Battlezone is one of the main headline virtual reality (VR) titles promoted by Sony as part of their PlayStation VR line-up of games. For those not familiar with the game, it’s a first person tank shooter that was originally released in 1980.
If you read the Battlezone website you will see numerous quotes praising this game to be one of the best games you will see so far on VR.
“One of the best shooters I’ve played in ages” - Videogamer.com
“Battlezone will blow your mind” - Push Square
"This is a PlayStationVR launch title you’ll want on your day one list” - GamesRadar
I have now played it over several days, taken a breath, and have decided it’s good but just misses the mark on being great.
Battlezone VR Pays Homage To Its Long History
Developer Rebellion has gone right back to 1980 to use the original arcade version as their template for the modern day VR adaptation. Because of their homage to the original game, the VR equivalent pulls pretty heavily on the nostalgic love of the ‘80s version by incorporating the classic look and style of the game. The game feels like you are inside a retro world where the concept of 3D computer graphics are being explored for the first time. Everything is purposefully blocky and hard-edged, which suits the origin of the game perfectly.
Inside the cabin of the tank, the detail is more refined to allow you to read and use the instruments. This part of the game is really cool and provides a great example of what VR can bring to the gaming table. You actually feel like you are sitting in a tank and can look up, forward, left and right, creating the perception that there are two layers to your immersion i.e. you are sitting in a tank, in an open world.
All the instruments have a purpose; from viewing weapons and ammunition levels, available upgrades, radar, health, and team member’s names and tank details. The instrument options change dependent on whether you are in a preparation stage or actually rocking out in battle.
There is A Great Range Of Tanks
The choice of tanks is a key element to the gameplay. When first starting, there are three classes of tanks to choose from with each have their own unique attributes.
- Light Tank - favors maneuverability over armor
- Medium Tank – balanced strength and agility
- Heavy Tank – tough and powerful but lacks speed.
Additional types do become available after completing challenges that allows for greater depth to the strategy applied when playing as a team, these are: Aggro, Classic (classic!), Hacker, Mine Creator, Recon and Stop & Pop tanks.
Regardless of the tank chosen, there is a credit earning system that helps develop your tank as you advance through the game. For example, you can buy new arsenal to improve your weaponry (BOOM) capabilities or upgrade the tanks armour for added protection.
All tanks are awesome to play in their own special way. When changing weapons you can lean forward and look up and see the barrel of the gun being changed overhead. Little details like that are frequent throughout the game and add the extra layers to assist with the VR immersion.
The Gameplay Should Be Limitless
The whole game is one campaign across a board of hexagonal pieces of procedurally generated randomness. It’s the same board (map) every time however when starting the game, you have the option to change some of the variables such as easy three difficulty settings, and the length of the campaign by selecting short, medium or long. Once started, the path you choose dictates what likely challenges you are going to face along the way.
The visual idea of two combatant's staring over a chess board deep in thought on how to best to apply their war-game strategies does conceptually sound appealing. The reality, unfortunately, is nothing anywhere near as complex.
Within each game the number of challenges does increase, but the mission types do not expand beyond the limited pool of sequence options, meaning Battlezone only technically delivers on its promoted endless variety.
Whenever a player starts a new campaign, the game’s “Hex” campaign map is re-generated procedurally, and dozens of environments, levels and mission types are blended together in new combinations for a completely different experience each time. Then it’s up to the players to forge their own path to the game’s epic finale.
To be fair, no two campaigns are the same. But, with a fixed bucket of randomness, there is only so much the procedural algorithm can do: attack the communications tower, defend the base, attack their convoy, defend your convoy, train recruits. After playing over many hours the missions can become familiar and a little same same.
There is an option to play the campaign solo if you prefer, or online as part of a four player co-op campaign. Like any co-op game, the quality of the experience can be easily swayed by the quality of your co-op teammates. To be successful in a campaign, everyone needs to work together and assist with all facets of combat. When a hero goes rogue it can become annoying because if the team fails the campaign the game is over with no save points. For better and worse, this style of play is very reminiscent of an arcade game: once you’re out of credits the only option is to start all over again!
Is Battlezone Worth Buying?
Battlezone is definitely fun to play. When you are in full swing with a good team progressing your way across the board it is awesome. The deeper you go, the more your tank can be upgraded and enemies do become more challenging and varied.
On the downside, it can become repetitive if you have a few failed campaigns resulting from people who don’t go the distance or aren’t willing to play as a team. In these instances, it can become a grind to repeatedly start all over again at the very familiar beginning.
With a great set of friends this game is what you want, it can be hours of fun and hits the mark from a VR perspective. The retro style imagery really works to enhance the historical linage of the game while also nicely infusing the modern day VR advances to provide a new element of depth. Over time however I think Battlezone relies too much on its ability to generate enough randomized content to give it the necessary addictive quality that a gamer would need for long term interest. The focus on maintaining the arcade style parameters hamstrings the game from being an everyday must do, to a randomly chosen battle of fun.
Do you think Battlezone has enough variety to keep you interested?