Developer: Rebellion Publisher: Rebellion Platform(s): PS4, PSVR, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch (soon)
Review copy provided
If you’re one of the many people who haven’t found the spare cash behind the couch to purchase a PSVR headset, the news that Battlezone would be released with no VR required was probably a welcome one. With Battlezone: Gold Edition giving new players a chance to get to grips with the game, does the game make the transition from VR to traditional TV? More or less, yeah.
If you’re unfamiliar, Battlezone is the umpteenth sequel to a long-running tank battle series. You’re one of the last surviving members of a human resistance being subjugated by a rampant AI, and it’s your job to remotely pilot a tank across hostile territory towards the volcano where it awaits a final confrontation.
How you go about getting there is up to you, as each campaign provides you with a randomly generated world map filled with different missions and encounters. Or you could just type a specific seed in, if you want to practice on one particular run, but that’d be cheating. The point of Battlezone is the unpredictability of what you encounter.
Though key locations, such as the final boss, supply depots and shield generators can always been seen on the map, most of the tiles are covered in a fog of war. Unless you want to use valuable data to scout ahead, which could be used to buy new weapons or upgrades, you won’t know what situation you’re getting into.
These can be anything from simple missions such as kill all the enemies, protect your allies or hack communications towers. They’re short missions with simple objectives, which is perfect as your average run will contain quite a few of these missions. You can also have random encounters on certain tiles, which could be anything from an enemy ambush to scientists working on reducing the AI power level.
The AI power level is one of the key strategic aspects of the campaign. Every mission you do increases the AI power level, making subsequent missions harder, but you also earn data that’ll grant you upgrades and extra lives. Meanwhile, the map is populated with several shield generators that, if destroyed, make the final battle much easier.
Essentially, each campaign boils down to how cautious or ballsy you are. You could make a beeline straight for the volcano and attack whilst the AI have barely had a chance to power up, but you’ll be severely under equipped yourself. Meanwhile, taking out all the shield generators will eliminate most of the work of the final battle, but you might cause a Nemesis to spawn, who will ruin your day in 10 seconds or less.
With the random nature of the campaign, along with the 4 difficulty settings and 3 length settings (stop giggling), the intention is to get you to play through multiple times, and it’s a strategy that somewhat works. Playing on your own can be somewhat of a lonely experience. The true longevity comes from playing with friends and taking on the AI core together.
That being said, make sure you play with friends. Playing with randoms can be a strange experience, especially if no one is communicating. The campaigner leader can just make a decision on what mission we’re taking without giving other players the chance to buy upgrades. If you want to want to take down a shield generator but the leader wants to head straight to the volcano, you’re shit out of luck.
Though these occurrences aren’t entirely the fault of the game, as the leader should be much more considerate, the mission shouldn’t automatically start loading just because the leader is ready. What ever happened to a democracy?
The gameplay itself is decent enough. Unlike a lot of gaming tanks, the ones in Battlezone feel responsive, making piloting one a joy. That being said, it’s hard to escape the fact that this game was built with VR in mind. The inside of the cockpit takes up a good chunk of the screen real estate, and whilst the graphics are solid, they’re nothing to write home about. In VR, the neon soaked post-apocalypse would look lovely, but here it’s like looking at Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon through a window.
The combat works well, as the different enemy types practically force you to utilise the breadth of your loadout. Flying enemies are quite hard to hit with unguided missiles, but can’t stand the onslaught of some homing rockets or the salvo of a machine gun. However, try using the machine gun on a heavy tank and all you’re going to do is tickle the thing.
Despite the fact you’re in a tank, Battlezone favours the cautious approach when it comes to engagements. Driving straight into the path of the enemies is practically a suicide run, as your shields and hull integrity will be deleted fairly quickly with just a little bit of concentrated fire. It’s better to pick your shots from afar, utilise cover where possible and try to avoid tackling multiple opponents.
Battlezone: Gold Edition is a good attempt at bringing a VR game to a whole new audience, but even first time players will probably realise that this game was designed for VR. If anything, it’s made me want to find out how well the game does translate. Crap, I’m going to end up buying a PSVR headset now.
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Though it might not have the most long-term replayability, especially if you're playing on your own, Battlezone: Gold Edition is an entertaining tank battle game with some interesting roguelite elements.
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