Battezone was an early gaming hit and combined tanks with action in a way that has allowed the game to be held in high regard even today – which makes it a fitting launch title for PlayStation VR. What was once an icon of gaming’s early days now serves that same purpose for the early VR era in gaming. Instead of a black and white wireframe version of 3D, you now get a fully-polygonal world to explore – but one with simple shading that gets across a retro vibe while also combining a lot of modern gameplay elements into one incredibly-enjoyable experience.
Battlezone keeps the spirit of the original alive with exciting action that tests you in a lot of ways. With light and heavy tanks to choose from, along with a variety of different loadouts, you can try out a lot of different things. If you want to be on the front lines, then playing as a heavily-armored heavy tank might be best. Nimble players will enjoy the speed offered up by light tanks – which is where I found my greatest success. Being able to dart behind cover works very well, especially when you’re up against a mini-horde of enemies and need to stick and move to survive.
Enemies attack from all sides – including in the air. Attacking drones is thrilling since they can move faster than anything a player can pilot, and can sneak up on you to dole out damage. There’s an impressive variety with the enemies too. Beyond drones, you have large towers that can kill you in just a few hits – making evasion a critical part of you and/or your team’s success. Light and heavy tanks are used, and if you’re having trouble getting used to playing as one type, fight against it and pay attention to how you’re being killed. You’ll learn the hard way, but also know what not to do and then what to do in order to win.
The variable campaign can be played either off or online – with the latter being a much easier overall option. Having other players out there definitely makes harder missions doable, and it reminds me a lot of Battleborn in the sense that while you can beat the campaign on your own, it’s far more fun to conquer it as a team. Those seeking a shorter campaign can get one, while those in for a long haul play session can get one there too. Either way, you get a really fun first-person shooter that is a bit more strategic than most.
No matter what type of tank you use, you will need to use your brain to win or else you’ll be DOA. Free lives are sparse and you really shouldn’t waste your in-game money on them if you can avoid it. Enhancing your tank should be priority number one as that will make things much easier on you. Enemies also level up – so don’t think that you can just load up on powerhouse loadouts and wreak havoc. No matter what you buy, you will have to gain the skills needed to excel with it.
This game does have adjustable difficulty levels, but they will all force you to think before you act and not rush into combat without a plan. You need to be able to maneuver around well and keep track of not only where you are, but also where you are in relation to your enemies. Fortunately, the in-game radar does a fine job of giving you a big picture idea – but it’s not quite as helpful as it could be even if it is a bit more accurate for a tank setting. You get a general idea of where enemies are at, but not much more.
Fortunately, using VR means that you can look around your physical space and investigate the in-game space much faster than you normally could if the right stick controlled your in-game head movements. As it is, the right stick is just used for aiming while the left stick moves you and R2 shoots. Square allows you to switch between weapons – although everything but your autogun has limited ammo. You can pick up more ammo from fallen enemies, but you can’t just go around firing like a crazy person. Once again, planning is key and just going out there with an itchy trigger finger will get you killed.
Visually, Battlezone’s graphics go for simple, but effective. The largely flat-panel polygonal look works very well, and remind me a bit of games using voxels to convey old-school graphics, but do so in a way that is pleasing to the eye now. The lighting effects off the ground and in the sky are marvelous, and explosions really do feel exciting with everything blowing up into tiny bits all over the place. The in-tank setup is excellent too, with all pertinent information kept near your immediate line of sight so that you can still see the battlefield and see some in-game info. Even playing this with just one eye, I had no issues keeping track of enemies, the HUD, or just enveloping myself in the in-game cockpit. It’s cool to look around and see things as you would if you were actually there – even if it is just something like a lever that I am physically moving by moving something else.
Battlezone’s sound design gains a lot from the PlayStation VR’s immersion. You’ll hear your unseen robotic-voiced computer helper bark out orders, but also be able to tell where enemies are just using audio. With a good set of headphones, you can get an idea of where your enemies are located based on hearing their fire – so you can get a bit of a jump on them. Using the included earbuds with the VR works fine, but my Astro A30s did a far better job here. The soundtrack is a bit rock-ish, but fairly subdued – which is good since it allows you to focus on the action, even if it doesn’t stick with you before or after a play session.
Overall, Battlezone is an excellent reboot for this long-suffering franchise. No modernization of the original concept has worked nearly as well as this does, and it is a perfect showcase for VR technology. It plays wonderfully using a Dual Shock 4 and its logical control scheme makes playing without being able to physically see the controller quite easy. It looks great thanks to a simplistic art style, while smart sound design aids the player in moving around the VR world with ease.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of Battlezone for PlayStation VR provided by Rebellion.