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Battlezone review

Kevin Dooley On January 22, 2017

Battlezone for the PlayStation VR is a modern re-imagining of the 1980 classic of the same name. Like the original, you are in control of a powerful and deadly battle-tank fending off enemies from every imaginable angle. However, the modern take on the game trades in its original wire-frame vector graphics in favour of fully 3D environments in the virtual reality medium.
 

Turrets syndrome


The Battlezone VR experience starts off with you already in the cockpit of a futuristic war tank as you select whether to play off or online along with choosing your difficulty and campaign length. In Battlezone, you are never taken out of your tank at any point. Looking around your tank's interior reveals an impressively detailed cockpit littered with a multitude of screens displaying all manner of information such as the hull and shield integrity, your weapon loud out, upgrades and a very handy radar. Just about every conceivable piece of information you require is a mere tilt of the head away, making you feel important and powerful.

Initially you have the choice of three tanks: Heavy, Medium and Light. You can unlock six additional tanks by completing the game, each with their own specialties. As you can imagine, the heavy tanks are slow but powerful, whereas the light tanks are faster but more vulnerable thanks to a general lack of armour. The medium-sized choice sits somewhere in the middle of these two with balanced strength and agility.

battlezone playstation vr psvr tank cockpit enemy exploding

You control your tank using the left analogue stick whilst aiming your weapons with the right. You can of course pan your head around at any time which can reveal enemies creeping up on your sides or hovering over you in the skies. When online you'll also need to look around and refer to your radar often to keep check of your teammates, especially when the action gets tense.

Tanks feel very responsive and actually seem closer to the hovercraft family as they slide effortlessly across the surface as if on a cushion of air. At no time during my play through of Battlezone did I experience any ill feelings or motion sickness when gliding around in my chosen tanks. The control system works perfectly and for this reason developer Rebellion deserve some credit.
 

Feeling hexed


You play out the procedurally generated campaign (which can be played either on your own or with up to 3 others in the online mode) on a hexagonal tiled grid. The goal is to move to the enemy's AI core which is rather conveniently situated on the other end of the map. You move at the rate of one hexagon at a time (which does feel like a bit of a chore) and each move initiates a mission more often than not. Missions include defending your base from enemy attacks, defending allied convoys and destroying all enemies besides others.



Completing missions (which typically take less than 10 minutes) will earn you points and enable you to unlock new abilities. Points can be used to purchase tank mods which increase your shields, decrease healing times, (for both allied tanks and buildings) improve the radius of your magnet (which collects goodies strewn on the battlefield) and you can also decrease reloading time on all weapons. However you'll need to land on a supply point to purchase additional weapons and to upgrade existing one. Fortunately, these are found scattered about the map in generous numbers so you're never too far from one.

Sadly, regardless of mission type, the action is largely repetitive: there's just not enough difference between the missions to make them feel like separate experiences. This is certainly not helped by the fact that the game in general feels bare-boned with very short bursts of gameplay and samey environments.
 

Bossed about


Every time you move a tile on the campaign grid your enemy grows stronger - this largely nulls any leveling up you've grinding out by exploring the hex grid. After some time powering up, the enemy will spawn a boss tank which appears on the grid moving one title every time you move. These boss tanks, known as the Nemesis, pack one hell of a punch so you need to be extra diligent when taking one on should you happen to move on to the very hex title the Nemesis is sitting on or vice versa.

battlezone virtual reality playstation vr psvr flying enemies

The Nemesis will have the aid of other tanks which are powered up by it, making them especially difficult to destroy. The Nemesis itself moves fast and has brutal attacks that can obliterate your tank in no time if you're not careful. Battles will often see you poking out from behind cover to land a few shots only to then cower back to safety to avoid the oncoming assault of enemy fire. Reload your weapon in cover and get ready for another attack: it gets that tense.

Environments are very basic, with structures fashioned from low-polygon models which are lit up by a generous smattering of neon light. As this is the first generation of VR we have to expect somewhat primitive environments, but Battlezone really takes that to the next level and the game suffers as a result. Environments are often over-saturated in one main colour and feel lifeless, bland and completely forgettable which is a great shame.

On the plus side, Battlezone does boast a decent range of enemy types. Besides the usual array of different tanks, you'll be up against fast moving scout bikes, suicide trucks and turrets. You'll also need to be wary of the skies as hoppers can move in fast and shoot faster whereas large groups of flying enemies known as swarms can be devastating - it pays to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

There's no doubt Battlezone is at its best when played online with three other players. Communicating through your headset with your team does give a feeling of satisfaction and working together by healing each other and taking on those nemesis bosses as a unit provides fleeting moments of greatness. Sadly, much like the single player experience, the game is limited by the lack of any real variety in the mission types and environments, which can't save the game from its repetitive and bland nature.

Battlezone does a decent job of introducing you to the world of virtual reality, but serves more as a teaser to the potential the medium has rather than stand out as a title that really showcases the technology to its fullest. Criminally basic environments, short bursts of gameplay and not enough true variety in mission types proves to be the downfall of the re-imagined title.

Personally, I would suggest waiting for a price drop to experience the game as the high price point makes it hard to recommend. That's not to say that Battlezone doesn't have its moments; it's just that they are scattered here and there across an experience which feels largely samey and monotonous throughout.

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