Battlezone II: Combat Commander
|Battlezone II: Combat Commander|
|Designer(s)||William Henry Stahl|
|Artist(s)||Carey James Chico|
|Composer(s)||Carey James Chico|
March 2018 (remastered)
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, real-time strategy|
Battlezone II: Combat Commander is a 1999 video game developed by Pandemic Studios and published by Activision. It is the sequel to Battlezone 1998). Battlezone II is a hybrid tank shooter, first-person shooter (FPS) and real-time strategy (RTS) game. The player pilots various futuristic vehicles, while using the function keys to select and command units and structures. Battlezone II features two races, the ISDF (humans) and the Scions. A remastered version was released in March 2018 under the title Battlezone: Combat Commander on the gaming platforms GOG.com and Steam.
Battlezone II is set in the same alternative history universe as Battlezone. Its plot takes place in 1990s about 30 years after the original story of Battlezone and features an alien invasion theme. America's NSDF (National Space Defense Force) and the Soviet Union's CCA (Cosmos Colonist Army), the foes of the Cold War conflict, were forced to work together in order to combat their common enemy, the Furies. Access to alien technology has necessitated the creation of an international peacekeeping force, the International Space Defense Force (ISDF), whose role is to oversee distribution of the rare bio-metal resource and mediate disputes between member nations. To prevent the future misuse of bio-metal, the AAN (Alliance of Awakened Nations) is created to oversee the even distribution of the resource between the countries.
After several years, General Armand Braddock, former commander of the NSDF's elite Black Dog Squadron, secretly builds a base on Pluto from diverted resources without the knowledge of the AAN, and begins what he dubs 'Project Pedigree'. By fusing human test subjects (the former members of the Black Dogs) with biometal, Braddock is able to create a highly advanced force of powerful and intelligent combatants. However, tired of Braddock's deceit and enraged by what he has done to them, the subjects mount a rebellion and flee into space. Unable to pursue without arousing suspicion, Braddock is forced to monitor the edge of the Solar System, where they also discover a new celestial body, dubbed the "Dark Planet" because of its hidden nature, and even build a small facility there as well. Shortly after the loss of the Voyager-2 probe to a missile attack, contact with Cerberus Base on Pluto was lost.
A whole fleet of ISDF troops was dispatched to find out what happened, including Lieutenant John Cooke, whom Battlezone II's storyline revolves around.
Battlezone II has two alternate endings available to the player: 
ISDF alternate ending
John obeys his superior's command and destroys the Scion craft. Braddock informs him that Manson and his men survived, but they refused to obey, saying that Braddock is a traitor to the AAN. Cooke inserts a small team under his lead and destroys the base. Manson's body is found at the outskirts of the base. They also find out that Burns has escaped.
Following Scion transmissions, they locate the heart of the Scion society, a medium-sized planet called the "Core" planet, which is presumed to be artificial. After establishing an outpost, Cooke follows a convoy to a hole in the crust, leading to the planet's interior. He descends, and after dispatching numerous automated defenses, destroys the central crystal, causing the planet to collapse and detonate.
Scion alternate ending
Instead of shooting the Scion as commanded by Braddock, Cooke orders the Tug carrying Burns to follow the Scion. After leading him through an underground tunnel, the Scion confirms that she is Shabayev. She was found by the Scions on Bane after the crash. She explains that Braddock ordered the attack on the drop ships to silence them. He had also ordered the Voyager to be shot down to prevent the AAN from detecting the ISDF base on the Dark Planet. She also reveals to John that the Scions are actually humans who have been fused together with bio-metal. At the core of the Collective are the former members of the Black Dog Squadron. After the uprising, they fled to the Dark Planet, then into the Scion system, where they found the Cthonian ruins on Mire and embraced their culture. Their ultimate goal is not to destroy Earth, but to bring the enlightened Cthonian culture back to humanity.
John is transformed into a Scion to better aid their cause. He is informed by Burns that the three machines that were disarmed were called alchemators, and that they did not destroy planets but rather terraformers. The Core Planet is dying, as evidenced by a large number of dead Scions found on Pluto and Dark Planet before. The Scion can only survive if they find a new planet, and the Dark Planet is the ideal candidate.
