You move your tank around a maze and shoot the enemy. All your turns are 90 degrees. And all your shots (one button) are straight ahead of you (it is a tank, after all). Simply shoot them before they shoot you - and ostensibly, this seems pretty easy at first. You can destroy most of the buildings on the maze, thus making new pathways. Your goal for each round is to kill all the enemies BEFORE they destroy your base. You have a base to protect at the bottom middle of the screen, and you are warned visually and audibly when it is under attack. If you kill all the enemies, the round is over. A little help is provided on the right edge of the screen where it shows a graphical representation of how many enemies remain to be vanquished.
The enemy tanks (and other vehicles) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many take multiple hits to kill. So don't get used to the first easy screens when you can just stand in front of a tank and shoot first, because if he can take more than one hit, he'll return fire and you are dead. Later, tanks get bigger and their artillery gets more powerful. Around stage 5, there are train-mounted guns that simply move back and forth across the top of the screen taking pot shots at you and they take TONS of hits to extinguish.
So, with powerful tanks coming your way, it's time for you to get more powerful. You can grab power-ups of many types... increase your shot frequency, change your weapon type (some shoot over the building, some shoot through them), power-up your weapon strength, increase your speed, etc. There are also bonus points to be collected and of course, the super weapon... By collecting the airplane icon, you call in air reinforcements that obliterate everything on the screen.
After every stage you win, you are showed your progress on a map (like an old paper war game) - there are lots of stages. In fact, since this is a Namco product, the terrain of Stage 17 looks like Pac-Man eating a dot (see pic at right).
You can also play two players cooperatively, the game keeps score of who won each round (by killing the most enemies and collecting bonuses, you CAN'T kill each other).
Tank Force isn't a quick, twitchy sort of game - more of a plotting, thinking, strategy shooter. But it's still a shooter. And a good one at that.