No matter what your driving experience, wasn’t there a time
when you wished you were driving a tank, surrounded by armor and
armed with a 120 mm gun, almost impervious to damage or harm?
Now, your dream can come true—at least in a realistic new
simulation. Not only can you operate two of the most modern tanks
in the world—the U.S. Abrams and the German Leopard—you
also can enjoy the thrill of combat, either as a crewman of an individual
tank or as a leader of a formation of tanks.
Developed by eSim Games and published by Strategy First Inc. (Montreal),
“Steel Beasts” is a commercial tank sim used by the
U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, as a realistic and relatively
inexpensive teaching aid to demonstrate the principles of war.
Ground-maneuver warfare theory is taught using the “Steel
Beasts” sim in conjunction with West Point textbooks. Playing
various roles as a crew member in an armored vehicle or a commander
of several tanks in specific tactical simulations—such as
attack, defense, patrol or reconnaissance, with realistic actions
and sounds—teaches concepts that previously required a vast
training area, immensely detailed preparation and considerable cost.
Conceptually, the sim player gets to see the whole battlefield,
or picture, as well as participate actively in it. The ability to
replay an event and learn lessons from it in a classroom environment
is a great step forward, especially in a commercial sim, available
to the military historian.
An overview of the main menu reveals several play options:
In playing a mission, you will use planning, execution and debriefing
phases. Perhaps one of the most useful tools in planning the mission
is the line-of-sight (LOS) map. Looking like a terrain map, a click
on a point reveals the picture that you would see if you were at
that exact spot. Tinting of the LOS map determines safe or dangerous
areas. Want more? How about clicking [F1] to get a virtual 3-D view
from that LOS position?
Unit movement is part of the sim and an excellent training item.
Actions en route depend on whether you are in a single tank, or
in a column of tanks, or are the commander in the lead vehicle of
that unit. Once you’ve assumed command, all decisions affecting
movement are yours. One caveat: You cannot assume the driver’s
position in “Steel Beasts.” However, you can control
the movements of the tank from any crew position, since driving
commands are interpreted as orders to the driver.
A command button (F6) allows you to switch from the Abrams to the
Leopard tank’s gunnery position, where your primary job is
to aim, fire, and destroy enemy targets. Another caveat: If the
tank commander orders a change in ammo type for the main gun, the
loader will not remove the round currently loaded. In battle, a
loaded round comes out only when it is fired.
You’re going to learn about gun stabilization and how to
use the laser range finder, ballistic computer and thermal-imaging
system. You even can see your targets through the gunner’s
primary sight or auxiliary sight, and get an accurate and detailed
interior view of the gunner’s control-panel switches for either
the Abrams or Leopard.
You also experience sophisticated damage modeling, including loss
As commander, you can choose the commander or crewman’s view—or
switch to the “outside” view to see what you look like.
One of the features of any game that is important is the clarity
and usefulness of details in the instructions. “Steel Beasts”
provides excellent and informative instructions. There are appendices
that provide a brief history of tanks, battlefield hazards (handling
and use of all types of tank ammo), armor technology and—most
The developers have issued a warning that some portions of the
simulation cannot be recreated. Included are many of the switches
inside the tank that cannot be used and in real life require training
while blindfolded. Then, there is the physical stress issue. You
don’t do hard labor on your PC or laptop, whereas a tank crewman’s
job requires a lot of difficult manual labor. You’ll love
the instruction manual’s suggestions for experiencing what
it sometimes feels like in a tank: “Take care to avoid all
social contact ... Stop washing for a couple of days ... Start exercising
by repeatedly climbing some dressers in your bedroom ... Fold yourself
into a locker for a few hours ... Then, start weight-lifting your
17-inch monitor ... Avoid sleeping for more than three hours per
day (in the locker, of course) ... Use duct-tape to fix yourself
into your seat.”
This sim can be played on a multi-player level through a LAN or
the Internet. This game is from the developers of Steel Panthers
I and II. Look for “Steel Beasts II” in 2002.
Recommended configuration: IBM compatible PC or laptop, Windows
95/98/ME/2000 with DirectX 7.0 or better (Note: You can download
the DirectX from the Microsoft Web site at http://www.microsoft.com),
450 MHz Pentium Class, 64 MB Ram or greater, 225 MB free HD space,
2 MB SVGA video card, mouse (joystick preferred—calibrated
through Windows 95 and designated ID #1), CD-ROM, sound card.
Dr. David LL. Silbergeld is a member of the Special Operations
and Low-Intensity Conflict Division of the National Defense Industrial
Association. His e-mail address is email@example.com.