Battlezone (Atari 2600) Review

Click here to view the Battlezone (Atari 2600) Description Page for screenshots and more information.

Review by tankMage (January 2018)

Score: B-

   Ever want to play an FPS game on the Atari 2600? If so, Battlezone roughly falls into this category, though it is a tank game and has more of a third person view, but it comes close enough. At any rate there’s a fair bit of action in this game thanks to all of the enemies that spawn randomly, sometimes right on top of you. As a result, Battlezone rubs some people the wrong way, but I liked it even though it’s is more of an interesting relic than an Atari classic. So, the action takes place on an open field where the player can turn his or her tank in a circle and move forward or in reverse. The tank comes equipped with a cannon that can be fired to destroy enemy tanks, super tanks, flying saucers, and hovercraft looking things. The enemy can fire back at you or destroy your tank by colliding with it, so you’ll have to take evasive action to stay alive.

   As graphics go, Battlezone is one of the best looking Atari 2600 games I’ve seen, which isn’t saying much, since I’ve only played a handful of the titles available on the console. What makes this game stand out is it’s pseudo-three dimensional perspective, which is something of an accomplishment considering the console’s limitations. Like many Atari 2600 titles, Battlezone based on a superior arcade game, which was notable for it’s cool vector graphics and included a periscope that immersed the player in the game world. While this port falls short of the original, it is also a title that seems to have pushed the console to is limits by using scaling sprites (many of which actually looked like what they were intended to represent) a radar system that displays enemy positions, and a colorful background. Of course, everything is still blocky and the scenery does not change, plus I had a lot of trouble telling what one of the enemies was supposed to be.

   The player is limited to firing a single cannon round and cannot shoot again until the projectile hits it’s mark or annihilates are going over the horizon, which seems to be a common feature in titles from this era. Some games are crippled by this limitation, while others are enhanced by it, the latter being the case with Battlezone. Having only one chance to hit a target without having to wait adds an element of strategy to combat that requires the player to think about how he or she will handle various situations that pop up. Random enemy spawn locations hurt the momentum of gameplay unfortunately, because hostile tanks will frequently spawn behind the player and attack before he or she has time to react. There’s also not much variety as enemies go, but four different types of foes is not bad for Atari. Not much more can be said about Battlezone, it is a simplistic title like many of it’s peers, and I found it entertaining for what it’s worth.

Final Thoughts

   Battlezone is intriguing bit of gaming history and a passable game despite coming off as a bit gimmicky. While I like this game, I have to recognize the fact that it seems unpopular with many Atari enthusiasts, which is understandable considering the tendency of enemy tanks to make sneak attacks at random and I imagine anyone reading this review will either walk away from Battlezone feeling generally positive about it or the game will leave a bitter taste in their mouth.

Recommendations

There are certainly better games on the Atari 2600, but anyone interested in this system should give Battlezone a try, because its first person perspective is somewhat unusual in this early era of gaming.

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