One of my favorite computer games from the late 1980s to early 1990s was M1 Tank Platoon, a Cold War-turns-hot simulation of armored land combat in late 1980s West Germany. Developed and published in October of 1989 by MicroProse Software, M1 Tank Platoon placed the player in the role of – what else? – a U.S. Army second lieutenant in command of a four-tank platoon comprised of four M1 Abrams tanks.
As the blurb on the Steam Store listing for M1 Tank Platoon says:
US Tank Platoons have four M1s. Four soldiers operate each. That’s four tanks, sixteen men. And you control the whole shooting match.
Along with Red Storm Rising and Silent Service II, M1 Tank Platoon was one of the games that motivated me to get my first “IBM clone” – the term most of us used for what we now refer to as PCs or desktop computers – around that same time period. I loved my Apple IIe; it was the only gift I received as a young man from a member of my dad’s side of the family and in 1989 it was still only two years old.
But if you were around in 1989 and owned an Apple IIe, you know that by then, MS-DOS computers were evolving along with Intel 386 CPUs (and their generic clones), VGA video cards, and sound cards that even featured synthesized speech in some programs (such as Silent Service II). The evolution of PCs made my Apple IIe obsolescent, and even though some of my Apple-only games (Strike Fleet by Lucasfilm Games/Electronic Arts was really good) were decent, I couldn’t play anything that was coming out of MicroProse because the games were too advanced for my now-pokey Apple.
Well, to make a long story short, a tech-savvy friend, Raci De Armas, and I came up with a grand compromise; we would split the cost of games that I wanted to buy; he had a PC that met the basic hardware and memory requirements to run them on, and in return for letting him install the software on his computer till I bought my own PC, he would set aside some time once a week so I could go over to play the games. That was the arrangement in which I played M1 Tank Platoon, Silent Service II, and Red Storm Rising until I was able to afford the first of many PCs I’ve owned since 1992.
I think I was able to run M1 Tank Platoon on my first two PCs – I went through approximately six homebuilt PCs (brand-name ones being far beyond my means at the time) between 1992 and 1997 – before it became incompatible with newer versions of Windows. My first PC ran on MS-DOS only, my second one was one of those that started up as a DOS PC but could run Windows 3.1. After that, when Windows 95 came out and PCs no longer needed the big 5.25-inch floppy disks to boot up games like F-15 Strike Eagle III or MS-DOS games simply did not run on Windows 95 (even in simulated DOS mode), I had to stop playing M1 Tank Platoon.
MicroProse’s original incarnation closed its doors in the early 2000s, but many of its classic titles are being released by companies that acquired the rights to them. Atari – which acquired many of MicroProse’s games via mergers and acquisitions in the 1990s and 2000s – recently released the Command Series trilogy that includes Crusade in Europe earlier this year.
And today I learned that another game company, Interplay, also owns part of the MicroProse game library, including M1 Tank Platoon and its 1990s sequel M1 Tank Platoon, and is releasing them through online gaming sites like GOG (Good Old Games) and Steam.
I only found out about the existence of a reissued M1 Tank Platoon today; I am not by any means a dedicated gamer, so it’s not like get news of a re-release of an old favorite through newsletters or Steam announcements. I just went to Steam on a whim, typed “M1 Tank Platoon” on the Search bar, and voila! There it was!
Because it is an old game – the Soviet Union still existed in October of 1989, even though the Berlin Wall fell shortly after MicroProse started shipping units to stores – M1 Tank Platoon can be purchased for $9.99 at Steam. The graphics and sound – well…they aren’t that great. But the game costs far less now than my original in-the-box version did; the MSRP for M1 Tank Platoon was $39.99 plus tax, and some stores would add a markup for their piece of the pie.
It’s still a fun game to play, too. I forgot some of the function commands, of course, even though I had been able to play it gratis from my browser at a website called ClassicReload in 2018 and 2019. That was fun, but because ClassicReload, by necessity, must place ads on the screen whilst you play, the gaming experience suffers. So, I don’t go there anymore, although I think that’s the only site where you can still find – and play F-15 Strike Eagle III and Red Storm Rising.
I have not read the digital manual for M1 Tank Platoon yet, so I don’t know which model of the M1 Abrams tank is simulated here. It’s probably the M1 Abrams with the 105 mm cannon and not the M1-A1 Abrams that entered service shortly after the fall of the Wall. But I did remember enough of the game to survive my first “real” engagement in the game.
More to come on M1 Tank Platoon, Dear Reader!