Since the announcement of Battlezone‘s virtual reality (VR) revival at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, VRFocus has had the pleasure of getting hands-on with the videogame on many occasions. However, there has only ever been one demo build, and as such it was the same experience every time. That was until today, when Rebellion Developments revealed a brand new build at Sony Interactive Entertainment’s pre-Game Developers Conference (GDC) media briefing.
A new environment, new weapons, new enemies and a brand new cockpit; Rebellion Developments weren’t pulling any punches when choosing how to present Battlezone a second time around. The stylised block matt colours edged with neon remains, but the new arena was far more claustrophobic than that showcased in the original preview build. Tight corners and smaller open spaces made navigating at speed somewhat more bothersome, especially when trying to align your shots by adjusting the height of your turret with the right analog stick. The end of the demo also revealed a number of new environments, such as a frozen wasteland and an industrial complex.
The weaponry available in this build came in two forms; a fast but inaccurate machine gun and a heavy but slow mortar. The former is designed for taking out fast moving, lightly armoured enemies, while the mortar can easily remove stationary turrets from the action. Choosing the right weapon for the right job is a key component of Battlezone‘s gameplay, Rebellion Developments assures, but VRFocus is confident that most players will quickly find a favourite.
The enemy design is of course based around that of the weapons the player has, with new heavily armoured tanks and flying vehicles added to the mix. This latest build is very gentle in the manner in which it introduces each enemy wave, rarely mixing up enemy types before the player is able to learn their weaknesses. This should not be expected of the final build; unlikely to be quite so generous.
A very interesting mechanic revealed to VRFocus is actually one that sits outside of the core gameplay. Each ‘campaign’ playthrough is denoted by a hexagonal map and the player may choose their own path to the final showdown. The quickest route could easily see an entire playthrough completed in an evening, but taking a longer route will offer greater rewards. These rewards are persistent through multiple playthroughs and the levels within each hexagon randomly assigned, meaning that no two campaigns will ever be the same.
From a visual standpoint Battlezone remains a unique looking title, however the cockpit redesign is certainly an impressive and welcome upgrade. Monitors now litter the interior offering feedback on progress, news updates and more. The in-game radar, remaining central, is wonderfully decorated to allow the player quick assessment of where the enemies currently reside and in-turn to plan a path to tactical advantage. Given the speed that Battlezone plays at it’s imperative to remain one-step ahead of the enemy waves at all times.
Battlezone remains one of the potential highlights of the PlayStation VR launch line-up. This new build demonstrates that Rebellion Developments haven’t simply been resting on their laurels, taking the positive feedback from their first attempt and simply repackaging it a dozen times and calling it a complete videogame. Battlezone better than it was, and it was already one of the most exciting titles for PlayStation VR.