Battlezone was, for me at least, one of the better launch titles for PlayStation VR, but the truth is that while it was great to enter the cockpit of the tank, it’s a concept that doesn’t necessarily need VR to work. I mean, it’s the same idea that the previous Battlezone games had used, and they all worked fine on a TV screen or arcade cabinet. Releasing today, Battlezone Gold Edition proves that, removing the VR requirement on PS4 and PC with a free update and bringing the game to Xbox One – a Switch version is also planned for the summer.
Simply put, the game looks great in 4K and on a big TV. It already looked good on PSVR, Vive and Rift, with the clean polygonal art style really helping to overcome the limitations of the resolution of the first generation VR headsets. Now, you get it in gorgeous ultra-high resolutions on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro and with HDR support as well to make it really pop. It finally shows the game’s visual design in a way that screenshots always promised.
However, with that comes a loss of peripheral vision and movement. The ability to simply look around you and track enemies is one of the biggest benefits that VR gives you, but that gets lost in the jump to flatscreen play. Your view point is locked pointing forward with the tank and your weapons, and I now play the game slightly differently because of it. Where I’ll turn the tank and use my side shields to soak up some damage in VR while still keeping an eye on them, doing that on TV would mean I lose sight of the enemy.
However, with that shift in perspective, Rebellion have managed to emphasise certain parts of the in-tank interface. You’re still quite clearly sat within the tank, with a big shielded window canopy and an array of little monitors when you look down for status and objectives. They naturally sit at the bottom of the screen when looking straight ahead, and a big part of that is the radar dish that pinpoints all nearby enemies and objectives. It’s something that can easily get ignored when looking all around you in VR, but with it so often being at the bottom of the screen, it’s much easier to glance at and not get caught out.
The rest of the game is essentially identical to what Rebellion released almost 18 months ago for PlayStation VR. You start off on one side of a randomly generated campaign map and move one hexagon at a time toward the AI core that resides in a great big volcano. Each hexagon can have a number of different mission types, such as destroying a convoy or fighting to and hacking a particular enemy tower, but there can also be little text-based decisions to make.
While you always start off with a choice of different tank loadouts, their initial weaponry is pretty basic, and the difficulty quickly escalates as you progress. You need to spend credits earned wisely to boost your tank’s stats, visit shops and buy more powerful weapons. Additionally, the location of shield generator missions and powerful enemy Nemesis tanks that sometimes come to chase you around the campaign map, altering your path through each campaign.
Since the initial launch, Rebellion have added a few bonuses for free, such as a selection of new tanks geared toward particular co-op roles like medic and sniper, extra mission types and a few minor cosmetics. There’s also the Classic Mode, which lets you play with the old green wireframe graphics of the original Battlezone games.
One great feature in VR was being able to team up and play co-op, and that’s still true here. Better yet, players on the same hardware platform will be able to team up, so PSVR and PS4 players can join forces, and Rift, Vive and other PC gamers can as well. Sadly, there’s no cross-network play, but those platforms in particular should get a good boost in player count with Gold Edition’s launch.
Personally, I’d still don a headset given the chance, but even stripped of VR’s immersive qualities there’s a solid tank battler here, some good mission variety and interesting campaign structure, and it shines when played in co-op, as so many games do. You might be scratching your head at the timing of it all, but it’s good to see Rebellion trying to give the game a fresh lease of life with a much broader audience.