- Publisher: Atari
- Price: 400 Microsoft Points (GBP 3.40 / EUR 4.80)
Yet another token coin-op relic, spruced up in the traditional Live Arcade style, Battlezone may be a seminal game in terms of its 3D vector graphics but that actually proves its undoing in 2008.
You see, a game like Space Invaders or Pac-Man can retain its fun factor over the years because the graphics really don't matter. It's all about the instant gameplay hook, and the drive to get that little bit better with every game. Games like Battlezone, games that pushed the envelope in terms of presentation, are somewhat doomed to obsolescence simply because their selling point - the graphics - has a finite shelf-life.
So it is with Battlezone, which started life in 1980 as a pioneering 3D shoot-'em-up but hasn't changed with the times. Even the obligatory "evolved" makeover, included here along with the original, simply smears the iconic green lines of the original with so much bloom, glow and flare that it harms the gameplay itself. Explosions are red blurs, as are missiles, and missile trails. Your radar? Also a red blur. So it's perfectly easy to be facing an enemy tank, destroy them with your missile and completely fail to notice the missile they fired in return because it vanishes into the swirling red mass in the middle of the screen. Someone really needs to let developers know that not all revamped arcade classics need the Geometry Wars treatment.
You can always switch back to the ol' black and green, but it's the lack of pace that kills it. Whichever mode you choose, if an enemy tank spawns behind you, turning to face them is a long and unrewarding chore, complicated by the one-hit-kill system which can soon whittle down your lives if you get snagged on the scenery. An alternate control method allows you to use each stick to control the left and right tracks, but even then the sloooow movement prevents things from ever becoming a thrill. The "throttle monkey" mode, usually included in these arcade revamps to provide an insane challenge for the hardcore, only boosts the speed to the sort of level modern gamers will expect as standard, but also ramps up the difficulty to the point where it stops being fun. If the normal game mode ran at that speed without slaughtering you every five seconds, the final score would be very different.
The simple appeal of 3D tank combat is one that certainly has a place on a service like XBLA, but this awkward update gets stuck between misplaced reverence for the original and distracting concessions to modern gaming conventions. They've updated the wrong bits, yet left the elements that needed attention untouched. The addition of a multiplayer mode may keep you playing for a bit longer, especially at the 400 Point price tag, but Battlezone really needed more than a cursory lick of glowing paint to make it truly enjoyable by today's standards.
16th April: Battlezone text amended to correct error about multiplayer - the game only ships with one mode.