Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


(Atari for PSP)

Loosely based on the classic arcade game, Battlezone puts players in command of futuristic hover tanks as they do battle in simulation with other tanks in a variety of terrain. The gameplay is fairly straightforward and offers several modes of play including capture the flag, lone wolf and hot zone included. Battlezone also offers numerous multiplayer modes with wi-fi play plus numerous upgrades and power-ups to unlock. The simple gameplay is entertaining, but the gameplay feels shallow since it only offers several variations on the deathmatch theme with little variation. It gets tedious after awhile, but Battlezone is a fun and entertaining combat title that delivers a solid dose of action.

Set during a futuristic NATO military training exercise, Battlezone allows players to pilot a variety of hover tanks in various locations. You control your tank and can use a variety of weapons, such as missiles, lasers, bombs and chain guns to take out any rivals that come across your path. You can locate them by using your onboard radar, and deliver a punishing blow. Each map includes a variety of special objects that can be used by running over them. There are energy portals which allow you to restore your energy when you go across them, air spouts that help life your vehicle. In addition, you can find numerous power-ups and additional weapons on each stage. Before each stage begins, you can select which weapons, type of tank and other tweaks you want to use in battle. While you have a limited number of options initially, more items can be unlocked by winning battles. During the game, a key strategy is to locate the enemy tanks before they destroy yours, which isn't always as easy as it sounds. The basic deathmatch gameplay is fairly straightforward and pure, but there are a few surprises waiting for you if you look beyond the basic modes of play. One of these are the fixed-position sentries that pop out of nowhere and fire at you at certain points. You also have to worry about the fixed time and frag limits placed on you at the start of each round, which adds to the challenge. Battlezone provides you with a decent number of weapons once you get deeper into the game, but these cannot be changed once a battle has commenced, which means you have to think before you jump into the action. Players can also customize the look of their tanks by changing their camouflage skins, which also comes in handy in certain environments.

Players will spend the majority of their time in the game searching and battling their foes, which makes the game quite easy to get into. There's really not much of a story, or elaborate missions to complete. Head to head battles are the main focus here, and while this simple approach is fun, and pays homage to the original arcade game, a bit more depth to the gameplay would have been welcome. To help mitigate this to some degree, the developers have enabled several types of play, which adds some variety to the proceedings. In addition to the standard DM's, players can also select from Team Deathmatches, Capture the Flag Modes, Lone Wolf Mode, and a few other variations. These help to keep your interest level high, but don't really add to the game's longevity in the long run. However, the game allows you to unlock additional tanks, weapons and power-ups as you complete levels, which at least gives you some motivation to keep playing. The game itself plays fairly smoothly, if a little slowly but things pick up once you get the hang of it and begin to earn power-ups. The game also offers additional tanks and customizable maps, which should extend its replay value even further. As is the case with many titles, the early stages serve as warm ups for the more intense battles that occur in the later levels. Battlezone unfolds at a good pace, allowing you to learn the basics before throwing the really heavy stuff at you. Even at it's most intense, this isn't the most difficult game to play. You can select from either a behind the tank or first person viewpoints at the press of a button. While it's nice to see your tank, it's actually much easier to control and navigate the game using the periscopic viewpoint, which is more like a traditional FPS.

Battlezone's simple controls and easy to use interface makes the game very easy to get into without much of a learning curve. The on-screen HUD allows you to see your position and status easily without having to reference another screen. Implementing attacks is fairly easy, thanks to the button placement which is logical and can be customized as well. You can also select from several different configurations, which allow you to steer with either the analog stick or d-pad, and assign strafing and firing buttons to the position you're most comfortable with. Visually, the game looks sharp with excellent texture mapping, impressive lighting and weapons effects and a decent frame rate throughout. It does a good job of utilizing the PSP hardware without feeling excessively cluttered or Spartan. The game's soundtrack features a somewhat tedious blend of hard rock that doesn't do much to enhance the experience, but this can be turned off. It's overall presentation and production values are excellent Despite the fact that it's based on a classic arcade game (mostly in name and premise) it feels quite modern and contemporary. Battlezone delivers exactly what it promises and little else - it's an intense, arcade style shooting title that offers a few thrills here and there, but basically offers a solid, if slightly predictable set of arenas. It's fairly easy to control and the gameplay is fun, which makes it fun for short bursts. Those expecting a deep, tank sim are in for a disappointment, since there isn't the depth or control nuance here. This is all about blowing things up and for that, the game makes good on its promise, making for a highly playable update for this classic Atari franchise.

Grade: B-

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