Team Yankee (Empire) Review | ST Format - Everygamegoing

ST Format

Team Yankee
By Empire
Atari ST

Published in ST Format #16

Team Yankee

Simulators: overrated? One great big eyewatering armstretching yawn? Evidently you haven't seen Team Yankee, a sim that wilfully sacrifices some of that tedious old verisimilitude for the sake of manic gameplay.

Mark Higham, dons helmet, TA uniform and bicycle clips to discover how the end result plays...

The East versus West cold war may be over, but Empire's latest gives you an anchronistic opportunity to participate in a fictitious war between the Superpowers and see who would really come out on top. Based around the novel of the same name by Harold Coyle, it relates the details of a fictional battle between American and Soviet tank forces, each armed with an arsenal of conventional missiles and bombs.

The ST game places you in the role of leader over four tank units, and what's unique about it is the way you can see views from each of the units at all times.

At the start of a game, you decide whether to try out a practice game or venture into the full unrestrained fury of war. The practice option gives the new boys an opportunity to put control skills and reflexes to the test. The mission, taking you around a course, is a simple one, but is played in exactly the same way as any of the ordinary missions. The only difference is that the Soviet forces you confront don't fire back - very handy that.

When you tire of marching your tanks in circles around the map you can leap into the real battle. Team Yankee is divided into a set of five different missions. At the start of a new mission, your objective is explained on a notepad running down one edge of the briefing screen. The rest of the screen is dominated by a map of the mission area. You can call up an extra information screen to point out locations on the map such as your start site, the location of your objectives and any locations commanded by the opposing Soviet forces.

A mission typically involves moving your units into a specified location and then defending that area from enemy attack either for a limited time or until the forces have been neutralised. Along the way you need to avoid locations which may be playing host to an enormous Soviet presence. Other missions may involve you in offensive tactics where the objective is to seek out and blast Soviet tanks.

The playing screens feature an impressive 3D simulation of the landscape from a front facing gun turret. Alternatively, you can look down on the game area using a 2D map, enabling you to zoom in and out of the map and look at the arrangement of tanks.

All movement of the tank units is made from the map screen. To move a unit you need to place a cross on the map and select a speed. The four tanks in the unit then head for the location at a snail's pace.

A tank can blast you from over a mile away and you need to be on the lookout for the first sign of trouble. Be careful not to plod into unprotected territory, and be wary of any moves which leave you vulnerably, such as crossing rivers. A zoom mode enables you to scan the skyline and watch out for Soviet tanks hiding in the tree line. If you don't notice anything happening you can turn on your thermal imager and hope to identify the enemy this way.

The best advice for avoiding attack is to steer close to forests or tree lines where you can hide quickly. You also need to watch out that you don't fire any weapons which can attract the attention of the Soviet tanks.

Moving across roads is the fastest method of travel. Rough terrain is slightly slower and often exposed. Forests are the most protected sites, though progress through them is painfully slow. In the middle of some forests you discover useful tracks which you can use to mvoe around quickly but watch out, for the Soviets use those tracks as well. While the map displays the Soviet forces on the bare terrain, it rarely shows the position of Soviets masked by forestry.

When you have successfully played all five missions in the role of Private, you advance onto the next rank of Corporal. You then need to replay the missions again, but this time your forces are reduced and the missions more complex. You need to compete in another four campaigns until you reach the supreme rank of Captain.

The scenarios become more testing each time, with the objectives constantly changing from defensive to offensive strategies. Some of the later scenarios are even fought in the dark where thermal imaging is the only way to detect enemy forces.


What's novel about Team Yankee is the way the screen is divided into four separate windows, each representing one of your tank units. Each quadrant of the display can be used to show the view seen from the tank unit, a 2D overhead map of the landscape or a status screen showing how the unit is faring.

The maps are where you make all your movement decisions, and you can zoom in on areas of the landscape to the point where 0.2 square miles are represented in the window. This adds much atmosphere to the game, keeping you on your toes as you try to keep up with what each tank unit is doing. If several are attacked at once you can go mad fending off the attack.

Screen updating can be slow, particularly when all four windows are filled at once. When you roll into the forest, the displays slows still further so all you see are fistfuls of bitmapped trees. In zoom modes the screen updating slows down still further. This lack of speed is unfortunate but it doesn't damage the gameplay too much.

Sound effects are sparse but include the usual dose of bullet fire, weapon noises and scene-setting intro music. A warning noise sounds when any of your tank units are under attack, and this, ultimately, is the only sound you're likely to listen out for.


Though the split screen display is certainly novel, no-one is going to suggest you play the entire game from that view. The full-screen mode suits the novice player best of all, since you don't have four times as much information thrown at you at once.

It's also convenient to be able to see your remaining weapons and for accessing certain icons not present in the quadrant view.

So, you might ask, what's the point of putting all that effort into the quadrant view? When you become more experienced at the game you start to depend on the quadrant view more and more to give you a complete view of the battle scenario.

Using the four windows, you begin to feel the pace and ferocity of war, particularly when you can see a tank looming ever closer in each of the four windows.

There are a handful of annoying elements which you gradually notice as the battle gets hotter. For example, it would have been helpful if you could have seen the view from the front of the tank unit and, at the same time, an overhead view of the area. A few extra gadgets on each of the quadrant views would also have been an attractive addition, particularly the zoom mode.

One point which prevents it from being a real classic is that there's no option to direct the tanks from the main viewing screen. Instead you need to switch to the map, position your cursor and wait for the tank to reach its destination. This means you're constantly flicking from the 3D view screen to the map screen - a somewhat irritating distraction in the circumstances.

These complaints notwithstanding, it's abundantly clear that this game has been intelligently put together. Even though the five missions aren't enough, they have been well designed to ease you into the nightmare of war.

Tank controls are easy to use and quick to master. If you were hooked on M1 tank platoon from MicroProse, then you just won't be able to tear yourself away from Team Yankee.

So the East versus West cold war is dead, but this is nonetheless a nail-biting challenge - even for gamesters who would normally not be seen dead (as it were) at the controls of a tank sim. Give it a go: you won't regret it.

Mark Higham

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