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Battlezone Review

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Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1983 Also On: Apple IIe, Atari 8-Bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, VIC-20, ZX Spectrum

As you can tell from the number of systems this appeared on, Battlezone was a popular game, at least in the arcades. With this came a number of home versions. All of them, except this one, tried to duplicate the legendary vector graphics of the original. Battlezone, on the 2600, however, took a different approach and pretty much sucks. I’m probably going to get some emails about this review…

Graphically, I’m impressed with what they’ve done with Battlezone. Instead of an ‘inside-the-tank’ view, you’re now behind the tank and gone are the vectors. The tank is wonderfully rendered with moving treads, the enemy tanks look like tanks even from afar, the backgrounds are nice and the screen flicker when you get hit is an awesome bonus. The only problems I had were the UFOs and fighters, they look like crap, utter crap. The fighters are particularly indiscernible. Good overall in this category, however.

As for the sound, I’m kind of disappointed with Battlezone. There is little sound to speak of save a lame military bit at the start and effects that might as well have been lifted from Combat. Pretty run-of-the-mill. They don’t sound bad or anything, and hearing that enemy shot from behind can get your blood pumping, but that doesn’t make it sound any better. Typical overall, nothing great.

Battlezone keeps essentially the same gameplay as the original. You’re in control of a tank and have to take out enemies before they get you, that’s it (minus the decent story they provide in the manual). The controls are fluid and easy to master, and they even threw in a little radar screen above so you can see where enemies are in relation to you. So why did I say it sucks?

Well, first off, there isn’t much variety. You have tanks, fighters, bonus tanks and UFOs, that’s it. They come out in small numbers at first and then more as you progress. Wow, what an experiment in gameplay. Second, this game gets too hard too fast. If you read around, you’ll find everyone saying it’s a real accomplishment to survive five minutes of this game. Yet they give it a high rating? That’s the main point, in hardly any time the game throws so many tanks at you it’s impossible to keep up. In my experience, though, it’s more like two minutes. Furthermore, and third, enemies are randomly placed, sometimes right freaking behind you, giving you little time to try to move out of the way. There goes a life, or all of them straight in a row after some more appear. Fourth, the manual claims you can avoid enemy fire by facing away forty-five degrees and then moving forwards or backwards. Thanks, it does work most of the time, except when enemies are behind. Unless there’s something I’m missing about 89% of the time I could never dodge what they fired. When you have a ton of enemies appearing out of nowhere these ‘evasive manuevers’ no longer work. Where are these things coming from, anyway? Because of these issues, Battlezone gets tedious, annoying and unplayable in roughly the amount of time it takes you to turn it on or off, so you better just keep it off. Here, watch someone struggle (pay attention to how long they play before the dying begins):

As for creativity, Battlezone is not a very creative game. This is something one would expect from a late-release Atari 2600 title because the system is so limited, but even at this point history there were so many of these first-person shooter, military, cockpit-type games that it was sickening. Problem was, no one was really doing anything original! This included. The original was in fact nothing new, just an awesome graphical experiment.

As you may guess, Battlezone has little, if any, replay value. If you really want to try to beat it and master its horrible difficulty curve, go ahead. As for length, again as you may guess, way too short. I hardly had a chance to get into this game before I was murdered. Come on, give me at least ten minutes so I can enjoy myself at least a little.

Battlezone is for some reason a popular title among Atari 2600 fans, likely because they can’t admit they’ve only played it for a few seconds. There is no reason to own this game. I got it in a lot, played it a few minutes, tried four more times to give it a fair shot and threw it away. Best do the same.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 5.5
Gameplay: 2.5
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 1
Final: 3.8
Written by Stan Write a User Review