Tanks for trying…
Game: Battlezone VR
Reviewed on: PC – Oculus Rift (Steam review code provided)
After enjoying some mild success as a PSVR launch title, Battlezone VR makes the hop onto PC and Steam. Improving on the PSVR’s rendering of the nostalgic 80’s tron vibe, the Vive and Rift versions look sharp and run particularly smooth adding to what was already an on-point VR experience. In fact, compared to most of the plethora of VR titles I’ve played, the text and general clarity of visuals was impressive, largely thanks to a colour scheme that pops with vibrancy and retro-neon colours.
Visuals were further boosted when knocking graphics up to ultra settings with some boost to super sampling externally. I’m using a high-end card but I imagine, due to the ease it dealt with those settings, that lesser cards will be able to push Battlezone all the way and still perform well. That’s always a bonus within the convoluted VR tweaking world.
The game remains largely the same as its PSVR counterpart. You’re presented with a map full of small hexagon tiles that represent procedurally generated levels and the aim is to reach the other side of this map, upgrading and gathering rewards until you’re competitive enough to face the final level at the end. Each level has different objectives such as destroy this or hack this, whilst being bombarded by a selection of tanks and flying vehicles that have the sole purpose of preventing you doing so.
Having done the tutorials, the actual game can be deceivingly tricky at first. Enemies are tough and initial weapons are flaky at best. Dying is also quite unforgiving, as once you’ve run out of lives it’s all over and you’re back to the map ready to tackle a level that’ll be completely different due to their procedurally generated nature. As far as the technical side of the VR goes, they’ve done a great job. The cockpit surroundings look immensely cool and the handling and general feel of being inside a tank really hits home. It’s a shame, then, that they haven’t opened the PC version to more control schemes such as HOTAS or mouse/keyboard support; HOTAS compatibility in particular would really drive the immersion home. Instead, I was using the Xbox One controller bundled with the Oculus Rift, which in fairness did feel really good. Options would have been nice though, especially on a PC platform.
It should be noted that there’s no player vs player action in Battlezone. However, the co-op is perhaps one of the game strongest facets. You’ll play with 4 others whether that be AI, people found online or friends you’ve drafted in, and being able to communicate helps greatly. If you can get that right, the battlefield (or zone, I guess) can become a game of chess, trying to manage the intensity and fast pace of the game is where Battlezone shines. Games can be very different from one to the next, too, and being able to customise your tank and unlock new weaponry does help keep things interesting.
Perhaps the biggest complaint is the game’s atmosphere. Whilst the gameplay is a one trick pony, it is a well-polished trick; the graphics, whilst being simple, are vibrant and suit VR well. But, however much my mind was telling me that it’s just intended as an arcade game, I couldn’t shake the feeling of hollowness to the surroundings, void of any real character whether it be humour or narrative. It felt like it was trying to take itself seriously, but giving me little reason as to why I should be doing the same.
That said, Battlezone sets out to utilise VR and for the most part it does a great job of it, from the feel of being in a tank cockpit to the retro-future inspired visuals. With a little more flesh on the presentation to keep people hooked, some more controller and PvP options, then this would be considerably easier to recommend. As it stands, there’s still a very polished title here, just a little underdeveloped in a few areas when presenting itself to a PC crowd.