Death Tank will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played Scorched Earth or any of the Worms games. That's because Death Tank is all about blasting your opponents to kingdom come by adjusting the angle and power of your shot so that your projectiles strike true. The big difference in Death Tank is that, while Worms and Scorched Earth require that players take turns when lining up their shots and firing, the action here is all in real time. The result is a near-constant barrage of firepower that soars across the screen and reshapes the fragile landscape. You can't unload artillery nonstop--each weapon takes several seconds to recharge after use--but you're never safe from the attacks of others, and each round lasts until only one player remains and all opponents' tanks have been reduced to flaming rubble on the battlefield. The result is an accessible, fast-paced tactical experience that can be quite enjoyable when shared with friends. Unfortunately, the 1,200 Microsoft points price tag on this simple game is outrageous.
All players have an unlimited supply of shells for their tank's cannon, but between rounds, players can spend the spoils of battle on more-advanced weaponry and other helpful items. You earn cash for each enemy you take out, and for being the survivor of a round. Some of the weapons you can buy, such as a nuclear projectile and a searing rain of artillery called death's hand, pack a tremendous wallop. If one player rakes in enough cash in the early rounds to stock up on firepower like this, he or she can quickly start dominating the game, though other players can of course team up against this threat before turning their weapons on each other. The shifting of alliances on the fly to take down a common enemy can be rewarding and prevents things from becoming too unbalanced. However, one item in the shop is too useful and too affordable for the game's good. The target comp provides you with a cursor that lets you see exactly where your shot is going to land, letting you line up your enemies in your sights before you fire. They don't cost much and they last for a full round, and though players can buy some speed-boosting super fuel or even jump jets for their tank to help escape incoming attacks, the target comp still eliminates all of the enjoyable guesswork and finesse. The game becomes a quite different, less enjoyable experience once everyone starts resting their target-comp cursors on each other's tanks and blasting away.
Nevertheless, the most glaring problem with Death Tank is the price--at 800 points, the value would’ve been questionable. And it was a fine free bonus in the Sega Saturn games in which it was originally hidden. But as a stand-alone product, Death Tank’s 1,200-point price ($15) seems like nothing less than highway robbery.
Death Tank doesn't have a lot to offer solo players. There's a tutorial, the option to play full 20-round games against AI opponents with varying degrees of skill, and an arcade mode in which you're pitted against wave after wave of enemies. But Death Tank is meant to be played with other people, and it's at its best when you've got friends in the room with you to share the experience. Local multiplayer offers a robust number of options, letting up to four players go at it with or without AI teammates or opponents. You can also adjust the number of rounds, the amount of cash earned for kills, the speed of tank movement and weapon recharge, and other aspects of the gameplay. It's frustrating that the online play lacks all of the customization options available in offline multiplayer. You're given the choice between jumping into a player match or a ranked match, and you can select either free-for-all or team combat, but your options end there. You're stuck with 20 rounds per game, and tank speed, cash flow, and everything else are locked into their default settings. Regardless, the online play works great so long as all the players have a steady connection, and there's no shortage of people playing online as of this writing, so finding a game is easy.
Death Tank is an attractive game. The randomly generated landscapes are simple but beautiful. Particles of dust or snow swirl dramatically in the wind, your blasts leave smoky arcs across the sky, and explosions send showers of sparks flying outward in all directions. The music consists mostly of generic electronica-tinged dramatic instrumentals, and the sounds of weapon fire and explosions are all perfectly suitable.
If you have a bunch of friends coming over who are all willing to kick in a few bucks toward the purchase price, you might actually get your money's worth out of Death Tank. Its real-time take on the tried-and-true Scorched Earth formula can be exciting, especially if everyone agrees not to abuse the target-comp item. But at 1,200 points for an enhanced version of what was previously an Easter egg in other games, it's also one of the most egregiously priced games yet released on Xbox Live Arcade.