Battlezone II: Combat Commander
As the developers of Battlezone will testify, there's a world of difference between critical success and commercial success. While it's always nice to receive plaudits, awards don't pay the rent. Despite almost universal praise, the original Battlezone was largely a friends and family-only affair, barely selling enough copies to feed the team. They're feeding themselves these days though, and paying their own rent, the core development team having broken away from Activision to form Pandemic Studios, based in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. Within stalking distance of the Baywatch beach, they occupy the former office of Pulse Entertainment, the developers of Bad Mojo - a sinister, cockroach-based adventure that was clearly influenced by the squalid surroundings.
Pandemic have had a bit of a clean-up since they moved in though, and the only scurrying to be found is that of developers around monitors. Of the 30 or so employees, approximately half are working on Dark Reign II, with the rest currently putting the finishing touches to your actual Battlezone II. That's what we're here to talk about, and joining us for a chat is the President of the company, Josh Resnick.
Hey Buddy, what was so great about the first Battlezone?
"It was one of the first games that married action and strategy elements. For the first time we allowed you to be a commander on the battlefield, on the front lines, driving your tank around. But at the same time you were able to command your forces, build up a base, and explore a dynamic involving world. And you were able to do all this from your tank. The realistic, immersive feeling you got from being in those worlds, being in a tank that responded to you, meant you felt like you were on the battlefield commanding these forces. And then we had the classic elements of an RTS game, building up a base, gathering resources, commanding your forces. Plus all the action elements that a lot of people love - for example, in the thick of battle you're blowing up those other tanks, you're jumping out of your tank and sniping and doing fun things like that. When we put that together with a really engaging multiplayer game, we had a very solid product."
So how come no-one bought it? "It was a very difficult game to communicate from a marketing standpoint. We had a really tough time in terms of how to get across this new type of gameplay. For the Quake player who just likes action, did it have what it takes to get that person excited? And for a player who just likes strategy titles in the vein of Dark Reign or StarCraft, how do we introduce them to the action elements and keep them excited? We were heavily associated with the original arcade version of Battlezone. That was good in some ways because, for its time, that game was also groundbreaking. It was a very new type of title and was the first game to use vector 3D graphics. But it was also a curse in the sense that I think some people misunderstood what Battlezone was - they didn't understand how revolutionary and how new this game was, so there was some confusion."
If you're not familiar with the first game, the story was an improbable affair, although refreshingly it was actually set in the past, specifically around the late '60s and early 70s. The Cold War turns out to be nothing but a front for a real space race, with the Russians and goofy Americans slapping each other all over the solar system in a battle for a precious metal that could give either side the edge.
Battlezone II continues the story but brings it up to date, with the USA and USSR now part of the ISDF, the International Space Defence Force based on Pluto (the planet, not the cartoon dog). Sure enough, an alien threat pitches up in the shape of the Scions, arriving via a wormhole to wreak havoc among your troops. Scuffling ensues, with an updated version the moon Titan making an appearance, providing an overlap with the original game. Sickened by this affront, you then decide to head down the wormhole yourself and take on the alien aggressors in their own back yard.
It's all made up from here on in, which has allowed the artists to go to town on the visuals, creating a range of distinct alien worlds. With 3D acceleration now included, Pandemic have been able to feature a lot more detail, with elaborate flora and fauna instead of the bleak moonscapes of the first game. The terrain will also present a far more complex system than in Battlezone, with water, tunnels and bridges to contend with, necessitating the use of numerous different vehicles. Some of the new units include treaded vehicles, service trucks which will allow you to remotely repair your units, a nimble mortar bike, huge Mech-like walkers, and even flying APCs and bombers, albeit non-player controlled.
Don't Get Out Of The Boat
Hopping between the various vehicles is largely the same as in the first title, but a new gameplay element has been brought into play. Many gamers complained that it was all too easy to run around on foot and snipe at enemies from a distance. This will still be possible, although you might get eaten.
Yes, each world will be populated by a variety of indigenous creatures that will quite happily have you as an hors d'oeuvre, adding an extreme element of risk to leaving your vehicle.
It's all shaping up very nicely, with the new ideas, improved AI and revamped graphics complementing the already sound gameplay of the original. It took a while, but through word of mouth - not to mention some intensive bundling - Battlezone has managed to build up a fervent fan base that is rabidly awaiting the sequel. Some jokers even went as far as to mock up an unofficial demo by scanning new screenshots onto the original engine. The daft twats, they should have simply waited for the real thing, coming soon in your super soaraway ZONE. Now don't say we never do anything for you.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Battlezone II: Combat Commander Screenshots
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