Battlezone PlayStation VR Review
Publisher: Rebellion Developer: Rebellion Genre: Action Players: 1-4
Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
With the release of the PlayStation VR comes the relaunch of Atari’s Battlezone, a series which has been dormant since 2008. The original 1980 game is considered to be the first ever virtual reality game, so it’s with good reason that, after they acquired the licence, developer Rebellion saw a good opportunity with the latest game in the series.
But back in 1980 things weren’t anywhere near as advanced when it came to VR, and this modern Battlezone game showcases exactly what today’s VR is capable of, and what the hardware is capable of making you believe. Cutting to the chase then, it really does feel as if you are seated inside a tank with all the important cockpit instruments around you, and, fittingly, the game also appears to take place in a VR world.
Visually, the game is simple but there’s still plenty of charm to be found in the chunky tanks and the retro-futuristic look. This is a game that is a good example of its art design covering for any technical shortcomings, and not forgetting the fact that the PlayStation VR headset inserts you very much into the world, with huge buildings towering above you and ground and air vehicles assaulting your every move.
Battlezone gives you a number of tanks to choose from, which have their own strengths and weaknesses, with some favouring firepower over armour, others having their emphasis on speed, and some being more balanced. You’ll find that some of the tanks are locked until you are able to complete the campaign on specific difficulty levels. You’ll have to put some work in if your aim is to unlock them all, then.
You are able to boost with each tank to get across battle zones quicker, although this is at the cost of your shield, which starts depleting as soon as you hold the boost button down. Every time you start a new campaign, your tank begins with two weapons and a back-up blaster for if/when you run out of ammo. There’s also potential to add more weapons to your tank as you progress through the campaign. Each tank also has a special ability, such as boosting armour, replenishing ammo, and making use of EMP. These abilities have a cool-down period that must be endured each time you make use of them.
As you might have already gathered, completing the campaign can be quite the tricky task. Even on easy, getting from the start to the end volcano isn’t a simple thing to do; Battlezone is a Rogue-like game that has the habit of making things difficult for you. Saying that though, it’s also immensely satisfying to complete the campaign, or at least get nearer to the end of it on each new play through. You see, while the game does save your progress between missions, losing all your lives results in your save being wiped, with you then having to start all over again.
Between missions, you are able to purchase lives and upgrades for your tank, although the price goes up each time you do so, and you are also able to purchase extra weapons at supply points, some of which you may have unlocked in a previous session. This means that using your finances wisely is of great importance, as this can be the difference between success and failure. The randomised structure also means that you aren’t exactly sure what you are going to face in each fresh play through, and all of this does give the game a lot of replay value. It’s a game that begs you to replay it, it really is.
The game plays out on a procedurally generated map, with you moving to different hexagon-shaped spaces and then entering the battle zone. The size of the map is determined by the length of the campaign, with options for short, medium or long campaigns. Whatever difficulty or campaign length you decide to go with, you are able to drop probes to tell you what to expect on spaces just ahead of you, which is sometimes handy for deciding which direction to head off in.
Missions in each battle zone are also randomly generated, and are quite varied. You may find yourself simply having to kill waves of enemies in one, other times you may find yourself having to destroy a huge generator, protecting an allied base or convoy, or attacking an enemy base with everything you’ve got. Splitting each battle zone into smaller chunks is a pleasing structure, and it makes the game feel arcade-like, which means that Rebellion are delightfully paying respect to the original game.
As you progress through the campaign, the enemy forces grow more powerful, although as mentioned earlier, you are able to enhance your tank and purchase new weapons. When the enemy forces reach a certain level though, a new nemesis tank enters the map, which is best avoided at all costs. This tank is the most fearsome enemy in the entire game, and taking it on definitely isn’t recommended.
You can either play the campaign on your own or with up to three others online in drop-in/drop-out multiplayer. When you are playing with others, the game encourages you to stick close together, as you are able to heal and revive one another. It’s the sort of team-based game where playing like a well oiled machine can pay dividends. In fact, as you share lives, playing this way is also encouraged, and the lone wolves out there might want to stick to the single player. If you are wondering, the game does scale in difficulty depending on the amount of players.
Battlezone is one of the highlights of PlayStation VR’s launch line-up. It’s not only a game that shows off exactly what the new hardware is capable of, but it’s also a good game in its own right, and it’s a title that would have still been fantastic if it had been one that could be just played on a TV screen. This is a rogue-like that has plenty of appeal and replay value, but be warned that it also takes time, patience and dedication to get the most out of it.