Videogame (1998). Activision. Platforms: Win; rev vt Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs, N64 (2000); Amiga (2001).
Battlezone is an innovative Real Time Strategy game, inspired by the largely unrelated arcade tank combat game Battlezone (1980 Atari, Arcade, Others) designed by Ed Rotberg. Its gameplay uses a three-dimensional first person view to combine the physical urgency of an action game with the flexible thinking required in an RTS. Players pilot "hovertanks" in real time while issuing commands to various combat and support vehicles through an elegantly designed interface, requiring them to simultaneously react to immediate threats and monitor the situation on the entire battlefield. It is also possible to dismount from the player's tank; the gameplay then resembles that of a First Person Shooter. Other conventional RTS elements are present, including the need to gather "living metal" resources with which new vehicles can be constructed. Battlezone can also be played as a competitive online game (see Online Worlds), a mode in which it has been highly popular.
The game is set in an Alternate History somewhat reminiscent of the television series Dark Skies (1996-1997). History is a lie, told to conceal the existence of a secret space programme which collected the artefacts of a now extinct alien race. This species evolved on a planet between Mars and Jupiter; its remains now form the asteroid belt. Evidence of the aliens' existence was first discovered on Earth in the 1960s in the form of deposits of living metal on meteorites, which both the USA and the Soviet Union used to construct Antigravity devices and advanced weapons. The two nations then expanded into space and fought for control of the remaining artefacts, using their official space programs to conceal the reality of their secret war. The player selects either the Russian or the American side and plays through a sequence of linearly plotted missions set on a variety of planets. Both storylines end with the Russians constructing alien supertanks, which turn on their creators.
The Red Odyssey (1998 Team Evolve, Win) is an expansion pack which adds an additional storyline to the original game's plot, describing a similar Chinese space programme and ending on an extrasolar planet reached using an alien Hyperspace gateway. Battlezone II: Combat Commander (1999 Pandemic Studios, Win) is a sequel with similar gameplay, set in an alternate 1990s when an international force in charge of living metal reserves is confronted with the return of a group of exiled human soldiers, who were experimentally fused with the alien substance during the 1960s. The multilinear plot (see Interactive Narrative) allows the player to either attempt to eliminate the enemy or negotiate a compromise. This iteration of the franchise was less well received than the first; the mission designs are considered to be overly simplistic. [NT]
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