Rebellion released their remixed version of the arcade classic for modern audiences with a touch of VR for those who want to really dive in to tank based combat. How well does the game fare though considering this is full priced game in untested waters. Take a look at our Battlezone review for the full picture.
Today we’re taking a look at Rebellion’s Battlezone on the Playstation VR which comes as a full priced launch title. The game is likely to appear on the Vive and Oculus Rift at some point as well but so far it’s exclusive to the PS4. In a nutshell, or tank, the idea is pretty straight forward across single player and online co-op modes. You have a map filled with hexagonal zones which represents the playing field of the campaign. You enter each zone and either fight the enemy, choose an option which might lead to rewards or more fighting, or hit a supply zone where you can upgrade your tank’s weapons and systems with any earned credits you’ve accumulated. The ultimate goal here is to simply reach the end-zone and take out the AI Core which is heavily defended. You can determine your route to the core and on the way there’s opportunity to weaken it by way of taking down its defences. However, there’s a caveat. Each time you move into a zone the enemy becomes stronger unless you land in a zone which provides a hackable power station which then lowers the enemy strength level. It pays to hunt these down but in some cases they are easily missed or non existent which means the enemy levels up before your eyes and comes at you with more powerful tanks of its own.
So there’s a bit of strategy thrown into the mix here but the end result is usually the same and that’s your tank or your tank and three other players facing off against the AI. At the start of the campaign you get to choose the campaign’s size, difficulty and seed alongside the type of tank to use based on your play style with more to be unlocked by extended play. You can opt for slow but well shielded or decided to go for maximum speed with weak defences and so on. There’s quite a difference between types and only through trial and error will you find the best one that suits your play style. The levels are procedurally generated means no two campaigns will play out entirely the same, well on paper at least. Most missions boil down to destroying the opposing tanks, turrets and flying craft but then there’s a mix of hacking enemy bases whilst defending your own, taking out convoys and destroying bases entirely. There’s a reasonable variety here and with the free form difficulty being dictated by how tactically the player moves across the map and what upgrades are employed means it’s a fun and engaging campaign each time you attempt it.
Visually the game ditches the wire-frame look of the original for something more colourful with simple blocks and textures. It actually works well in context of the original game and there’s a real sense of presence inside the tank as you look around the cockpit at all the panels and readouts. There’s a decent sense of movement speed as well which might be cause for some VR sickness for some people but generally this should be mitigated by having the frame of the tank envelope your view. Sadly though the visuals do suffer from distinct loss of clarity when viewing distance objects and in this game there’s often times where you need to look far ahead to take out a turret that’s raining hell on your position. Whilst the simplicity of the graphics and the enemy’s distinct red colouring means you’ll always spot them it still highlights the limitations of the Playstation VR headset. Perhaps we’ll see slight improvement with the PS4 Pro. That said, you quickly learn to ignore the blur and focus on survival which at most times is on a knife edge.
Battlezone features some fitting electronic music which fits the theme of the game perfectly although the AI voice you hear can tend to grate a little after a while. The game’s got an interesting aural sphere which is best sampled through headphones for the full assault. Sadly there’s very little personality involved with the campaign, no characters and no faces to focus on which is an area which could have been included.
With the option to play solo or online co-op and change the size of the campaign map means there’s quite a lot here to keep you well entertained in VR. Whilst essentially you repeat the same missions the fact that the difficulty is quite high means failure is a very real option and having to start over. The online is actually very good enabling you to jump in and out of other people’s games with ease and what’s neat is being able to create a game, quit and come back to it at a later date. There’s enough to mess around with here complete with unlockable tanks and numerous weapons as well.
Battlezone is a fairly tough arcade shooter which translates perfectly to VR. Aside from the visual clarity of distant objects making for a slightly blurred experience and some repetition of play, the game generally runs smoothly and plays well. As mentioned, the lack of personality might be bothersome for some players but then again a blessing for others who just want to jump in as quickly as possible, so take your pick. It’s an enjoyable game overall though and one that you can easily sink an hour or more at a time. As a launch title it’s very much fleshed out and worth the price of entry, although your mileage will increase greatly if you’re hooked up to play with others online. Aside from the AI which seems to have excellent aim, you’ll find the game offers suitable challenge that keeps you on your toes and with missions that allow for differing strategies means you’ll find ways to up your game and get more out of it.