The old Super NES and Genesis tank combat game Super Battletank is back on the GBA in the form of Majesco's Operation Armored Liberty. The premise isn't all that complicated, but it is relevant to current events. You play the part of a tank crew in Iraq. The game has you driving around places like Basra and Tikrit, engaging Saddam's tank, SCUD, and helicopter forces in real-time, first-person combat. Majesco has updated the missions to reflect the events of the second Iraq war, but it hasn't done anything to add to the game's fun factor or overall length. As such, most players will have their fill of Operation Armored Liberty in an hour or two.
Even though the game uses every button on the GBA, it's actually pretty simple. You use the directional pad and shoulder buttons to steer and to control the cannon turret, the A and B buttons to accelerate and to fire the selected weapon, and the select and start buttons to switch weapons and to pull up an overhead map of the terrain. Combat takes place from a first-person viewpoint, which is to say that you can see the terrain and enemy vehicles unfold in front of you as you drive forward. When you get close enough to another tank or helicopter, you need to aim the cannon and destroy the target with one of your tank's four different weapons. Aiming is the most challenging aspect of the game, since enemy vehicles usually do their best to outrun and outmaneuver you. Even so, it takes only three or four shots with the main cannon to take out most opponents. The tank also has a smaller 7mm cannon, laser guided bombs, and a smoke system. Running out of fuel is another concern, but most missions have one or two single-use refueling convoys that you can take advantage of.
Whether or not you enjoy fast-paced vehicle shooting games, there just isn't enough to Operation Armored Liberty to hold anyone's interest for long. The enemy AI is immensely dumb, and there are only 10 different missions to play. To be honest, Majesco has converted Super Battletank to the GBA fairly well. The company just didn't bother to improve some of the weaker aspects of the original game, which are more obvious now than they were in 1992.
The game also doesn't do much to tax the graphical and audio capabilities of the GBA. More than half of the screen is eaten up by the cockpit, compass, and weapon displays. The terrain rolls by in a small window in the center of the screen, and you need to aim the crosshair at enemy vehicles when they come into view. It's easy to appreciate how photo-realistic the various Iraqi tanks, choppers, and SCUD launchers look, but the terrain is almost devoid of features, and the animation is choppy, choppy, choppy. As for the audio, the soundtrack is totally composed of the sounds from the tank's engine and the various weapons at your disposal. When you're not firing away or listening to a loud explosion, all you'll hear is the din of the engine.
Right out of the gate, Majesco has released Operation Armored Liberty at a budget price point of around 20 dollars. While that might temper a few of the game's shortcomings for some people, the low price alone isn't enough to offset the fact that this is one game you'll play for two hours and then put away for good.