Aspinoff of the ancient Atari vector-graphics title, this decade's Battlezone doesn't rest on its famous moniker. Combining two established genres--the robot shooter and real-time strategy--to form an exciting hybrid, Battlezone's next generation is fresh, exhilarating, gorgeous, highly challenging, and a real treat for PC gamers.
Strategy Is Half the Battle
Battlezone puts you in the cockpit of futuristic hovering war machines with MechWarrior--like interfaces. The game isn't all about battle, however--you must also command factories and recyclers that manage your army's resources, a la Command & Conquer. While your scavengers are accumulating metal, it's up to you to order the construction of ammo, buildings, and units such as defensive turrets and "Unabombers," which deploy mines (heh heh). On the action front, you can eject from any vehicle, run around on foot with a sniper rifle, and take over any unit--you can even eliminate bad pilots and commandeer opposing vehicles.
Initially, Battlezone is easy going.. .then the fighting starts and you have to locate your units to issue commands amidst the chaos. The game's CPU-controlled enemy A.I. is sharp, but some of your units, particularly the turrets, often want to do things their own way. A more specific radar in the heads-up display (HUD) would have helped immensely.
Cold War, Hot Combat
The smart single-player U.S. vs. Russia campaigns are devised to complement the game's learning curve; the American campaign is a pseudo-tutorial that brings you into the action smoothly (the Russian story line is much harder). Highly challenging, but never vague or impossible, the scenarios are extremely engaging, making for an excellent solo experience. You can also jump right into battle, which will please gun-happy robot-sim fans.
In the Zone
Battlezone's visuals are a gothicAech delight, from the murky skies of Mars to the ominously dark, dead moon. Your rag-tag fleet's air of desparation pushes the familiar story line through clunky dialogue and gross voice overacting. Battlezone's crisp, blasting sound effects and ominous score complement the breakneck action perfectly, though. The real star of this game, however, is the hyperkinetic action--Battlezone shines in combat, making it a must-play for action fans.
- If you're attacked on multiple fronts, order your units to follow you, rather than staying put or defending a particular area.
- Take advantage of the Armory by building up the weapons on your existing units.
- Defend your recycler at all costs--it can replace anything you lose.
- If you're on the move, order several units to follow. They'll engage any enemies who challenge you.
- Recyclers and factories must be built on geysers (steamspouting fountains in the rock) for energy.
Battlezone, an upcoming 3D action/strategy hybrid inspired by the original Atari title, plunges you into the heat of battle during the height of the Cold War. This ain't your father's Cold War, though--unless he was in the race for alien bio-metal technology. You'll command troops, build factories, gather resources, and attack the enemy, all from a first-person perspective. Players will battle in 30 nonlinear missions on 7 planets using over 25 weapons. Even in its alpha stage, Battlezone's a stunner and looks to have it all: beauty, brains, and brawn.
During the early part of the Cold War, a meteor shower hit the Earth and several other planets in our solar system. American scientists discovered a material in the meteor fragments that they named Bio-Metal. They found that Bio-Metal had a certain amount of sentience and could remember what it used to be. With just a little encouraging, it would change back to what it had been before -- alien vehicles, weapons, and ships. While Neil Armstrong was getting ready for his first visit to the moon, the Americans were already in the process of colonizing other worlds. The good news was that these new technologies would give them incredible power. The bad news was that their enemies at that time, the Soviets, had found the Bio-Metal too. Now it's up to you, and only you, to gain the upper hand.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Battlezone is, for the most part, a "blow things up to reach your mission objective" type of game. You drive a vehicle that you use to aim and shoot at things. The controls are really simple; almost everyone will be able to drive these tanks after just a couple of minutes. Your vehicle can move forward, backward, side to side, and has limited jump capabilities. The fun part (in my opinion) is the command interface. You control your units and buildings using hotkeys and can tell your people to do different things by pressing just a few keys. You can easily command other tanks in your squad to attack or defend, or instruct your support units and buildings to repair or create new units. In addition to the two single-player campaigns, you have the option of playing with up to four players on multiplayer missions. In both cases you have the choice of playing either the NSF (Americans) or the Red Brigade (Soviets).
The Battlezone artificial intelligence is both good and bad. The different vehicles will swerve and dodge while firing back, but your people need constant babysitting. I found it really annoying when my expensive bombers were using modern combat tactics while firing their empty missile racks at the enemies. When I tried to tell them to resupply their ammo, they started running in circles while they were being destroyed.
I was also disappointed by the missions in single player. When there is supposedly another base attacking the Soviets with you, you are really on your own. What this means is that the mission appears to be a "coordinated strike" -- you will hear incoming transmissions from your allies around the corner and even have a camera you can look through to see your friend's base -- yet when you look at your radar a little more closely, there are NO allied units doing anything. I got tired of the briefings and Commanders lying to me about my supposed allies; I found that I couldn’t believe half of what they said and it detracted from the believability of the game. It was especially disappointing since the enemy AI can be so effective. I wish Activision had spent a little more time on the Allies AI so the player wouldn’t have to micromanage everything.
The graphics are unbelievable. While watching the intro, I found myself thinking, "I hope the actual game will look like this." And it just about does! If you turn on all the graphics options and detail levels, the sights knock your socks off, especially when your enemies are blown away. On my Pentium 120, though, I had all the detail levels on their lowest settings since I prefer smooth gameplay. At that level it looked more like MechWarrior 1. Some of the options have trouble, though. For example, when using line skip on daytime missions, it is nearly impossible to see what is going on.
The sounds are mostly well done, from the different accents of each of the pilots to the footsteps of the walker robots. On the other hand, the battle sound effects were a little disappointing. When I fired a volley of missiles at the enemy, I would see a terrific explosion, with smoke trailing behind the warheads. As they collided on the enemy hull, I would hear a sound similar to the popping of Rice Krispies cereal. A lot of the time, the only way I could tell there was a battle going on was that mysterious voice telling me my forces were under attack. The music was just sort of there. It wasn’t bad, but when it stopped playing I found it hard to remember that I had been hearing any in the first place. I thought the tunes could have used some kind of theme.
Pentium 120 MHz (Pentium 166 MHz recommended for 640x480 resolution with textures on), 16 MB RAM, 160 MB uncompressed hard drive space, 2X CD-ROM drive, DirectX-compatible video and sound card, and mouse. Supports Direct3D compatible 3D accelerators. Modem play requires 28.8Kbps or faster modem.
The documentation was adequate in that it tells you the basic storyline and comes with a Top Secret Commander’s guide and instructions on installation, etc. The booklet also has brief reviews of the different vehicles. The only flaw is that the documentation leaves a few REALLY important things you need to know. For example, they don't tell you that your barracks can only supply pilots to vehicles if there is a vehicle open for you and that you need to get a certain distance away from the vehicle. This would be helpful to people trying to use stolen tanks. The manual also doesn't tell you how to ally with other players in a multiplayer game. In fact it says you can't ally, yet when I played, I found I actually could. That was very strange.
Overall, this game was well done, something that doesn’t surprise me as it comes from Activision. This game is a must-try for anyone who liked the MechWarrior games and has many of the good aspects in it. I gave it an 88, because it is a good idea done right, with a few new things I’ve never seen before. The reason it didn’t quite make the 90s was that for most players, this game might get old fast since once you’ve beaten it, that’s it. There’s not much in the way of replay value, since you’re given the same missions no matter what you do. After that, all that is left is to get some friends to play multiplayer with you -- I had a lot of fun with my friends over the network.