; man kann Minengürtel anlegen, unterstützendes Artilleriefeuer anordnen und tarnende Nebel wallen lassen. Praktisch jede Gebäude ist zerstö;rbar, wobei allerdings Krankenhäuser und andere zivile Objekte tunlichst geschont werden sollten.

Mit Argusaugen plus Nachtsichtgerät darf der Digi-General nach versteckten Waffendepots und getarnten Hubschraubern Ausschau halten, bloß darf er in der Hitze des Gefechts nicht vergessen, sorgfältig mit dem ihm anvertrauten Equipment umzugehen. Am Ende jeder Mission folgt nämlich der große Kassensturz, wo jeder demolierte Tank und jede verpulverte Granate pedantisch abgerechnet werden.

Und wer dann nicht alle Primärziele erfolgreich erledigt hat, kriegt auch nicht genügend Cash, um seinen Fuhrpark wieder auf Vordermann zu bringen!

Abgesehen von diesem kleinen Abstecher in die Finanzwelt ist War in the Gulf aber eine reine Action-Simulation, bei der geballert wird, bis die rohre glühen. Das kommt auch akustisch erschreckend realistisch rüber, und dank der tadellosen Maussteuerung in Verbindung mit einer übersichtlichen und soft scrollenden 3D-Grafik spielt sich die Echtzeitschlacht so flüssig, wie man sich im Wüstensand nur wünschen kann.

Zu der opulenten Ausstattung des Games gehö;ren neben dem informativen Handbuch noch je zwei Poster und Postkarten sowie eine große Landkarte von Kuwait, was uns auch schon zu abschließenden Manö;verkritik führt: Selbst wenn die Besitzer der Vorgänger dieses Programm mit einiger Berechtigung als (kräftig) aufgemotzte, Datadisk abhaken kö;nnen, lohnt sich der Abstecher an den Golf für die Freunde dezent lackierter Schwerstfahrzeuge doch auf alle Fälle. (md)

War in the Gulf logo

War is the continuation of politics by other means. Tanks, for instance.

Plagued by the occasional letter from readers who think I wibble on too much and try to make each review a handcrafted piece of pure entertainment rather than a solid, twelve-hundred word block of facts and figures about parallax scrolling and screen update times, I have decided to forgo my usual three-paragraph 'amusing' intro and plunge headlong into the review. It is risky, I know, but that is what I am like - living life on the edge, dangling my feet over the edge of my own freshly dug grave and laughing openly at the colour of Beelzebub's jockey shorts.

War in the Gulf is going to come as no surprise to anyone who already owns Team Yankee and Pacific Islands, simply because it sues the same game engine as these two previous games. The setting, as you have probably already worked out, is northern Kuwait, but it is not, as you may think, set during the Gulf War. Oh no. This is set around the start of the NEXT Gulf War, and puts you in control of the rapid response team sent in to counter the Republican Guard who have stormed over the border in their shiny Soviet-made tanks.

I could wander off the point here and comment that they could just as easily be American tanks seeing as the US backed Iraq heavily during the long running Iran/Iraq War. But this is a game magazine, and in no way should be treated as a forum for my own personal views on superpower world crisis mismanagement, so I won't.

Team Kuwait is sent I to spearhead the assault, landing on a small island called Failaka. Assuming you can sweep the cream of Iraqi armour in the sea liked to many discarded Dinky Toys, you head onto the neighbouring Bubiyan island, and then springboard over to mainland Kuwait.

After days of constant fighting, most battles ended up with my tanks crews being hoisted out of their mangled vehicles, so I did not get off Failaka. Now, normally we would not admit to such shortcomings, but I think it serves to point out that War in the Gulf (the game) is not going to be the hideously one-sided pushover that War in the Gulf (the real event) was.

The copy protection system asks you to identify various armoured vehicles, which is handy because in the game you need to visually identify each unit as 'friend' or 'foe' before your 105mm smoothbore sends a depleted uranium round zinging towards it at 1,1000 metres per second.

Next, you are given the option of loading up Team Kuwait with weapons of your choice, but the default settings are perfectly adequate and probably more realistic. Team Kuwait consists of 16 vehicles, which are divided up into four units of four vehicles each.

The actual formation of these units depends on the mission, but invariably there are strong units consisting entirely of tanks, and weaker ones made up of armoured personnel carriers.

Even on Failaka island there are three challenging and surprisingly different scenarios. You have to link up with your allies, stop a convoy from reaching a distant town, and in my personal favourite of the lot, you have to root an armoured division out of an archaeological site (without damaging any buildings) and then defend it against a counter-attack. If you thought warfare was just running around firing guns at people, shame on you.

Right then, the game itself. Before you start, you can set artillery strikes to begin at a set time, which is only useful once you have played the scenario a few times and know when and where the enemy are going to be.

You view the battlefield from the commander's turret, which you can rotate to draw a bead on any of the baddies. To move around, you switch to the map screen and set a destination, speed, and unit formation. This keeps the combat and the navigation parts of the game clear and separate.

The real beauty of the game is that it is entirely mouse driven, which is a massive change from the hideous keyboard overlays you get with some wargames. This simplicity is essential, because when you get into a battle, the last thing you want to be messing about with is which button to press. Battles are hot, fast, and invariably fatal, either for you or your foe. The rules of tank warfare are simple - if you are spotted first, you are dead.

Battles are hot, fast and invariably fatal

Unfortunately, this gives the Iraqis the advantage in that they are played by the computer and so are always looking the right way to zap you. To counter this, you have to employ sneak tactics, like making full use of all the cover available, and firing on the enemy from the tree line.

