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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Crave

Ups: Cool AI; Commander Mode; lots of nice weapons; really tough. 

Downs:  Sometimes too tough; freezing and stalling issues.

System Reqs:
Nintendo 64

Things that get my motor running and my neo-adolescent soul howling for this tank-driving/butt-kicking space-war epic:
  1. bz42.jpg (4387 bytes)Commander mode. Okay, this means that the other three modes are pretty standard and kind of dull. The head to head mode is fine and could be really good but we’ll get to that. Arcade and Pilot have some interesting elements but are dwarfed by Commander where, like many other games, roles of pilot and strategic mix-master are combined. Often, you have to set up buildings of a base and manufacture an army nearly from scratch. Bio-metal (the games most delightfully cheesy contribution to space science) is pretty much magic and can be quickly sculpted into howitzers and tanks, bombers and two-legged walkers that are more Robotech than Star Wars. Nonetheless, the cheese is cool. One has to establish and protect a small army of scavengers in order to get the bio metal back to the recycler where it is converted into a form of goo your factory can use to make things happen. At times, silos need to be built to horde the stuff. One needs to keep in mind how many pilots they have available and outfit a fighting force that will most efficiently get the job done without loosing ones base or roaming band of scavengers. Tricky. However, in this game, giving orders is not only super-detailed, they can only be given in the midst of live combat. No hitting pause to do your dirty work. As such, when things go wrong, they go really wrong. And when they work you feel like a po-mo General Patton. Which is all right.
  2. pic623.jpg (3258 bytes)The AI. Even in Pilot mode, it’s pretty cool. The enemies don’t screw up too much and they typically spend most of their time trying to kill you in clever and unpredictable ways. And they use their best weapons. Nice. Also, your team -mates, though not as cool as you, aren’t total mutton heads. In Pilot mode, they will take a lot of pressure off of you and, in Commander, they will sometimes surprise you by being capable of pulling off things you wouldn’t expect them to be. However, despite their continued skill in the way of being space pilots, you have to tell them to tie their shoes. Once you tell them what to attack or who to follow, they’re good to go.
  3. Cool weaponry. Missiles, mortars, and cannons, oh my! Seventeen different weapons in all. Some are easier to use than others and that is to be expected, but unlike other games in the space tank genre, it feels like this is about taste and style instead of certain weapons being simply inept. As a result, as you frantically thumb through your weapons options for your favorite, it feels more like you are simply a pilot/commander with some preferences. One of many things that allows this game to suck you in and force allegiance to whatever side you are playing at the time.
  4. You can get the job done in a lot of different ways. When your tank is wasted you can use a sniper rifle to pick off the pilot of an enemy craft or order one of your own to come and get you. Tension builds when you are on foot and vulnerable.
  5. pica5.jpg (2988 bytes)The basic premise. An old standard. Cold war good times. However, playing the American army is the easiest level—an odd but interesting choice. The Soviet army is medium. The hardest is the Black Dog army, an army that essentially remains a mystery until you get there. As a result you get levels that really are (or would be-- wait for my next section) more difficult because equipment has to be re-learned and the missions have radically changed. A nice touch.
  6. The Black Dogs. While disappointing in there origins (the Black Dogs turn out just to be a special batch of bad-ass Americans) there is much to love about the Dogs. Not only is your band rugged and reclusive and friends to no one, they are also seemingly hard-core stoners. The replies of "I’m on it" and "Bobcat here" that you get when sending orders on the first two levels are replaced with "Bomber here dude," and tank drivers who go on mumbley soliloquies about nothing. Adds a kind of counter culture charm to all the slaughter and sadness.
  7. Long missions. Some take forty minutes.
  8. As an American, one gets a complicated and semi-intelligible story line that takes seventeen pretty tough missions to get through. Most take a couple of attempts.


Things that piss me off.

  1. picc18.jpg (3212 bytes)The game, when it’s getting really good and every one is engaging everyone else, often freezes up.
  2. Overall, there is no continuity between the story lines of the three levels of difficulty. The story gets really muddled and kind of silly.
  3. The easiest level is actually the most complicated. It wouldn’t have to be. The equipment does become harder to use and it is often easier to die as the game progresses. However, on the easiest level, the missions are much longer and more convoluted. Finally, there is just a lot more missions on easy. This makes no sense. Nonetheless, easy has 17, medium 8, difficult 10. Of the ten difficult missions, only four of them really are.
  4. pici1.jpg (3523 bytes)The graphics are so-so. They are actually pretty good but sometimes the intentions of the game over-stretch its ability. When you shoot out the pilot, you are really shooting at a glowing square that is roughly inside the enemy craft. Hmm. Still, even if they can’t animate it just yet, the ideas behind the game are worth the kind of clunky presentation.
  5. When in the midst of high combat, the game gets jumpy and stalls. It does this more than it freezes up. Yuck.
  6. Long missions (cool) with wacky-hard endings that mean you have to play the first twenty minutes again and again.


Bottom line:

Battle Zone is a game with many welcome innovations to the genre that unfortunately brings an equally staggering number of frustrations.

--Matt Vadnais