Atari released the original Battlezone in 1980, and the first-person wireframe visuals enveloped players at the time in a pseudo-virtual reality sensation. After being ported to a multitude of platforms and even spawning sequels that would dramatically change the core experience, Battlezone has finally found it’s home on PlayStation VR. It’s only fitting considering the art style of the original game, and developer Rebellion (who purchased the license after Atari filed for bankruptcy) has crafted one of the most impressive games I’ve played on the platform.
Battlezone is meant to be played with friends or random players online, as playing alone can hamper the otherwise enjoyable experience. Battlezone includes a single game mode, a procedurally generated campaign that can be played cooperatively with up to four players. The game creates a grid of hexagonal tiles after determining the game’s difficulty and duration. Moving left to right across the tiles, each one represents a new mission, so you could pick and choose which missions to complete on your way to the final encounter. There are support tiles scattered throughout that can help resupply your tank and allow you to purchase new weapons using currency earned. Moving across the grid won’t be easy, as every time you advance the enemy increases their power. Eventually, near unbeatable boss characters will spawn and slowly make their way towards your location.
The mission types tend to repeat as you make your way across the board, and you’ll be protecting convoys/bases, and destroying enemy communication towers. There are hidden enemy towers that if destroyed will weaken their presence in missions, acting as a balance for their ever-growing power. As mentioned, playing with others online is where the game comes into its own. After completing a campaign playing strictly solo, I found much more enjoyment when playing online. Even with random players, the added dynamic of flanking enemies and being able to heal friendly tanks adds much more to the experience. Just by being close to each other, you will automatically begin to heal friendly units. You can even revive downed tanks using this same method. After setting traps and spreading out to target multiple enemies at once, I can’t imagine playing the game solo ever again. Perhaps Rebellion can add the option for AI-controlled friendly units to the game down the road.
Having to destroy enemy units by yourself, you’ll notice that you run out of ammo quite frequently. You can rearm your tank with additional ammo by collecting glowing bits from destroyed enemy units. Obviously, this is less of a concern when you have four tanks shooting at a single target, not to mention you can’t heal if you are the only person playing. Currency earned can be spent on new weapons, which you will want to do, but playing alone your focus changes to buying extra lives, especially considering the lack of checkpoints during missions.
By completing a campaign, you’ll gain access to any weapons and unlocked tanks for subsequent campaigns. Since the campaigns are procedurally generated, you’ll experience new things each and every run, especially if you use the new items. There are also multiple difficulties, but I’ve found the game to be brutal even on the default setting. Strangely enough, the game doesn’t include any competitive online mode against other players.
I was amazed the first time I booted up the game and found myself sitting inside a massive fleshed out cockpit. You can use your head to swivel around in a full 360 degrees while using the analog sticks on the DualShock 4 for aiming your weapons and moving the tank. Looking around your cockpit, you can view monitors that'll display weapon stats, a minimap, and your current party status. Visually, the game utilizes bright neon colors that feel like you are in a Tron-like world, yet retains the sharp lines reminiscent of the classic Battlezone.
Battlezone stays faithful to the original game, offering a standout cooperative VR experience. The cooperative gameplay provides a great challenge, but playing alone can be a frustrating ordeal. The lack of competitive options is unfortunate, but the procedurally generated campaign offers plenty of unlockable weapons and different types of tanks to mess around in. Just be sure to bring a friend or more along for the ride.
Note: The review for Battlezone is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.