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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: March 19, 1998
Ah, the glorious days when the United States and the U.S.S.R. couldn’t agree on anything. It may have frayed the nerves now and again knowing that millions of pounds of explosives were pointed at you at any given moment, but it sure was great fodder for Tom Clancy novels and computer game plots. Battlezone from Activision relives the days of the Cold War in a roundabout way. None of the action takes place on Earth, and in fact the whole game has a very futuristic look and feel to it. Your task is to lead the forces of the National Space Defense Forces (NSDF) against Soviet forces, known as the Cosmo Colonist Army, or CCA. In this space race, coming in second place means the elimination of your country as a superpower.
In the early 1950s a meteor crashed to Earth, bringing with it a strange, alien substance. This material, referred to as “bio metal” allowed for incredible advances in weaponry and technology. Both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. learned to use this valuable resource to build some pretty futuristic stuff. However, neither side had enough to pose enough of a threat or challenge to the other, and so each looked to the heavens and several planets and moons in our solar system for increased deposits of this metal. Whomever wins the race and controls the metal controls the fate of planet Earth.
This new Battlezone is a far cry from the original Battlezone, an arcade favorite back in my early days. It’s roughly the difference between shooting a bullet or throwing it. This latest iteration has some great 3D graphics, with support via Direct3D for most cards, and a great mix of action and strategy. The game has many resemblance to Uprising, an action/strategy title from 3DO, and the differences will become apparent as you read on.
You can play the single player missions in the game as either the NSDF or CCA. Each side has different units and structures, but the objectives are similar and the missions are only moderately different from one another. In the end, your goal is to defeat the other side and seize control of all bio metal resources. Along the way you’ll uncover mysterious evidence of ancient alien lifeforms and this storyline becomes integral to the overall plot of the game. The game is linear and one mission leads directly into the next. Cutscenes and transitions are used both between missions and during the missions to bring up new objectives and plot twists as the game moves along.
In most of the missions you’ll need to set up a base, collect resources, and build offensive and defensive units to protect your base and attack the enemy. Your main structures are comprised of mobile units that have the ability to move around the map and deploy over sources of power in the form of geysers. Once over these geysers, they can deploy and use the source of power, combined with any scrap pieces of bio metal you can collect, to create units, weapon upgrades, repairs, and other structures. The most basic structure is the recycler, which is where bio metal scraps are processed. The recycler can also build ammo and weapon replenishments and a few basic units like a defense turret and a scout unit. Recyclers can also produce the scavenger units that will roam the planet surface and look for bio metal scraps. These scraps are found randomly throughout the map, and can also be picked up from the wreckage of destroyed units for either side.
More importantly, the recycler produces other units that can deploy and serve as production structures. Perhaps the most important one is the mobil unit factory. It enables the player to create the bulk of your forces, including offensive and defensive units. Your recycler can also produce an armory, which provides weapon upgrades and ammo and repair powerups. However, the armory has the ability to “launch” these powerups over any distance, unlike the recycler, and so you can receive help regardless of where you are on the map by asking for the powerup you want and choosing a location. Of course, the further away you are the longer it’ll take to get to you, so it’s always good to plan ahead whenever possible. Both the armory and the factory require a power geyser to function.
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