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‘Battlezone’ Review: The King of Tank Combat Returns in VR

by David Jagneaux • October 5th, 2016
Platform: PlayStation VR
Positives

- Excellent tank combat
- Fantastic cooperative multiplayer
- Endless campaign variety
- Satisfying upgrades and weapon loadouts

Negatives

- Difficulty spikes
- Sometimes uneven pacing
- Learning curve with controls

You may not know this, but Battlezone, the upcoming tank combat game for PS VR, isn’t exactly a new property. In fact, the tank combat game it’s based on, also named Battlezone, originally came out in the 80s at arcades and on the Atari 2600. Now, Rebellion has revived the series with the new immersive medium of VR by way of an intense, tactical, and feature-rich romp across digital battlegrounds.

Battlezone on PlayStation VR is about as close to a system seller (headset seller?) as you’re going to see in the early days of virtual reality. In a market that’s flooded with tech demos and under-realized potential, Battlezone feels like a breath of fresh air.

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Since it would have been a bit ridiculous to create a massive, sprawling campaign with hand-made content from start to finish, the team behind the game were smart about it. They crafted a campaign map that randomly populates the board-like interface with objectives, events, and missions. You move from one point to the next, completing whatever pops up along the way. In the hours I’ve spent with the game, I can honestly say that no two missions were ever quite the same.

Sometimes I was tasked with defeating several waves of randomly generated enemies on a randomly generated map, whereas other times I’d have to defend my base from the onslaught instead. Other times still it would be a mixture of defending and attacking in the same battle, or even escorting a convoy of other tanks to the end of the mission.

What makes Battlezone so enthralling though isn’t the diversity of its content, but the excitement of its gameplay. I could choose either a Light, Medium, or Heavy tank to roll into combat with, and they each had their own perks and disadvantages. The Light tank was, naturally, incredibly quick and agile, whereas the Heavy tank was slower with better defenses and more firepower.

Throughout the campaign, you earn credits that can be used to purchase upgrades, new weapons, and more. That brings an addicting progression element which adds an even more dynamic nature to the game’s already versatile offerings. Playing through missions alone is fun — the combat is balanced enough so that it isn’t too easy or too challenging — but Battlezone is the kind of game that shines best when you play with others.

You can open up the multiplayer lobby menu and find games looking for players, making it easier than you’d expect to find people to play with. Although, early days of VR mean it may be difficult to form a full party unless you’ve got friends also playing. Luckily, the PS VR’s built-in microphone should also make communication a breeze. That’s extra useful for the sometimes sudden difficulty spikes that make some of the missions feel cheap or unfairly difficult, compared to some of the others that can feel a bit too easy.

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Gameplay consists of a mixture of boosting from side-to-side to dodge incoming fire from enemies, as well as lining up the perfect shot. With a wide variety of weapons — from machine guns, to rockets, to lock-on missiles, and more — there is a huge arsenal of munitions to deploy. Which is, once again, why rolling in a group is the best way to enjoy the game. Each squad member can specialize and focus on a particular type of playing style to balance out the group.

One of the most interesting elements of Battlezone’s combat is how the game handles healing. Rather than actively targeting and pressing a button to heal allies, all you have to do is be near one another. This further incentivizes the need to stick together as a team, while also providing an interesting role that a squad mate could decide to specialize in. The upgrade trees allow for great nuance in how you build out your tank, especially in combination with the variety of weapons and types of tanks to choose from.

That being said, the learning curve can be a bit steep for some people. The battles are fast and intense and getting used to using your head, as well as both analog sticks, in unison can feel cumbersome at first. Eventually, you’ll settle into a rhythm, and the movements will start to feel natural.

Final Score: 8/10 – Great

Battlezone is one of the brightest shining gems in the PlayStation VR launch lineup. There’s a ton of content here and a satisfying procedural campaign keeps things fresh and interesting. The platform is lacking multiplayer options — especially of the cooperative variety — and Battlezone offers super tight controls and immersive gameplay in a clean, attractive package that has easily become one of VR’s best titles.

Battlezone will be available on October 13th for PlayStation VR at a price of $59.99.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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  • Sildric

    So… When does it come out for Vive? lol. In all seriousness though someone better be building me a clone of this game on Vive.

    • Big Papa

      Rebellion has already announced that it’s coming for Vive and Oculus, although no release dates have been set.