1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
reviewed by Howard H. Wen
Regardless of what faults there might be with this game, one thing is for sure: It's a faithful translation of the arcade classic. Unfortunately, this means that if there were things you didn't like about the arcade Battlezone, you're going to find them here in this cartridge version for the XE Game System and Atari 8-bit computers.
The scenario takes place in the near future when all nations of the earth have agreed to world peace. However, a "power-hungry rabble of military malcontents" don't really like the idea of living in a world without war. So they do what typical military malcontents would normally do-they send out hordes of robot tanks programmed to destroy the world! Naturally, this is where you come in. Your job is to destroy these tanks before they destroy you, on a battlefield littered with threedimensional objects-cubes, pyramids and rectangles. And you do this driving a slow-moving tank, which only shoots shells one at a time.
Battlezone is played from a first-person perspective, appearing as if you're looking at the battlefield through the tank's window. The top part of the screen displays an information panel. The left side of the panel tells you of the existence of enemy tanks and if your tank's movement is being hindered by an object. The radar scanner is a circle in the middle of the panel, which shows the overhead, entire view of the battlefield: the wedge-shaped area representing the player's point-of-view. Enemy tanks and other weapons appear as blinking dots on the radar. Finally, the right side of the information panel displays your score and the number of tanks you have remaining.
The object of the game is to simply locate enemy weapons on the radar scanner, move in on them, zero in with your gunsight and blast the target to bits as soon as you see the gunsight narrow on it. You do this by moving your tank around the battlefield with your joystick and firing shells with the joystick button. Of course, the enemy tanks will try shooting back. Plus, there are threedimensional shapes scattered throughout the field, which may be used for cover from enemy fire, but they tend to be a nuisance by blocking your way.
Besides the slower-moving, normal tanks, you also have to deal with more aggressive supertanks, which move just as fast as you do. And for bonus points, nonattacking saucers move across every now and then. But the toughest of the enemies are the missiles that suddenly drop from the air and quickly zigzag to collide into your tank.
Battlezone's screen display simulates the three-dimensional, vector graphics of the original arcade version. At first it's difficult to identify objects. Things look especially confusing when an enemy tank hides behind a see-through obstacle. The animation of the kamikaze missiles is erratic, making it extremely hard to shoot them. A nice visual touch added to Battlezone occurs when your tank is hit with an enemy shell, the screen cracks."
The sound effects are well-done and important to game play-sometimes more so than what you see on the screen. Certain sounds tell whether a normal tank or supertank is approaching you, warn if a missile is about to appear or alert that a saucer is moving across the field.
Veteran Atarians, who have played similar tank games such as Dimension X or Encounter, may find Battlezone sluggish in movement and lacking in features. But the slowness of the player's tank is probably deliberate in order to imitate a real tank.
There are five levels to chose from on Battlezone. On Level 1 tanks and other enemy weapons are easily blown away. Level 5 is the most challenging, even for a hard-core video gamer. The game itself doesn't progress from one level to another, but instead, enemy tanks come after you endlessly, one after another. The game ends only when you've lost all of your tanks.
Battlezone will probably satisfy fans of the arcade version and the many new owners of the XE Game System, but Atari 8-bit oldtimers might be disappointed. Nevertheless, this one-player game is one of the best, pure shoot-'em-ups to come along for the Atari 8-bits in a long time.