A routine patrol manages to steal one of the power crystals of the three machines. Shabayev asks John to escort the Hauler towing the power crystal to a nav point where it can be carried away by a Scion dropship. When the convoy arrives at the passage, a landslide occurs, causing them to have to reroute the Hauler. Cooke investigates the other side and sees a departing Scion vehicle. After the incident, Burns requests that John find and return the last two crystals. The second crystal is stolen from a base with a clever tactic: John lures the defenders into an ambush, then shuts down the defenses with a surgical artillery strike on the power generators. When the third crystal is acquired, each is sent to their respective alchemators. However, when he brings the final crystal to Rend, his team is ambushed by a much larger force of rebels who capture the crystal.
Burns receives information that Manson's AAN loyalists (including himself) have defied Braddock and are under siege from his New Regime troops. After breaking the siege, Cooke counterattacks with Manson's forces, destroying the NR base and even intercepting a rebel convoy carrying the crystal which they are willing to trade with Braddock for bio-metal.
With the last crystal in his possession, Cooke lands on Rend for a final payback. Braddock personally defends the alchemator with a trio of Attila Combat Walkers, but he is ultimately defeated and the crystal is placed. The three alchemators are then activated, and their combined beam is shot through a wormhole into the Solar System. The beam impacts into the Dark Planet, gradually transforming it into a new Core Planet at Earth's doorstep.
Pandemic Studios continued and expanded the concept of a RTS and FPS hybrid where the player drives the vehicle in the game, but using a mixture of the reticle and the space bar, selects units and buildings to build and orders units around the battle field. The F keys at the top of the keyboard were used to create groups of units for easy selection of the units presently on the battlefield when they were not in the range of the player to select via the spacebar.
Battlezone II was not very popular, likely due to Pandemic Studio's attempts to blend two genres together; both styles of player had trouble adapting to an unfamiliar genre. Programmer Ken Miller said, "BZ2 was meant to do that [appeal to both genres] at first, but headed in the opposite direction. The problem is that mixed-genre games only attract players that like both genres (the intersection) as opposed to either genre (the union). It mainly comes down to learning curve. Action/shooter gamers can pick up just about any action/shooter game on the market and play it in short order, as almost all of them use the same control scheme and feature similar gameplay conventions. Similarly, strategy gamers can pick up just about any strategy game on the market and play it, although strategy games tend to differ from each other more than action games. Confronting an action/shooter gamer with strategy or a strategy player with action tends to force them outside their genre "comfort zone" and requires a steeper learning curve. My pithiest, if somewhat unfair, summation is this: 'FPS players don't want to think; RTS players don't want to die.'"
When Battlezone II was released to the public in January 2000 the game was met with a lot of enthusiasm, but it quickly began receiving negative views because of out-of-the-box bug issues and over the top requirements to run the game for its time. With a multiplayer that was broken and not fixed until patch 1.1 the game received a lot of negative publicity while it was on the shelf.
In an interview Nathan Mates, a programmer that worked on Battlezone II, attempted to explain why after the first game, BZ2 did not fare well on the market, in an interview with the Battlezone Magazine. "Despite things not being a huge success at retail, there's a definite, but smaller, portion of the population that likes the FPS+RTS genre. Their options are somewhat limited. So they stick with what they know and love. As I said above [about why Battlezone III was never made], this tenaciousness can really backfire and hurt things – if the BZ1 fans hadn't bashed BZ2 for so long, then there might have been more people exposed to BZ2. I see this with different BZ2 versions – there's an extreme amount of anger directed at anything that changes."
Battlezone II was one of the first few games to begin supporting modifications and was greatly expanded on the release of the unofficial patch 1.3 by Nathan Mates and Ken Miller, two employees of Pandemic Studio who had continued developing the game on their own time. Carey Chico, Art Director on Battlezone II said, "Well, the goal of all our effort was to provide for a strong mod community to keep the game going. Seems like it's working."
Battlezone II was designed to be able to support player modifications and featured an in-game mapping tool. Existing vehicles can be modified and new vehicles can be created. Weapons, buildings and missions can also be edited.
- Pandemic Studios (1999). Battlezone II: Combat Commander. PC. Activision. Level/area: Fanning the Fire.
- Battlezone Magazine Issue #1, p. 4 (online copy Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine)
- Rick Fehrenbacher Battlezone II by Activision – review at gamesfirst.com
- Battlezone Magazine Volume 1 Issue No. 4, p. 3 (online copy Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine)
- Battlezone Magazine Volume 1 Issue#5, p. 3 (online copy Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine)
- battlezone-ii-its-alive-er-still on Rock, Paper, Shotgun (2009/09/08)