So I managed to snag my old Battlezone PC disc and bring it with me to my PC. As it turns out, my OS cannot run the game, and after attempt after attempt of trying to get the damn thing to work, I gave up and simply decided to use the free download for Battlezone 1.5 that Activision graciously supplied on their website... for free.
If there's one thing this game serves as, it's a testament to an older, bolder and far more humble Activision. This game harkens back to a time when an Activision game could actually be innovative, even new.
Battlezone itself is an interesting little game. It is a remake of the old arcade game of the same name, but radically changes the gameplay. Even by today's standards, I have never seen a game do quite what this game accomplished; blending elements of the mega-genres of the First Person Shooter and Real Time Strategy.
You primarily drive vehicles in the game that control exactly as a human player does, but as the leader of a particular faction, your job is basically to create a base, defend it and wipe out the enemy. Easier said than done, as Battlezone is very challenging. Like in Starcraft, resources can only be gathered so quickly. However with patience, amassing a large battalion will become second nature after some quick training levels. The controls are smooth and intuitive, though sometimes it's difficult to issue commands with only the keyboard, especially in the heat of the moment.
Thankfully in some levels, you can build a "satellite" which will enable an overhead view that lets you control your units very much in the same manner as a rudimentary RTS game.
Other missions have you do other such obscure tasks, like ditching your vehicle and sniping an enemy out of theirs in order to sneak into an enemy base or simply performing reconnaissance tasks while waiting for orders as the battle tides turn.
With all this said, the story in Battlezone is quite interesting for a game of its time; it involves the United States and the Soviet Union still engaged in the Cold War during the Space Race era, where both factions have discovered an infinitely recyclable resource called "Bio-metal" and have used it to fuel a secret, intergalactic war. The game literally starts with the words, "Sometimes it bugs me that Armstrong and Shepard get all the credit..." I liked the story very much as it matches the atmosphere of the game and is very well complimented by the amazing, spacey soundtrack and good quality voice work.
But alas, like with any great game, there are flaws to be had. Battlezone's multiplayer component is all but dead, revived only by hackers and modders who have developed their own community for the game. I have yet to try this new multiplayer mode out, so I will leave that particular aspect out of the review.
I have also encountered some audio bugs in the 1.5 download. For example, when loading a new level, Grizzly 1's (your character) monologue will simply stop and the game will act as if it has crashed for the remainder of the load time. Other such bugs include a multitude of random sound clips all playing at the very start of a level. These are minor issues and won't really affect your experience in the long run.
The graphics are somewhat dated by today's standards, but for the time they actually look pretty good. The designs are cool looking and the effects used for guns, explosives and other such are a nice piece of classic goodness.
The only real issue I have that actually hurts the game experience is the friendly AI. Your success in a mission is absolutely reliant on how your units perform, so when you tell units to follow you or to defend something and they do not do their job nearly adequately enough, it can lead to some frustration. All in all, it has to be worked through and you will have to develop a strategy around that problem. Generally units will respond more effectively to being told to attack something.
Despite these issues, in my opinion the game still holds up to today's standards. If there was ever a game more deserving a sequel (okay, okay, I KNOW there is a Battlezone II, but I mean a NEW sequel) or a remake, it is this one. Or maybe even a new IP with a similar gameplay style; that's what I would like to see.
Honestly, it's a great game and it's free to download. Go check it out.