Tread Marks is an incredibly addictive battle tank combat and racing game that is similar to classic BattleZone, but a lot more sophisticated and fun. A deserving winner of three awards in the second annual Independent Games Festival, Tread Marks achieves what many, more expensive titles have failed at: combining elements from different genres (in this case, FPS, tank simulation, and racing) into a wholly new, addictive gaming experience. Nick Stewart's review for the Adrenaline Vault says it all about this overlooked underdog that deserves much more recognition: |
"The story proffered is extremely tongue-in-cheek: In the not-so-near future, a horde of sentient battle tanks become tired with the futile wargames humans force them into, and go off to play their own, involving off-road racing and live ammunition. To further reinforce the silly regard in which they hold the storyline, Longbow quotes Monty Python, and adds goofy lines such as "Hoody Hoo!" in the description. This knowingly ridiculous summary is a humorous acknowledgement that the real fun to be had in Tread Marks is found within the aforementioned off-road maneuvering while armed to the teeth with various forms of live ammo.
An interesting concept such as Tread Marks' can be rendered empty and hollow if it's implemented with a sufficiently dull or unoriginal field of play. By injecting a considerable dose of variety into the tracks, Longbow has most effectively avoided this particular failing. Over thirty venues have been included, each possessing their own unique visual style and effect on gameplay. For instance, hitting a jump while on the Moon track will keep you airborne much longer than it would on other courses. Racing on the Armageddon track is a dangerous proposal, as "Matterbombs" and nuclear missiles are routinely fired from random points on the map, obliterating every player at least once or twice. As might be surmised from its name, the Jumper track is replete with small hills, rendering racing combat as difficult as trying to play darts while skiing over moguls. Consider that you can deathmatch on all 33 racing tracks as well as the nineteen other deathmatch-specific levels, and you're left with more than enough real estate to keep you entertained for a very long time.
The selection of tracks, while impressive, pales in comparison to the sheer simplistic innovation brought about in the variety of your arsenal. Weapons, once collected, attach themselves to a particular spot on your tank, although the exact location depends on the type of device. Turret-mounted weapons are just that: implements that fire in the direction of your turret. These include such traditional weapons as the machine gun and laser, as well as some unconventional ones, like rocket grenades, concussion missiles, and dirt ball cannons. Alternatively, there are hull-mounted weapons, such as the cruise missile, the heavy flamer, and plasma mines, which fire in the direction the tank itself is pointed. Each means of destruction possesses its own tactical advantages and disadvantages, which, combined with the random nature of the spawning, keeps you on your toes.
It would be impossible to describe Tread Marks without mentioning one of its most unique qualities – its staggeringly deformable terrain, which is virtually a feature in itself. A track that you might have been familiar with at the beginning of the race is guaranteed to be a totally different beast by the time you cross the finish line. The highly destructive weapons not only gouge chunks out of your hull, but out of the very land as well. The extremely dynamic nature of the terrain provides a completely new set of challenges, and as such keeps gameplay new and fresh. While the concept of blending tank combat, racing, and deathmatching might seem like an awkward one, Longbow has executed this combination with such originality and excellence that even passing fans of any of the three genres will be kept entertained for a very long time." A must-have, and a proud entrant into our Hall of Belated Fame, without a doubt.
Note: Nick Stewart kindly sent us more information about this game that makes it all the more commendable: "this game was made by a small family working out of their basement, under the guise of Longbow Digital Arts: Jim and Wendy McNally served as vice-president and art director, while their son Philippe acted as the artist and modeler. Their other son, Seamus, was the lead designer and programmer, and it was his spirit that helped see the project through, as he toiled to complete the game while fighting a battle against Hodgkins' Disease. Sadly, he died of it in 2000, much to the great sorrow of the independant gaming community; he was brave and exceedingly kind, and definitely well-loved by all who knew him." Rest in peace, Seamus, and may your game live forever in gamers' hearts.
Reviewed by: Underdogs