|Things that get my motor running and my neo-adolescent
soul howling for this tank-driving/butt-kicking space-war epic:
- 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 well 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.
- The AI. Even
in Pilot mode, its pretty cool. The enemies dont 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,
arent 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 wouldnt 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, theyre good to go.
- 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.
- 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.
- The basic
premise. An old standard. Cold war good times. However, playing the American army is the
easiest levelan 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.
- 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 "Im 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.
- Long missions. Some take forty minutes.
- 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.
- The game,
when its getting really good and every one is engaging everyone else, often freezes
- Overall, there is no continuity between the story lines of the three levels of
difficulty. The story gets really muddled and kind of silly.
- The easiest level is actually the most complicated. It wouldnt 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.
- 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 cant
animate it just yet, the ideas behind the game are worth the kind of clunky presentation.
- When in the midst of high combat, the game gets jumpy and stalls. It does this more than
it freezes up. Yuck.
- Long missions (cool) with wacky-hard endings that mean you have to play the first twenty
minutes again and again.
Battle Zone is a game with many welcome innovations to the genre that unfortunately
brings an equally staggering number of frustrations.