Battlezone 2 : Combat Commander
3D action-strategy game reviewed
What a difference an alien attack makes! The USA and Russia have forever tiptoed their way around each other, knowing that the slightest unrest on either side could cause a world war catastrophe.
In Battlezone 2 these two heavyweights have already been at war in space. But a greater common threat exists now, with the impending attack of a strong alien race known as the Scions. The decision is made to unite and form the ISDF (International Space Defence Force).
Lucky old you has been chosen by the world powers to lead the systematic planet by planet elimination of this alien threat. The very fabric of life itself is hanging in the balance, and it's up to you to do something about it! As the game goes on though, you will soon find that not everything is as it appears...
After the rather nice introductory video, you are presented with the option to create your pilot. From here you are taken to the main menu, which allows you to go straight into an arcade style game, play the single player adventure fully, or take the battle online.
Choosing the 'instant' option will take you into arcade mode. This lets you jump straight into a game against the computer, with the fight ending when either side's Recycler is destroyed. You can either choose to build everything yourself, or have the computer do it for you automatically. The former is far more stress inducing!
The 'single' option will take you into the full mission based game. Here you will be briefed both by audio feeds from your commander, and additional text information. Hit 'launch' when you're ready to rock...
The first couple of missions serve as a tutorial to learn the basics of the game, the fundamental lesson being that your Recycler is paramount to any mission success. Once deployed, the Recycler is responsible for building other essential machinery such as Scavengers and Constructors.
To build anything you need scrap or bio-metal resource pools, and to mine these pools you need a Scavenger. Build and deploy one, and you can now start to create your little empire. You will soon learn that the Scavenger is your second most precious item to defend.
Now you can create a Constructor. Looking like a cargo walker from Aliens, this little beauty lets you create a whole variety of buildings. Of course, buildings need power, so the first task is to create a Power Lung. Once created, you can then build Service Bays, Relay Bunkers, Gun Towers and more.
Want a more advanced craft than the default Scout? Easy, just create a Factory and you will soon be waltzing around in an Assault Tank. Obviously the more advanced the building or craft, the more resources you're going to need. This is where you will need to locate more resource pools and deploy a Scavenger and some Turrets to defend it. Meanwhile the enemy is also constructing, and your base can come under attack at any moment.
At Your Command Sir
Each craft in Battlezone 2 is equipped with a different set of weaponry, which means you have to learn what ship is going to be of more useful at any given time.
For example, you might be low on energy, and you have to secure a resource pool surrounded by enemy turrets. Simple .. build and deploy two or three Mortar bikes, tell them to target their turrets, and bombs away!
You begin with a simple ISDF "Thunderbolt" Scout, equipped with Dual Guns and Rockets, and certainly for the first few missions the Scout does an adequate job. The further you get into the game though, the more help you wil need, and it can be extremely satisfying to leave the base followed by a war party of four Sabre Tanks, two Missile Scouts, and maybe an Assault Tank for additional backup!
Perhaps the neatest craft though is the ISDF APC. This ship will fly from place to place, dropping off ground troops who will infiltrate any base and die for the cause. It is quite awesome watching these fellas do their work.
And when hell breaks loose, it does it with great gusto! The battles are fantastic fun - you get a great feeling of being in charge, and most of the time everyone does as they are instructed. Remember though, you must be careful to safeguard your key buildings from attack, and more importantly .. keep your ass alive!
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, Battlezone 2 is a stunner. And, unlike the first game, this time it has a whole lot of atmosphere too. Some of the scenery is really quite breathtaking, and is nicely varied. One moment you can be flying around pink hued mountains, the next dodging and weaving through rich vegetation.
One of the missions involves getting to another location on foot, under the cover of night. This has to be one of the scariest experiences I've had in a game in a long while. The dim glow of twilight is superbly represented, with tree branches only dimly visible, and water shimmering darkly. The eeriness of this mission just can't be described. Wonderful stuff.
Everything is lovingly rendered, and you can actually see the buildings taking shape as they are constructed. Buildings are often animated, and you can watch the Gun Turrets' twin cannons revolving, looking very foreboding. The ships look brilliant too, and are all unique in design. I defy you not to be impressed by the Walkers and their alien counterparts, the Maulers.
The sound department hasn't been neglected either. Distant gunfire and the thunking of mortar fire is very well done, and weapon noises range from the simple shrills of laser fire to the ear-piercing scream of guided missile locking system. In a heavy battle it can get a tad noisy!
I wasn't at all impressed with the original remake of Battlezone, released back in 1998. I felt at the time that it was nothing more than an extravagant demo for 3D graphics technology with no soul.
But I must say I am pleasantly surprised by Battlezone 2, which oozes atmosphere and looks superb. Mission variety and difficulty is nicely balanced, providing hours of solid playtime, and the interface is also very easy to manipulate and manage.
There are times when your Constructor or Scavenger can get stuck due to another vehicle being in the way, which can get very annoying if you're hurriedly trying to build your base, with an enemy attack imminent. It is, however, a tiny black spot on an otherwise flawless experience.
Multiplayer action is also very good. Servers are few and far between at this time, but the games I did play were reasonably lag free, and hugely entertaining. Even though the computer plays a mean game, it's always better to face-off against a human opponent...
If you've deliberated about getting this game, then deliberate no more. Buy it, and tell them DNM sent you!
Download The Demo
Try before you buy! Download the Battlezone 2 Action demo (14.9Mb).