You can also lay down smoke, which cuts down the chances of you being hit, but also obscures your vision. Handily, your units have infrared imaging, which shows up burning tanks and hot engines - even through trees and smoke.

All this would be pretty good fun on its own, but you have got to do it four times over! Through a four-way split-screen system, you can control all the units at the same time, swapping between map and battle displays at will. It is a major part of the game, but rather than prattle on about it, you would get a better idea of what it is like by looking at all these lovely screen shots.

So what about the down side then? Well, for a start, the graphics are hardly state-of-the-art, which affects the gameplay when you have real problems working out whether that block of lumpy graphics is one of yours or not.

Also, when you see things up close, they are massively bitmapped in a super-blocky Sega-arcade-game sort of way. But I got so excited playing it that when anything was that close, I was screaming "Reload, reload!" as its turret swung around, and not particularly concerned that my target (or nemesis, depending on how quickly I got reloaded) was not photo-realistic.

Another problem is that if all four units engage in combat at once, things rapidly get out of hand. Although the split screen gives you the ability to control all four simultaneously, your brain has real problems, as in effect you are playing four games of Battle Zone at the same time.

It is also a bit annoying when you can hear gunfire, but do not know which unit is taking hits, until the message 'Kuwait 3 has lost a vehicle' flashes up, by which time it is too late. The obvious solution to this is to only send in one unit at a time, but this detracts from reality and any plans for a 'blitzkrieg' you may be secretly harbouring.

Okay, so these are not huge problems - let us go to my main gripe, which is one of military accuracy. There is not any automatic target tracking, which means that when you are moving, it is hard to keep aiming at another target as you bounce along. This would be fairly realistic for a WW2 tank game, but in these days of laser-sighted, self-correcting hydraulic gun control systems, it seems a bit dumb that you miss a target because your tank jolts.

That is it then. War in the Gulf is a real goodie. Tanks for listening. Arf.

War in the Gulf
  1. To mask your movements you've got two options. You can either fire a smoke shell, or turn on the engine smoke.
  2. Having produced smoke, it's a good idea to be able to see through it, so you can switch to infrared.
  3. The 'dead stop' button allows you to stop without having to switch to the map screen. It's vital for accurate shooting.
  4. The bottom half of the compass shows your heading, while the top half and the arrows indicate the turret's direction.
  5. This toggles between the side-angle and close-up views. At the moment we're zoomed in nice and close.
  6. There's a HEAT round selected and loaded. Changing weapons and reloading all take vital seconds.
  7. The laser rangefinder takes some of the guesswork out of aiming by showing a different sight icon when you lock on.

War in the Gulf logo

As Empire roll out another tank sim, Mark Patterson finds out if he can spot the difference.

Some people attract bad luck like a magnet. Other draw insects by the hundred. For some reason I just can't seem to escape Empire's tank simulations.

My first thought on seeing the shots on the back of the box was 'bloody hell, they've got a cheek'- the game looks like Team Yankee painted yellow. If I was the average punter in the shop staring at the game packaging I would have returned it to the shelf without further hesitation. Fortunately for Empire I am not the average punter, so putting on my reviewer's cap I started playing the game and was pleasantly surprised.

It may look the same as Empire's previous games, Pacific Islands and Team Yankee,.it might play the same and use the same control system, but there are a number of improvements. First of all, you're required to attack more buildings and installations than before. This gives you plenty of scope for wanton destruction although you're required to buy ammunition out of the unit's budget so you can't afford to get too trigger happy.

The hard part about this, and the other two games, is that you're in charge of four platoons at once while the whole game carries on in real time. You must keep a constant watch on where each group is and how close they're getting to the enemy. Things really start to become confusing on the later missions when you have one platoon trailing an enemy convoy to their base, while you're got another two dealing with an assault elsewhere with your fourth unit preparing to ambush a tank column.

When you complete a mission you have to sit back and assess the damage. Firstly you only have a limited budget, which increases with the amount of enemy tanks you destroy. Damaged tanks can be repaired for only a few dollars, while a replacement will soak up nearly all your cash. Ammunition also has to be bought, and after a few missions you'll probably find yourself having to send out tanks which are almost unarmed.

Because this is the 90s, technology plays an important role on the battlefield. Instead of just blasting a shell from your tank towards the target, you now have laser sights to make sure your aim is good. You also need the right weapon for the right job.

High explosive shells are fine against personnel carriers and other lightly armoured vehicles, but they just bounce off a tank's armour. Instead you need to use a SABOT rocket. This blasts a depleted uranium rod through the tank's armour and the resulting shrapnel shreds the crew.

The ultimate in tank weapons is the TOW missile. Your vehicles have to be stationary to launch them, but you're almost guaranteed a hit every time. Obviously stopping your tank in order to fire this weapon gives your enemy a golden opportunity to take pot-shots at you, so it's usually best to stick to the conventional weapons.

You also have access to a large battery of artillery. Strikes have to be set up before your mission, which means you have to be careful not to get caught up in your own barrage. Mines can also be laid, which is useful if you're expecting to be chased by enemy forces.

A comprehensive training mission is included to break you into the world of tank combat - or at least that is what it attempts to do. Instead it requires lots of cross-referencing with the manual and frustrating attempts at tracking down key buildings.

They say you can't have too much of a good thing. I, for one, have. I don't really want to see another game in this series, unless it is radically different. That said, if you haven't played any of the other games in this series, War in the Gulf is the best of the lot and well worth checking out.