Genre-busting, an absolute must-play for strategy and action fans
Not to be confused with the famous vector graphics title of the Atari days, this version of Battlezone delivers an experience that defies to be compared to any title to precede it, and is an absolute must-play for anybody with an itch for solid action titles on their PC. It near-flawlessly combines intense vehicle-based action with aspects of real-time strategy into a form of gaming that is fresh, challenging, and certainly not to be missed.
The original and engaging storyline is one of the reasons Battlezone is such a stellar title. Battlezone places you in the role of a hotshot commander for either the United States or Soviet Union in series of secret operations taking place at the height of the Cold War. You see, while politics reigns on Earth, the war is boiling out in space as both sides vie for control of a rare mineral known as biometal, capable of building weapons which could easily turn the balance of the war to one of the two sides should one side gain complete control of the technology. Throughout the game you'll visit plenty of exotic solar system locales including the Moon, Venus, Mars, Europa, and Io, each one well-designed and varied in their presentation. The two campaigns are very smartly designed in the way that the American campaign is far larger in scope with over twenty missions which take you through pseudo-tutorials and later plenty of action. The Soviet campaign is much more difficult, but still well-balanced so as to never prove impossible. Adding to the game's quality is a huge helping of at least moderately well-done voiceovers.
But enough with the story, lets get to the real meat of Battlezone: the gameplay. You are placed firmly in the cockpit (or on foot) of one of a variety of deadly warmachines each with their own unique weapons systems and advantages. Unfortunately for you, however, there is little room for lone wolf heroics in this war, and it is here that the strategy aspect arises. Besides making sure your own hide stays safe in hostile warzones, you are tasked with managing the survival of your base, including recyclers and factories to produce units, scavengers to gather valuable biometal, defensive units like turrets and minelayers, and of course whatever wing mates you want to lead into battle when the time finally comes to meet the enemy. The instantaneous transition from combat to base-building could be a daunting task, but the game pulls it off well, using a simple numerical interface to issue build and move orders to whatever units all the while still being able to move around and take on the enemy. As the game progresses you can eventually get access to an overhead satellite view as well to coordinate your largest assaults.
Visually Battlezone is simply stunning. For a game released in early 1998 this game is a technical marvel sporting sharp detail on all of the units and well-rendered representations of all of the planets you fight on whether its the thick fog of Venus or the ominously dead moon. Sound also shines through with sharp sound effects, a well-orchestrated score, and a whole lot of voice overs throughout the game, which definitely add to the depth of the setting.
There are some problems with Battlezone, however. Foremost amongst the problems is the AI of many of the game's units. While your enemy will for the most part be a sharp and very challenging foe, your allies can often defy logic in their lack of ability to deal with the enemy effectively, often requiring you to be with your forces at all times to ensure they're doing what you want them to (like attacking the enemy and not just sitting there oblivious to their own death). The poor AI would be an issue if Battlezone focused more on the strategy aspect, but it is clear from the beginning that you need to be on the front lines and not just letting your teammates do the dirty work for you. The interface is also restrictive in the sense that there are no group options available, requiring plenty of time-consuming micro-management to make sure assaults go off successfully. Controlling your vehicle, however, is a breeze.
Rarely do video game titles arise which seek to defy established rules and bust open genres so successfully, but Battlzezone delivers in spades. What would merely be a very solid space-action title is turned into something really special by the addition of a strategy system which in turn makes it one of the greatest action titles to ever grace the PC. If for some reason you've missed this game, hunt it down now while you still have the chance, because this is a must-play.