The announcement of Rebellion Developments’ Battlezone revival at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was met with a great response. The UK studio had been secretly working hard to create a virtual reality (VR) experience unlike anything else out there. And yet, the best the video game had to offer was still kept under wraps. That is, until now, as VRFocus has been hands-on with the full campaign, co-operative gameplay of Battlezone.
Launching alongside the PlayStation VR head-mounted display (HMD) on 13th October 2016, Battlezone is set to be published both at retail and digitally by Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE). The first-party faith in the title is not misplaced, nor is the expected high retail price-point: Battlezone stands alongside EVE: Valkyrie as one of the most complete video game packages currently proposed not just for PlayStation VR, but the VR medium as a whole.
The campaign is randomly generated each time you play. Selecting a short, medium or long campaign, the player must move across a hexagonal map taking on a random mission arrangement in an effort to reach the end boss. The mission variety is extensive: all-out assault, defence, tug-of-war base capturing and escort missions are just a selection of what’s on offer. Exactly what the next mission will be is a mystery (unless the player drops a beacon – more on this later) with the exception of capture points (which will lower the difficulty of the final mission if successfully captured), the final boss and the Nemesis tank.
With each completed mission – successful or otherwise – the enemy’s aggression bar will rise. Once filled, a Nemesis tank appears on the map and will move one hex after each player’s move. Should the player meet the Nemesis tank on the map the next mission will include this punishing rival: the player will be forced to take on this enemy while still attempting the mission at hand. The Nemesis tank is so named simply because it’s the most devastating enemy you’ll face in Battlezone: it’s entirely possible that you’ll find overwhelming numbers and enemy variety a tough challenge, but the Nemesis tank is the singular most powerful enemy.
During each mission (and for successful completion) you’ll gain data, which can then be spent on various upgrades for your tank. These come in two flavours: arsenal upgrades (once unlocked) purchased through stores located on the map, or immediate upgrades to tank attributes such as shields. Data can also be spent to drop a beacon and reveal the mission objectives of any hexes next to your current location, or purchase an additional life.
Lives are limited and your campaign will be over when reduced to zero. However, failing a mission won’t mean losing a life: it’s only when your tank is destroyed in combat that your counter will drop. That is, unless you have some teammates with you that have a healing upgrade. Battlezone is available to play co-operatively for up to four players, and new players can join at any point in a campaign when you’re on the map. While it’s the first player that decides upon the path all players take across the map, any weapons or tanks unlocked by a player will remain available for them to purchase with data earned in later campaigns which they partake in, whether on their own or with other players. This allows for every player to be rewarded for their participation. Be warned however: that lives pool? All players in a campaign will share the available stock, so it’s a good idea for all teammates to invest in additional lives when possible.
The difficulty options available adjust the competition you’ll face, but also will be tailored depending on how many players join/leave your campaign. A solo player will find far less competition on each mission than four players going in together, however more experienced players will of course find the path to victory much easier than newcomers. With that in mind, it’s wise to team-up with veteran players to ensure that you obtain more weaponry options for when tackling harder difficulties solo.
The unique take on campaign structure and the progression system which requires different grades of each weapon to be unlocked ensures that Battlezone packs quite a lot off replayability. The co-operative gameplay is a more than welcome addition to what was already a hugely enjoyable VR experience, and the fact that Rebellion Developments have ensured that the video game is more than a simple five-minute distraction means it should rank as one of your most highly anticipated PlayStation VR titles.
Simply put, Battlezone’s PlayStation VR day one simply can’t come soon enough.