Battlezone II: Combat Commander
Last year, Activision did the impossible--it took an old coin-op license and reinvented it as a new genre unto itself, the action/strategy game. The much anticipated sequel to Battlezone will retain the blend of on-high command and first-person conquering, and will feature 30 unique units and 25 weapons (not the least of which is "The Thumper," an earthquake generator) as well as an improved interface and more multiplayer options. But can Activision and Pandemic keep the same high level of innovation? We'll know more at E3.
Download Battlezone II: Combat Commander
This sequel to Battlezone, one of the best selling games of 1998, is set in the current day as the International Space Defense Force (ISDF) defends known human space from the scourge that are the Scions, a vile alien race bent on our destruction.
During the Cold War, the NSA defended the United States from the USSR in the ISDF’s previous incarnation as the National Space Defense Force. During that war, many American soldiers died and humanity itself faced destruction first by Soviet space forces and then later by a Soviet super-weapon gone out of control, code-named the Furies. Now, under the auspices of the Alliance of Awakened Nations, the ISDF defends human space from any incursion. Under the leadership of General Braddock, a great leader during the Cold War, the ISDF has helped foster great peace on Earth.
At the core of this great space force is Biometal, the alien substance that first spurred mankind’s exploration of space, unveiling ancient technology no one had ever dreamt of. It is this Biometal that fuels the spacecraft and forms the basis for all space technology, allowing the ISDF to protect Earth. However, at the edge of the solar system an old enemy has returned, threatening everything the ISDF stands for. General Braddock condones a course of war, but others under his command think the aliens could be reasoned with. Which side will you choose?
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
There’s nothing quite like the low-to-the-ground, fast moving perspective you’re presented in Battlezone II. Racing across terrain at breakneck speeds behind the controls of a Biometal warmachine can give you quite a kick. The problem with this is that it is the same kick I got out of the original Battlezone.
In Battlezone II most of the missions you will undertake don’t require you to leave your vehicle. This is good considering that your hovertank can withstand an inordinate amount of punishment compared to your fragile body. Your vehicle, which can be one of about 10 different vehicles by the way, is armed with a primary and secondary weapon along with some kind of special weapon and a utility device. The vehicle itself has a Heads Up Display (HUD) to keep your radar and weapon supply at close view and in many ways using one of these tanks is like playing a first person shooter (such as Quake or Unreal), while wearing a HUD over your face.
Movement with these vehicles is simple to understand -- using the keyboard to thrust and strafe and the mouse to pan and fire weapons. You’ll find, much like in the original Battlezone, that each of the vehicles has distinct maneuverability characteristics. The agile Sabre battletank is a vastly more maneuverable vehicle than a Rocket Tank, which has a turret that turns independently of its treads allowing for precise delivery of payloads.
While fighting with each of the units, you’ll also notice other small differences, like the strange ability of the Scion units to morph. Almost every unit of the Scion attack craft types has the ability to morph between a slow, yet powerful assault mode designed for destroying bases and a fast, agile attack mode best suited for turning the enemy into Biometal scrap.
The missions available in the single player mode are challenging, at times frustrating, and very different from one another. Unfortunately, even with the critical acclaim of the original _Battlezone to build from, _Battlezone II fails to achieve anything other than the same gameplay as the original. The battles can be frustratingly long and the number of scenarios in which one simple mistake can lead to disaster are ludicrous.
The graphics in this game, while not stunning, are still very impressive. High quality textures, attention to detail, and the ability to play in 1024x768 without a lot of slowdown really highlight all of the engine work that the programmers at Pandemic Studios put into this game. The new ship designs are magnificent and show that the development was geared towards making ship and character models that stood out as very different from the original game. Battlezone was set during the Cold War, with the Biometal equivalents of WWII fighters. Now they’ve returned with the Biometal equivalents of the F22 fighter.
Along with the improved character modeling, the terrain and interface for the game have been redone, each with an innovative design that still has roots in the original Battlezone layout. Impressive fog effects, shadowing, and an engine that can comfortably support 1600x1200x32bit color (okay, well maybe not comfortably save on high end systems), make the graphics in Battlezone II an enjoyment.
As for the sound effects, once again expect more of the same. The original Battlezone sound effects have been recreated for this new game and, despite being much clearer and nicer to listen to, are just the same old sounds.
Minimum: P200, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95/98, & 3D hardware acceleration required.
Reviewed On: AMD K6/2 400, 64MB RAM, W95, Diamond V770 Ultra, & a SoundBlaster AWE 64.
There is one thing noteworthy about the documentation provided with Battlezone II. In the original game you assumed the role of a soldier -- someone in the thick of the battle, someone who could be lied to easily. As such, you didn’t have all the information. The Battlezone II documentation refreshes the original events portrayed in the first game as well as explaining what was true in the original and what was cover-up.
Battlezone II is a good game, but only for the same reasons that Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and Freespace 2 were good. It is essentially the original Battlezone with a few improvements to the graphics engine and more vehicles to choose from. Since Battlezone itself was an amazing game for its time, I cannot fault Pandemic Studios (much) for going with a tried and tested favorite, rather than innovating the genre.
My advice? Play, don’t pay. In the end, Battlezone II is not much more than a glorified expansion pack with a story that really didn’t grip me or even bring me closer into the universe of Battlezone.