• In a parallel universe, there’s probably an evil Peej with a goatee beard sitting down to games like Battlezone on a regular basis, a twisted grin creasing his lips as he nails tank after tank after tank.

    Meanwhile, in this universe sitting down to a game like Battlezone is a bit like doing one of those Guinness World Record attempts where people sit in bathtubs full of baked beans for days on end in order to get themselves a brief 15 minutes of fame.

    Battlezone

    My initial excitement on hearing that Battlezone was coming to the Xbox Live Arcade was purely based on the last time the game saw the light of day, as a fantastic 3D strategy game by Activision. An XBLA version of that would be phenomenal. Instead we’re left with something more foetid.

    Atari / Stainless must know they’re on slightly iffy ground when they take a 25-year old game which only really had arcade appeal because of its nifty periscope-like cabinet, tank-joystick control method and its lovely glowing vector graphics. Strip away the cabinet, the controls and the vector graphics and you’re left with something that feels hollow and unrewarding.
    Battlezone allows the player the illusion of playing the original game with its classic mode but it takes a “special” talent to make something so old and relatively simple into something so jarringly stilted and bad. Stainless have achieved this with aplomb, eschewing pretend vector graphics for jerky line art and quite frankly appallingly unresponsive controls.
    In the slightly more polished-up enhanced mode, the graphical style is actually so strange that it doesn’t really enhance anything except your desire to reach for the off switch.

    Tanks for nothing!

    For those of you who didn’t misspend your youth languishing in the electronic thunder of your local arcade, Battlezone is a futuristic tank simulator (and we use the term ‘simulator’ very loosely here) that hurls the player into a cyber-world populated by enemy tanks, mysterious flying saucers, obstacles and missile drones. The idea is to nail the enemy tanks (and other nasties) before they nail you.

    It’s a simple enough idea, but the XBLA version of Battlezone makes life as difficult for you as possible. Using the standard one-stick control method, even the zippier tanks are sluggish, unresponsive, and about as likely to be able to avoid incoming enemy fire as a slug with a breezeblock tied to its back. The single player game seriously lacks variety, and the only challenge on offer is to keep repeatedly destroying the enemy until you use up your three lives, and stare listlessly through the mock-cracked screen of your knackered war machine.

    To make up for the lack of speed and manoeuvrability, your tank can take temporary refuge behind some of the gameworld’s static objects. Again though, Stainless have even made ducking and covering your tank’s metallic ass as difficult as possible, as the bounding boxes for static objects seems to start a good distance away from the actual objects themselves, thus trying to break cover to move away becomes almost impossible to do without getting nailed.
    Thankfully in the re-imagined version of the game, you can at least switch viewpoints from first to third person so you can actually see your tank from a chase perspective.
    The radar at the top of the screen becomes a necessity as other enemy tanks pop into existence. 9 times out of ten they’ll appear behind you, with enough time to line you up in their sights, junking your tank before you’ve even got a chance to spin round and get the first shot in.

    Tank you for being a friend

    With the bitter-lemon taste of the single player mode still swilling around my mouth, I decided to see if matters improved online. With exquisite taste it would appear that the rest of the world have already cottoned on to how much of a stinker this game is, because getting into an online quick match proved impossible. Thankfully after a couple of tries I managed to get into a ranked online match with two Americans. Taking great care to ensure that my headset was nowhere near my head, and that the Live Cam was pointed at my desktop model of Godzilla, and that all but friends voices were muted, I dived into the action.
    Online, Battlezone manages a rather limp-wristed attempt to save its own butt, actually proving to be slightly more fun than you could ever possibly have with the single player game. That’s not to say it’s recommended, and that’s definitely not to say that it’s great but it did allow me my moment of glory, nailing the only achievement I could wring out of the game for winning one online match (the achievements for single player scoring obviously make the assumption that you have an iron will and nothing better to do than achieve a score of 50,000 points or more, impossible for me!)

    The Live Cam addition was a good idea though, at least that way you can see the look of disgust on your friends faces as they play against you. To summarise, I was actually incredibly surprised to find anyone else playing this online at all, so there’s proof for you – someone does actually buy these titles after all!

    Score: 1/10

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