The new Battlezone does a tremendous job of updating the original concept for modern VR.

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Rebellion's Battlezone, a PlayStation VR title inspired by the 1980 game of the same name, takes the same format that many games have turned to in order to combat the movement problem of VR, and that is putting the player into the cockpit of a vehicle. But working on this IP and taking this route doesn't seem like a lazy or uninspired choice, as Rebellion has been excited about making a new Battlezone game since acquiring the rights and VR just so happens to suit the theme perfectly (and, of course, the series has VR in its blood). As you start the game and the panels reveal themselves, the VR experience shows its majesty and you really feel like you're in the cockpit of a huge tank, rolling forward and heading into battle while the dashboard glows in front of you.

In terms of movement, you move with a controller but use VR to look around, just as if you would be if you were controlling a vehicle of that type in real life, and aiming is also manipulated using a controller and isn't linked to your view. One might ask what the point of VR is if it isn't a part of the gameplay, but the fact you truly feel like you're in control of a tank, sitting in the driver's seat while heading out to battle foes, is enough to justify strapping yourself into the virtual cockpit.

Enemies in the game include different varieties of ground tanks, flying drones and defence towers, all of which are red and easily identifiable. To take these out you need your weapon, changed with one button and fired with another, and these range from homing missiles to machine guns and everything in between. The enemies are varied and offer a significant challenge, especially since enemy tanks have the ability to fire not where you are but where you're going, so even when you're strafing you can still find yourself getting hit, which wasn't what we were expecting at all. It was nice to see enemy AI having tactical depth to it, and this altered our experience dramatically. It wasn't a matter of simply strafing round enemy tanks but tactically outplaying them to defeat them, and this is to Rebellion's credit.

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The campaign itself centres around a map of hexes which can be different sizes depending on settings, and you traverse this map in whatever route you wish, finding missions, supply points and other encounters along the way. These missions offer a number of different ways to play, including defending a convoy, attacking a base or simply destroying the enemy. By mixing these with supply points and discoveries like abandoned laboratories, no two campaigns ever unfold the same, and this offers a level of depth we were worried we might not see.

This depth also applies to customisation, too. Abilities, weaponry and upgrades can all be purchased and swapped using the currency of Data, earned through missions. There are a lot of weapons to choose from, each having their own benefits and drawbacks, as do the abilities, and players will certainly find themselves having a preference depending on how they like their tank warfare. Your tank can also be upgraded in terms of shields, health and active reload, too, so there is no shortage of ways to customise your style of play and there is certainly an incentive to replay and try out new things.

An interesting feature in the campaign is that the enemies can level up, and this happens as you progress between different hexes on the map. Once this enemy level meter reaches a certain point, however, a big enemy known as a Nemesis spawns on the map, moving around hexes just as you do. These are extremely tough, and running into one means a hardy challenge and risking one of your lives, of which you have a finite amount before the game is over. This adds another layer of challenge to the game, as these affect not only your actions in battle but also where you go on the map.

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One thing to note about the campaign is that it's by no means easy. There are a lot of things to consider, whether it be the weapons you have or the levels of armour on each side of the tank. You have to always play tactically and it's not just a case of rushing in and blowing enemies away with big cannons. In the later levels where enemies are more numerous and more powerful, the game can be truly unforgiving, but practice certainly makes perfect as you find yourself getting more adept at the many skills needed to be a Battlezone master. It's firm but fair in that way.

Level design is also pretty good, with gentle inclines, obstacles and an arena feel to all the maps, and with all of these being randomly generated you can never be sure to get the same experience twice. We found ourselves using the cover to our advantage, strafing to avoid enemy fire, and all this makes the level design perfectly suited to the tank battles that take place within them, which is also to Rebellion's credit.

While the design of the levels is good, variety is far less obvious here, as although they are striking from a visual perspective, with the neon buildings and shiny, futuristic surfaces all making it reminiscent of the era it is fondly remembering, the environments are very similar in the sense that they have different colours on the same theme. There was a volcano level that was noticeably different, but that was more in terms of size than anything, so it's a shame there isn't more variety in that regard.

To talk about the all-important question of motion sickness, two of us played the game, with mixed results. For the first, there were brief moments they felt a little bit of nausea, which didn't create a huge issue. For the second, however, they felt sick after less than ten minutes in the driver's seat and had to stop playing. Rebellion has said that they've redesigned some levels to alter the inclines after feedback had shown players were getting feeling ill, so this is something they've clearly thought about, but there still seems to be a risk that those susceptible to motion sickness may not get on with this game very well. It all depends on the person (we suggest you check out the trial version on the PSVR demo disc).

In terms of online functionality, we played some of the campaign with another player and we found it was effective in encouraging teamwork. Logistically the campaign works the same way but lives are shared and this makes teamwork very important, especially considering buying new ones isn't cheap. There is also some light competitive co-op as better performances earn more data in comparison to teammates. Working with players obviously yields other benefits too, like healing, reviving and hacking things faster, so co-op offers something new fans to enjoy, and it seemed to run smoothly as well.

Overall, though, Battlezone brings the classic into the world of VR in a tremendous way, merging nostalgia with interesting, varied and deep gameplay, all of which come together to create a truly appealing tank game. There is plenty for players to get stuck into, even with short campaigns, and the amount of options available should keep them coming back for more.


Update: As of May 2018 we know also have Battlezone Gold, a new version of the game that not only takes on the new fronts of the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One armies, but also takes off the VR headset to allow those without the ability to enter virtual reality a chance to dive in and explore the reinvention of the Battlezone franchise.

It's all pretty much good news in this new package, as those who already have the game get the upgrade for no added charge, and those who don't get a lot for their money, as all DLC content since the original release is thrown in to bolster your arsenal, including new missions such as King of the Hill and ones where the levels are covered in lava. There are also customisation options like skins and bobbleheads now (based on fellow Rebellion franchise-mates like Rogue Trooper and Judge Dredd), and a classic mode in case you miss the sharp neon polygons of old.

As for the game underneath, this is all the same - you progress through a procedurally generated map, take on various missions, and shed a little tear as you waste your last life and realise you have to start all over again. It's a complete package though, and if you've been waiting to get into Battlezone, now's as good a time as any.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Faithful translation of the original into VR, Deep gameplay options, Great level design, Intelligent AI.
Environments lacking visual variety. Some may experience motion sickness.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Sam Bishop

"Battlezone brings the classic into the world of VR in a tremendous way, merging nostalgia with interesting, varied and deep gameplay."

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