One of the surprise videogame announcements of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, was a new virtual reality (VR) exclusive title from Rebellion Developments. Not only was it a surprise announcement, but also this reboot of the classic Battlezone franchise was also a shockingly palatable experience. To say that the UK studio have a potential ‘must have’ on their hands is not putting too fine a point on it.
The demo starts in a very slow manner. Sitting at a launch station in a bunker, the idea is that you become accustomed to the environment: take onboard the surreal art style and prepare to take the plunge into a world of psychedelic science-fiction. In reality, for someone well versed in VR, it’s a touch boring. The controls are explained to you one function at a time – with no option to try each one – before you finally begin your ascent into the outside world. This is when Battlezone shows what it’s made of, and that is most certainly good stuff.
The core principle of the gameplay is that you are the driver of a single-man tank. You leave the initial bunker and enter an arena filled with ramps, drops, angular structures and other assorted obstacles. Driving around this arena is undoubtedly one of the most fun experiences VRFocus has ever had with any VR head-mounted display (HMD). The controls are appropriately floaty, enabling the player to move sideways and re-angle their trajectory with ease. The turning arc begins slow and accelerates as you continue to shift focus while the rear end of the tank feels weighty. It’s not long until the player is able to use this setup to pull off some pretty interesting manoeuvres; whizzing across the plane before turning 180 degrees in a moment’s notice and returning fire to enemies closing in at the rear.
Aiming the turret mounted upon your vehicle is simple and the firepower you have at your disposal is engaging. Enemy tanks and turrets can quickly be taken down with cannon shells which will kill instantly on direct hit or slowly through area effect damage, while smaller enemies which attack in swarms can be torn apart by the machine gun. The E3 demo version of Battlezone was far from taxing, though it did well to suggest a great variety of enemy types and tactics would likely be present in the final build.
Exactly what else will be offered in the release version of Battlezone is not yet known. There’s a great deal of potential for multiplayer gameplay here, but Rebellion Developments are unsure as to what they can offer to VR fans at launch. Needless to say, VRFocus is keen to hear more and will be following-up with Rebellion Developments in the very near future.