Battlezone (1998 video game)
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|Release date(s)||February 28, 1998|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, Real-time strategy|
Battlezone is a critically acclaimed remake (for Microsoft Windows) of an arcade game of the same name. It was released by Activision in 1998. Aside from the name and presence of tanks, this game bears little resemblance to the original. Activision remade it into a hybrid of a tank simulation game, a first-person shooter and a real-time strategy game. Battlezone is played like any other real time strategy, but the main difference is that in Battlezone the player is controlling everything on the battlefield from the first person view.
The primary resource in Battlezone is bio-metal scrap which is used to produce new units and construct new buildings. Building and directing units is done via interface either by selecting onscreen object with the mouse or by using number keys on keyboard. Starting with a bio-metal recycler (the most basic construction unit), the player constructs vehicles to scavenge scraps of bio-metal, build base defenses, and construct new base vehicles capable of building more advanced structures and vehicles.
Background and storyline
Battlezone is set during the 1960s with an alternative history plot, in which the space race is used to cover up the deployment of the United States and Soviet militaries into space. Both sides have used scraps of extraterrestrial "bio-metal", which have fallen to Earth as meteors, to build vehicles with amazing properties such as hover capability. Both nations deploy into space and are fighting across the solar system to control other deposits of the bio-metal. Gameplay is divided up into two campaigns; one following the American National Space Defense Force (NSDF), the other with the Soviet Cosmos Colonist Army (CCA, also referred to as the Communist Cosmonaut Army in early game manuals).
The American campaign starts on the Moon, but the NSDF is forced off after the destruction of their main base. They relocate to Mars, but find the Soviets already there. Both sides locate alien artifacts, and the Americans also find a factory; the long-dead alien race that created the bio-metal is identified as the Cthonians, who inhabited the planet Icarus (now the asteroid belt) and visited Earth on several occasions, influencing Greek mythology. The Americans learn of an ultimate weapon called the "Fury" and head to Venus to learn more about it. Another Cthonian relic is recovered, pointing to Jupiter's moon Io. The NSDF finds a third relic, but this is stolen by a scientist defecting to the Soviets. The player must steal a Soviet fighter craft and tap into the communications network, which reveals the CCA relocation to their main base on Saturn's moon Titan. The Americans clear nearby Europa of CCA units to prevent early warning to those on Titan, but the main assault is annihilated, as the Soviets have begun to manufacture Fury vehicles. However, the Furies turn on the Soviets; they are self-aware and programmed to destroy all life. Icarus was destroyed by the Cthonians to prevent the Furies from reaching Earth. The NSDF and CCA ally against the new threat, and after destroying the production factory on Titan, travel to the fictional moon of Achilles, orbiting Uranus. The Americans destroy the main Fury base, but this causes the moon's core to destabilise, and the player must destroy the Furies' evacuation vessel before it escapes, then escape themselves.
The Soviet campaign follows the same basic storyline, but from the CCA's perspective. Starting on Venus, the Soviets are hounded off the planet by an NSDF unit called the "Black Dogs". They travel to Io to capture one of the Fury relics, but after the Black Dogs destroy their main base, are forced to regroup and reestablish a foothold. Once this is achieved, the production of Fury units begins, and the CCA uses them to wipe out the Black Dogs in the final mission, just before the Furies turn on them. The Soviet campaign is the shorter of the two, as the NSDF missions were intended as the main game. However, the CCA missions are meant to be more difficult, and the player must manage the full technology tree from the beginning, instead of being gradually introduced over the course of the campaign.
An add-on, called The Red Odyssey, was later released with an American and a Chinese campaign. The American campaign follows an NSDF unit, also called the "Black Dogs", during scrap-gathering operations on Jupiter's moon Ganymede. The Americans, expecting boring garrison duty, are ambushed by Chinese tanks, which are capable of cloaking. After being mauled by the Chinese, the Americans reestablish themselves and discover that the Chinese are using a Stargate-like portal to travel between Earth and Ganymede, and to the planet Elysium, which is located in another solar system. Control of the portals changes hands back and forth several times, but the campaign ends with the Americans in control, and the Chinese annihilated. The Chinese campaign starts earlier, with the first few missions focusing on stealing the Portal technology from the Soviets (who do not have their own campaign) and establishing their own. Later missions follow the American attempts to control Ganymede and Elysium.
In 1998, MacMillan Publishing released Battlegrounds, an authorized Level Pack for Battlezone, after conducting a contest in which players submitted their own creations. The Pack contains 45 Instant Action missions, and 52 multiplayer maps, provided with a new utility for launching and managing maps.
Also in 1998, Macmillan Publishing released the Team Evolve-made addon pack for Battlezone: The Red Odyssey. This expansion contains an entirely new Single Player story arc pitting the Chinese Red Army forces against both their allies, the CCA, and their enemies the "Black Dogs". The "Black Dogs" were a roughed-up, beaten-up offshoot of the NSDF with the reputation of ending up with the toughest missions. The Chinese forces introduced both Portal technology that allowed travel outside the Solar System and a 'Cloak', which hid their ships while disabling weapons.
In 1999, the Battlezone Gold Pack was released to commemorate the launch of Battlezone II: Combat Commander. It includes Battlezone, two authorized add-on packs: The Red Odyssey and Battlegrounds, and an official strategy guide.
Activision released a sequel in December 1999, Battlezone II: Combat Commander, which involved a war resulting from the incursion of a new faction known as the Scions. Battlezone II introduced a split Single Player campaign, allowing the player to switch sides at one point and join the enemy. Battlezone II received mixed reviews.
Most reviewers were impressed with the way Battlezone combined two genres: real time strategy and first person shooter. GameSpot said that "what really makes Battlezone so special is the way it blends the adrenaline rush of first-person action games with the strategy and resource management of Red Alert". Reviewers were also impressed with the game's interface, calling it innovative and simple to use. Game Revolution praised graphics and addictive gameplay. Ted Smith from Allgame was disappointed with introductory voiceovers, while Stephen Poole from GameSpot noted that "the AI for friendly units can be a little dicey and that Control can be a bit of a problem for mousers" but concluded that Ninety percent of the reason he mentioned any game flaws in his review is because that is his job not because they bothered him much when he was playing.
Battlezone also has a unique multiplayer engine that consists of two modes: Strategy and DeathMatch. Strategy involves two or more players who compete in teams or against one another for scrap and map domination, and offers same type of control as in the single-player game. In DeathMatch two or more players battle until the opposing vehicle is destroyed. Once destroyed, the pilot is ejected and floats back to the ground with the user's vehicle being respawned for continued play.
Online gaming used to be available at Activision's servers through Anet, a peer-to-peer networking system which features a chat lobby and a list of games in progress. A player can select a game to join and then connect to the host's computer. From there the main game server is no longer involved. Activision shut down its servers in 2002 but released the source code for Anet under GNU Lesser Public License.
- Battlezone (1980 video game) the original arcade game.
- Battlezone II: Combat Commander the sequel to Battlezone released in 1999.
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