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Ever Want to Drive Your Own Steel Beast?

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 ranks 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:

* Instant action, where you assume the role of the tank's gunner.

* Tutorials, designed to introduce you, step-by-step, into the M1Al Abrams or German Leopard 2A4 tank.

* Tank range, where you develop and measure your gunnery skills (you maintain a training record to show your progress).

* Single or multiplayer roles.

* Mission editor, allowing you to tailor your mission to a specific set of circumstances, relive an actual battle (i.e. Desert Storm), or develop a specific maneuver skill.

* Map editor, for use in tailoring a mission or replaying a battle.

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 [Fl] 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 of communications.

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 important--tank tactics.

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, 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
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Defense Industrial Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Steel Beats, military tank simulation game
Author:Silbergeld, David LL.
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Previous Article:Right Backed by Might: History Without Clarity.
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