If you miss the romance and intrigue of the Cold War but are looking for something a little more high-tech than campy James Bond-style gadgetry (e.g., cigarette rocket launchers), Battlezone may be worth a look. It's a golden opportunity to exorcise those residual capitalist/communist tensions in your psyche, only this time, you can do it all over the solar system with fancy floating tanks.
In the alternate future, not only are the United States and the Soviet Union still at each other's throats, but the fight has taken on a new tone of desperation, as both countries attempt to excavate alien ruins on other planets and exploit the technology found. The story of the aliens is revealed bit by bit, each discovery intertwined with the progressing hostilities.
Fortunately, there is a lot more going on than the neo-cold war gimmick. First and foremost, the game successfully incorporates elements of real-time strategy into a first person combat simulator. In most missions, you assume command of a small group of military and support units. The Recycler serves as the center and gets power from geysers on the planets' surfaces, then produces Scavengers that collect scrap metal (raw material for the Recycler), defensive turrets, and ammunition and repair capsules. When enough scrap is collected, unit factories, armories, repair facilities and various reinforcement units can be built.
The method used for issuing orders to your units is impressive, with each type assigned a number in a main menu. Thus, to issue an order to a utility unit, you select the number 3 and get a menu of the units currently available. Each unit has an assigned number, and, when selected, acknowledges and waits for orders. You can send it somewhere specific (like a Navigation Buoy), or simply out of the way, tell it to collect scrap, or have it follow another unit. Each order is assigned a number as well.
The same process is followed to direct military units to attack targets. It's all simply a matter of choosing from menus, and can be done at the same time you're busy blowing something up. Initially, the control scheme takes a bit of practice, but, once mastered, it adds character to the game. This aspect essentially allows Battlezone to successfully bridge the gap between the two genres, combining both the complexity and planning angles of RTS games, as well as the immediacy of a first person shooter or simulator.
While there are certain mild disappointments, such as the silly introductory voiceovers in which a gravelly voice spouts war clichés and the lack of much detail on the planet surfaces, nothing seriously detracts from this very enjoyable game.
Graphics: Generally good, but planet surfaces aren't diverse enough to keep it fresh.
Sound: Explosions and voices are nicely done.
Enjoyment: Strikes a very good balance between complexity and ease of play.
Replay Value: The game is long, and replaying from the beginning is a viable option considering the divergent possibilities in unit development.
People who downloaded Battlezone (1998) have also downloaded:
Battlezone 2: Combat Commander, BattleTech 2: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge, Battleground 6: Napoleon in Russia, Battleground 4: Shiloh, Battleground 7: Bull Run, Battle Commander, Age of Empires III, Black & White 2
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