Version tested: Retro
It can’t be denied; Atari’s designers came up with some incredibly inventive and interesting games before their decline. Battlezone is one of the finer examples - a two stick game (before Robotron was even a glint in Eugene Jarvis' eye), with the ever-popular objective of destroying as many enemies as possible.
Vectors were equally fashionable during this era, and were certainly the best method for the graphics scaling. Despite their simplicity, they've aged a lot better than their raster-based counterparts, and their smooth, flowing nature imbues a certain chic which carries forward to this day.
Affecting the appearance of a real tank, the original arcade cabinet featured a magnificent full periscope. This caused awkward problems for some younger players, who often had to resort to standing on tip-toes - but even without this added distraction Battlezone took some time to master. Each stick controlled one track of the mechanised killing machine, offering several combinations of motion with which to pursue prey and avoid incoming fire. Considerable skill and patient self-improvement were required to learn how to hit enemies while on the move.
A standard arcade difficulty scale was opted for: start off nice and easy, allow the player a few kills, then chuck in scores of nastier vehicles and some bonus UFOs. Not to mention the bloody missiles. The best form of defence tended to be attack, which meant actively pursuing targets before they could lock onto your location. Though being able to fire just one shell at a time didn't exactly help in this department.
Proving that Battlezone hadn't lost its lustre, the franchise was revived in 1998 (though largely in name alone) for a series of PC titles. The original, however, is tank-busting arcade purity.
8 / 10