You used to need a VR headset to play Rebellion’s newest take on the classic Battlezone.
Now, however, you don’t. And to further compound the fact, it has become Battlezone Gold Edition. Without the VR requirement the game is now also available on Xbox One, meaning if you own one of those, a PlayStation 4, or a PC, Battlezone Gold Edition provides hours of arcade thrills. And really, it does.
If you’ve never played Rebellion’s Battlezone before, here’s how it plays out. There are bad guys, and to combat them you take remote control of one of a number of tanks. Presented with a map made up of an arrangement of hexagons, you move between each one much like you do in a board game. And surprise, surprise, each hexagon has an exciting event in store for you.
Most hexagons present you with some kind of battle. Featuring a range of objectives, sometimes you’ll be trying to attack or defend outposts, other times you might be trying to take down a massive shield generator. In all cases you’ll also be trying to take down as many enemies as you possibly can. If not just to survive, but to also collect any data packets that they drop which you can put to good use.
Engaging in tank warfare isn’t the be-all and end-all of Battlezone Gold Edition though. Every once in a while you’ll receive some respite in the form of a Supply Point. Allowing you to buy new weapons and special tools with you the data packets you’ve collected, regular trips to Supply Points pays dividends. Your starting arsenal is formidable, no doubt. But having more weapons makes you more fearsome and more versatile on the battlefield.
You also occasionally come across hexagons that present with what is essentially a mini text adventure. You might come across some scavengers looting a wreckage, for example. Presented with multiple options, how you then go forward is up to you. You could attack them and loot the wreckage yourself. Or you give them the benefit of the doubt, engage them in conversation, and see how it plays out. Either way, these exchanges are short and sweet, but usually rewarding.
It ends with victory or defeat
Your Battlezone Gold Edition campaign ends when you reach the other side of the hexagon-filled map and take down the enemy commander once and for all. With the enemy forces’ power level steadily increasing as you play, however, it’s a challenging goal even on the easiest difficulty level. You also need to keep an eye out for your nemesis, who is more than likely to show up at some point or another. Encounter them, and you’re likely to find yourself being decimated.
Of course, death is another way your Battlezone Gold Edition campaign can end. Being a game with arcade sensibilities, you start with three lives but can acquire more by spending data packets. With each additional life costing more than the last, however, you’re never going to feel like your invincible. Perhaps a better use of your data packets is to spend them on tank upgrades.
In some regards, Battlezone Gold Edition is very much a rogue-lite. As you play you unlock more and more weapons in your arsenal, which is carried between each campaign you play. The weapons and tank upgrades that you buy during a campaign are lost upon its completion though. Initially, you might struggle to finish a campaign due to your inexperience and lack of arsenal options. But as you play, developing both your skill and your arsenal, things become much more manageable.
Better with friends?
While you can play Battlezone Gold Edition by yourself, playing online can elevate the experience it provides up a notch. I say can, as it really depends on who you’re playing with. Play with nameless, faceless randoms who don’t communicate and the action can devolve into a mess. Even worse, if they’re the host and they quit, you’ll just be thrown back onto the main menu. Get a good group together though, and Battlezone Gold Edition becomes more tactical and strategic.
Though you only start out with three tank variants available – light, medium and heavy – there are many more to unlock. In multiplayer, the variety of tanks is at its most useful, with players able to carve out their own niche. In single-player, however, some just aren’t that viable for campaign success. Regardless, whichever tank takes your fancy, you can kit it out with a range of amusing bobbleheads, horns, and both interior and exterior paint jobs to make it your own.
Customisation is also at the crux of the game, with you being able to choose between a short, medium and long campaign, as well as easy, medium or hard difficulty. A short campaign is likely to take you around two to three hours to complete. Medium and long campaign length can vary a great deal depending on how thoroughly you explore their maps.
Retro, but modern
Starting out life as a VR game, Battlezone Gold Edition‘s visuals are basic in order to prioritise framerate. Being basic doesn’t mean that they can’t look good though, and Battlezone‘s clean lines and bold use of colour means that it’s visually appealing. It feels retro but modern, which I imagine is exactly what Rebellion was aiming for. On the audio front though, it does what it needs to do. I can’t say that the game’s soundtrack is memorable, or that any sound effects wowed me in any way.
I’ve not tried Battlezone in VR on another format, and I don’t really have any desire to. Battlezone Gold Edition on Xbox One X is all the arcade fun I need it to be, without having to don an uncomfortable headset. While it’s no doubt a more immersive experience in VR, it’s not integral to the gameplay. Battlezone Gold Edition is a great game that’s easy to pick up and play; one that I’ll certainly find myself dipping into little but often. It has some minor gameplay issues and imbalances, but they’re quite easily overlooked when you’re having a blast. And that’s what’s most important, surely?