I’ve had the chance to try out a lot of VR titles in the build up to the launch of Playstation VR, but none have managed to impress me quite as much as Battlezone. After having an appointment to try out the game at EGX 2016, I actually went out of my way to queue for two hours just to have another go of the game. It’s that good.
For those who haven’t heard of Battlezone, it’s a VR first person shooter where you get to control an assortment of tanks and take down a plethora of foes across a quasi-futuristic environment. It’s actually a reboot of the original Atari Battlezone that released back in 1980 – the last twenty six years have naturally seen the game change quite a bit to the original release, though the VR implementation manages to actually feel quite fitting given the whole aesthetic style of the game (and the fact that the original arcade release of the game had you staring through a visor to play).
As soon as you put the VR headset on and start playing Battlezone you’ll have a smile on your face – you’re immediately immersed in this fantastic looking tank that you’re able to examine closely with full 360 degree head movement. You can look at what’s behind your chair, look down at the pedals, or even check out the multiple displays that are on your tank’s dashboard. It looks great and I spent a few minutes simply admiring my tank’s interior before I even started the demo mission.
Looking around your tank was impressive, but the game actually manages to build things up by taking your tank through a sort of construction zone before putting you out on the, uh-hum, ‘Battle Zone’. You’ll see machines working around you as you’re slowly transported up through this huge underground hangar; it’s something that might not feel particularly mind-blowing on its own, but when you’re in a VR headset you won’t be able to help but to find the whole build up incredibly exciting.
This level of freedom to see everything around me was great, though things get really impressive when you’re out on the battlefield. For the first time in VR I actually felt the great sense of scale of the environment around me. I really felt like I was looking into the distance and seeing these huge buildings and oncoming tanks; in reality I was sitting in a small boxed off room, but hey, it’s just proof of how immersive Battlezone truly is.
The game’s controls are fairly simple, with the left analogue stick controlling movement and the right analogue stick controlling your tank’s aim. You’ll be turning your head to see things coming in the distance too, as well as checking out the various airborne enemies that’ll be coming your way. You can switch between your weapons with the square button; my tank only had machine guns and a more powerful cannon, though the full game will feature even more weapons that you’ll be able to attach to your tank.
Shooting felt incredibly satisfying, with my tank clearly packing a punch. There were five different types of enemies to take out in the demo; a standard tank, a more powerful tank, a gun tower, an airborne enemy and a horde of smaller, flying enemies that attack in numbers. Each enemy had a different weakness too – the stronger tank suffered heavy damage if you attacked it from behind for example, whilst the gun tower was very weak to attack from long distances. I’m not sure how many different enemy types will appear in the full game, but the enemies in show during the demo brought enough variety and challenge that I could ill afford to go guns blazing without any thought.
The demo was fairly short with the mission over after I took on a few waves of enemies, the mission ending with an EMP blast from my tank that immobilised all enemies on the battlefield. Whilst I enjoyed taking on the waves of enemies, I do hope there’ll be a richer variety of mission types in the full game – it’s something I’m looking forward to finding out. One thing I do know is that the game will feature procedurally generated maps, so the replayability factor of the game is almost limitless.
When the demo finished I had a sneak peek at some of the environments that’ll be coming in the full game – the ‘Frozen Wastes’ takes the battle to a snowy landscape, the ‘Neon Complex’ offers a futuristic city, whilst ‘Industria’ takes you to an industrial area to fight out your battles. I’m genuinely excited to check out these environments; the use of VR makes you see your surroundings a new light, so I can’t wait to get exploring… and destroying, of course…
Whilst I didn’t get to try it out during my demo of the game, Battlezone will feature four player online co-op upon release. I really can’t wait to blast at enemies with other players online and I think the ability to play with friends will certainly strengthen the VR experience. There’s no word on competitive multiplayer yet, but hopefully that’s something we’ll get to see in the future.
We see so many reboots of video games these days that it’s starting to feel like developers are running out of ideas. However, whilst Battlezone is a reboot of a classic video game, its use of VR has meant we’re getting an entirely new experience that manages to feel fresh, exciting, and most importantly a hell of a lot of fun. Word of mouth had suggested that Battlezone was going to be good, but I didn’t anticipate enjoying it as much as I did – it’s gone from being a VR title that I was intrigued to try out, to being one of the games I’m most excited for this year. If Battlezone is anything to go by then the future is certainly looking bright for Playstation VR.
You can grab Battlezone on Playstation VR on October 13th, the same date that Playstation VR launches. You can pre-order the game now on the official website through this link.