Things that make me happy: puppies, sunshine, stuff that violently explodes. While Rebellion’s Battlezone is disappointingly light on the first two, it more than makes up for it with the third.
Part tank-sim and part FPS, it’s super fast-paced and instantly accessible, making it an ideal fix for those craving a quick blast of arcadey action. From the moment the title screen flashed up with “Insert C.O.I.N” (in this instance meaning Insert Combat Operative Identification Nexus) I was smiling, and didn’t stop through the bite-sized tutorial or the next half a dozen stages.
Originally released for VR platforms, the new Gold Edition eschews that requirement in favour of a simple, responsive control system that everyone can get involved with – and the result is a surprisingly playable. Actually, that sells it a little short. It’s actually bloody marvellous.
Missions are short, instant-action affairs that see you remote-piloting your Cobra Strike Tank through stylised levels to hack enemy databanks, destroy strongholds or generally wreak havoc on the robot army that has taken over the world. You can pick the size of the campaign from the off, and must then jump from space to space on a grid-like map to complete objectives and unlock new gear. The ultimate goal is the volcano at the end of the map that houses the enemy AI core. It’s intended to be played over and over, with or without friends, and the randomly generated maps and objectives keep everything feeling fun and fresh for the most part. That said, it can become repetitive during longer sessions as the bare bones art style offers little aesthetic variety, and the missions all involve similar combat with ground and air units.
You’ll unlock a variety of weapons and upgrades, and a total of 12 tanks from the starting line-up of 3. There are also skins, novelty horns and dashboard bobbleheads based mostly on previous Rebellion franchises. Loadouts can only be switched at special Supply Points, situated every few grid spaces on the map, so you’ll often plan your route through the the campaign based on their location.
Combat is fast and smooth, helped by the awesome soundtrack and simplistic visuals. The control system is classic FPS fair, and you’ll soon have four weapon slots to fill and cycle between. The few seconds it takes to arm a new weapon when switching are always tense, forcing you to find cover and continuously strafe and manoeuvre to avoid enemy fire.
Enemies become gradually stronger and better equipped as you progress, and special purple icons on the map signify the location of a Nemesis, a powerful adversary who’ll pose a stern challenge even for the quickest among you. Taking out Shield Generators will weaken the enemy, so prioritising those missions is essential, even if they are tougher than normal missions.
Most stages have secondary objectives to complete for bonus rewards, such as hacking into an arms factory or taking out a priority target, but the levels are so compact and free of filler that you won’t mind the extra work. The brief load times are welcome too, as you’ll spend little time waiting around between missions.
Battlezone feels like a throwback, but in the best way. It’s a no-nonsense shooter designed to be accessible and challenging at the same time. Fun alone or with others, the minimalistic approach might be off-putting for some, but it’s a great example of an unpretentious game that does exactly what it sets out to do.
Lots to unlock
A little easy to begin with
Can feel repetitive