There have been a ton of war games made in the history of video games.  Just in the last few years, there have been a ton of WWII games where you can storm Normandy, battle over the Pacific or try to change history.  But most games are fairly complex.  But back in the day, war games were simple.  Anyone could take control of a tank and battle the enemy.  And that game was Battlezone.  No need to learn about a different controls, no overly complex setup.  Just two joysticks and a button was all it took to drive this tank.

(The tank is in your sites, shoot!)

Battlezone came at the start of the arcade craze. While arcade games were around for years before Battlezone, it was 1980, the year that they took off.  That was the year that Pacman stormed the arcades.  Defender proved that arcaders were ready for more complex games.  Missile Command and Centipede showed how fun a trackball game could be.  And Tempest wowed gamers with the vector graphics and fast gameplay.  And amid all these games was Battlezone, another vector game and one of the best.  The graphics were simple but you soon found yourself engrossed into the gameplay.  From the unique cabinet design that made you feel you were in a tank, to the unique two controller setup that felt like real controls of a tank (or what we thought were real as few of us ever actually drove a tank).  Battlezone showed that you did not need a dozen buttons or super fancy graphics to pull a gamer in.

The main part of the game is shooting other tanks.  As you peer into the game, you will see the radar screen at the top.  This will tell you where the enemy tank is, so that you can head in that direction.  You will also hear the sounds to let you know a tank is nearby.  As you play, the first thing you will realize is the controls are different.  You must think of it as each joystick controls one of the tracks (or is it trax) of the tank.  Push both forward and you go forward.  Push both back and you go in reverse.  Move one up and you go right.  Move the other one up and you go left.  It takes two hands to move the tank with any precision.  This provides a dilemma for gamers with regular controllers.  If you have one hand on one joystick and one hand on the other joystick, you need a third hand to shoot.  At the arcade, there was a button on one of the controllers to remedy this.  But most arcade controllers do not have such a thing, which makes the game quite difficult.  Luckily, I have the Devastator which has one joystick with a button on top, just for games like Battlezone and Discs of Tron.  Keep this in mind when playing at home.  At the arcades it is no problem and the game plays great.

(Here comes the saucer, it is big points.  Don't miss!)

The sound of the game is a big part of its success.  From the radar warning you of coming foes to the sound of the shells shot out of the enemy tanks as the fly past you, the sound has a big part of the game's ability to immerse you.  And when you hear the missile as it flies towards you, your nerves will be on edge as you try to get it into your sites to blast.

If there is a flaw with Battlezone, it is the limited amount of enemies.  You battle tanks, flying saucers and missiles.  That's it.  There are no other levels, just the same one over and over.  And most games do not last too long.  I would say the typical game is less than five minutes.  But for those five minutes, it is one fast paced and addictive game.  The thrill of getting a higher score and blowing away another tank is enough to keep most people coming back for another game.  I know it is enough for me.

This is just a review of the arcade machine.  If you are looking for the actual arcade machine, you may want to check out ebay.  Click below to see if you can find this game.


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Tomorrow's Heroes
Tom Zjaba 1997 - 2015      

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