Real Talk By: Zombie Zac
My first time playing this reboot from Rebellion was on the sampler disc that comes with the PSVR. Yes, something as ‘futuristic’ as VR comes with a demo disc. While I had limited knowledge of the original Battlezone, I had zero nostalgia or expectations heading in. Battlezone makes a strong first impression, and proposes a style of game in VR that works well; It is like a slow first person shooter, broken up into bite-sized levels, with limited mobility so you don’t immediately puke. You sit inside a massive tank, and it really does convey the size well in VR. You can look around at all the switches and screens and really feel like you’re there. The first time you gain control over your tank and you roll out onto the surface of some alien planet, it’s a convincing moment. Unfortunately, the potential the world suggests never fully materializes.
In its execution, there just isn’t enough value to justify its $60.00 price tag. I know, the concept of ‘worth’ is very subjective, but hear me out. The game plays like a bonus mode that was unlocked upon the completion of a campaign. Except, there is no campaign, and it’s all you have. There’s also a smothering of paid DLC for different tank skins, which is crazy that after you pay for the game, and realize there’s not much to do, you’re then shown how you can spend more money. It’s actually quite insulting when you consider the price of the PSVR ($399.99, or $499.99 for the bundle) and the fact that most people who bought this at launch were thinking they needed at least one full price game to go along with the various downloadable titles on PSN. Well, this actually provides just about the same amount of content as any of those PSN VR games.
It’s not even about the amount of content necessarily, but the lack of variety of what you’re doing in the game also contributes to this feeling that you’re just not getting a whole game. There’s only a few different types of enemies you’ll shoot at, the levels all sort of blend together, the missions are basic and similar, and when you lose you start all over from the beginning and retread through it again. Now, there is randomization in the levels, the order of them, and you can try different techniques to survive, but after a few hours you will have hit a wall with what you can do with Battlezone. I do appreciate how smooth it feels to strafe an enemy, and each level presents challenging moments where you have to decide which gun to use and what ammo to preserve. These moments are the glue to what otherwise feels like an unfinished project.
Graphically, Battlezone is a mixed bag. The inside of the tank looks sharp, and you get a real sense of presence being in there; It’s just too bad that the graphics get so blurry and low-resolution when you look further out into the game world. While the PSVR has the lowest resolution of the 3 main VR headsets out there, most games compensate for this in smart ways— Not Battlezone. There doesn’t appear to be any conscious design decisions that are attempting to define the blurred edges on structures or the indistinguishable amorphous blobs that pop up at the horizon. It actually begins to wear down on your eyes a bit, and when an enemy moves fast and gets closer to your tank it’s a relief. The thing that boggles my mind is that the game is simple graphically, so why wasn’t this solved? At least the audio side of the presentation is on point, with deep bass sounds and adrenaline-pumping electronic music.
On the demo disc the short Battlezone experience you get is a blast, but the full game shows how little there was beyond those opening moments. There’s so many little things that bug me, like the long opening sequence where you’re slowly taken through a hanger that isn’t skippable, or the fact that when playing online you barely get people, and when you do it’s quite possible they’re speaking another language so you can’t communicate. Even when you find some decent teammates, their tanks skip around the levels like a slideshow and you share extra lives so just imagine how frustrating all that is. But somehow, it’s still fun to pop in and play a few rounds here and there. It could be just because VR, in of itself, is fun. The core concept of driving a tank around a futuristic world blowing stuff up with people online is great. It’s the lack of content, the disappointing execution, and the price gauging that really ruin the experience. Stick with the demo disc, or wait for a sale if you really have to get your tank on.
2.5 Out of 5
+Strong first impression
+Feels like you’re really in a futuristic tank
+Music and sound effects help propel the action
-Too expensive for what you get