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Battlezone Battlezone

By Steven Bilodeau

Battlezone is, supposedly, an updated version of the early-80’s arcade tank game. In reality, it bears little resemblance to that old classic. Instead of just ducking out from green pyramids, this a first person real-time strategy game. Activision has taken the  engine from its successful Dark Reign title and added to it the first-person combat action from Interstate 76. The result is a thinking gamer’s action title.

The story behind the game is interesting. Apparently the space race of the 1960’s between the Americans and the Soviets wasn’t just about prestige. The race was on to get to the moon to harvest a wondrous bio-metal that would tip the balance of power to whomever possessed it. You play the role of a soldier on either side of the conflict, either in solo missions or head-to-head in multiplayer action.

The game requires a lot of strategic thinking. You have to deploy your recyclers and factories over geysers on the moon, Mars, Venus and all the other planets you’ll visit. The geyser’s power is used to create new tanks, weaponry and to effect repairs. The supply is not unlimited; you’ve got a limited amount of pilots to operate these units, and a limited amount of resources to build them.

While you’re building this equipment, you’re also required to complete different missions. Recon and destroy missions take you away from your base, leaving it vulnerable to attack. It’s up to you to create and deploy the right type of unit to defend the base while you’re gone. You also have to manage the tanks and scout ships that can defend you while trying to complete the mission.

You can see how this can be challenging!

Activision has created a graphical banquet in Battlezone. The graphics are gorgeous, with plenty of variety and detail. It takes advantage of 3D accelerators so the action on the screen moves quickly and smoothly. There is plenty of detail in all of the objects that you’ll encounter, whether they’re large power generating towers, or enemy gun turrets, or even a soldier who has bailed out of his vehicle.

Sound quality is not up to Activision’s usual standards. Though there is good variety, it gets scratchy and muddy at times. It’s not bad enough to affect enjoyment of the game, just not something that adds to it. The in-game music is, on the other hand, appropriate to the action.

The game moves along between missions with briefings similar to those in Mechwarrior 2. However for some reason, Activision allows the briefings to occur with only sound; no graphics at all – just a blank screen. At first I thought my video setup was haywire, but I learned that this is the game’s design. This omission is very strange coming from a company like Activision. On the other hand, when there IS a cut-scene, it matches the game’s graphics and really fits in.

The controls are geared towards a mouse/keyboard combination, and it works quite well. The rest of the game controls are also easy enough to learn in a short period of play. I really appreciated the three-level training section. It introduces the player to the controls and the on-screen displays for weaponry, targeting and strategy.

The game is very challenging, often requiring many replays to successfully complete a level. The difficulty is fair, and not based on some gimmick. When your tank gets destroyed, you are not instantly out of the fight. You can just call over another one of your team and hop into the driver’s seat. The save-game feature is also first rate. You can save your position anywhere in the game and return to it just as easily. The game will remember where you were, what speed you were travelling, where your bases are, and where the enemy’s are. In other words, unlike many strategy games, you can pick this one up exactly where you left off.

Battlezone has everything going for it. It’s intellectually challenging, but yet it contains an excellent first-person combat engine. All this and looks, too!

Steven Bilodeau is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns

Steven Bilodeau can be reached via e-mail And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site of The Edmonton Journal, at


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January 31, 2006