Battlezone VR on PC – The DVDfever Review

Battlezone VR

Battlezone VR is a game I first had a crack at just prior to its PS4 PSVR release, at Play Expo Manchester.

I love Virtual Reality and every time I go to that convention, I must partake in a blast of Retro VR‘s Virtuality machines, run by Simon Marston, which first saw the light in the early 90s and include Dactyl Nightmare where you’re trying to shoot the other human player whilst also avoiding a pterodactyl which can snatch you away and drop you somewhere else on the play area. Yes, the graphics for that one look rather rudimentary, but that’s where VR was back then. It’s come on leaps and bounds since, and with the introduction of Playstation’s VR helmet, I also had a go on Jeff Minter's Polybius .

Between the two modern games, I couldn’t say which was the best, but both blew me away more than 100 Jennifer Anistions popping round for tea!

Back in 1980, Atari launched Battlezone – you’re a tank, the enemy’s a tank the sky is black… and everything is black apart from green wireframe graphics drawing everything in sight, including the enemy and other elements that are either there to be shot at for you to gain more points, or the same but on a collision course for yourself. What set this arcade game back from most of the rest was that you look through a tank-style visor, with handlebars either side as you turn the position of your vehicle round. It wasn’t quite the same with an Atari VCS 2600 joystick soon after that, but a modern joypad has two sticks which can either replicate the same arcade game’s movement, or provide you simply with one stick to move and one to aim – like you expect with any modern game, these days.

So, what’s the 2017 version like? I can’t describe it any better than Fucking amazing!

Were you a big fan of Tron back in the ’80s, or since? Ever wanted to be Flynn, travelling through the canyons? Well, that’s the feeling I got here, with similar audio in places, but all with a modern polish and sheen whilst still retaining the retro feel of straight-line design in the environment, and gliding about like Torvill and Dean in exactly the same way that real tanks don’t, but that’s why Battlezone VR is better than driving a tank… unless you have a tank at home and accidentally on purpose drive it into the car of a neighbour you don’t like. Hmmm… that gives me an idea for the sequel!

Note that I’ve uploaded a selection of videos, some of which show the game in portrait mode, which is how it appears on my PC screen. I’ve also done some cropped to 16:9 so it’ll fill the screen you’re viewing on, but it crops the top and bottom. Please let me know which you prefer. For the third one down, I’ve presented both versions for comparison.

Battlezone VR – Gameplay #1 (Ultra settings) (1080p HD) – PC – DVDfeverGames

The basics are simple – pick up ammo when destroyed tanks drop theirs, then go from one level to the next, not just blowing the enemy tanks off the map and their planes out the sky, but also protecting your own bases… which I’m a bit crap at 😉 Once you’ve completed it or fluffed it, gaining points to upgrade artillery and tanks, you move on to the next one to complete the map. As you move around that, from one location to the next, soon into the game, a new Nemesis is moving about, also taking one step at a time inbetween levels. The effect is like the final, Vortex round of BBC’s The Adventure Game! Gronda! Gronda!

But you don’t have to be permanently stuck in the ’80s like me to appreciate this game. Play for long enough and it’s so damn effective that it really makes your head swim, and is an absolute mindfuck… so take a break after an hour, maximum, but even when I played it longer than I should have, I still didn’t want to leave.

It has outstanding graphics and amazing audio with enemies approaching you from all around, so quite often I was trying to blast a tank in front of me, whilst being followed by another and hearing it fire behind me… although try not to shoot at the AI blue tank in some levels – he’s on your side!

There’s also online play against others, but I generally stuck to offline play, rather than show myself up, as I’m never any good at multiplayer.

I played first without headphones, so I had my 5.1 speakers all around me in their usual, effective places, and then WITH headphones, so the soundstage is a little less defined but more in-yer-face… well, ears. Both have their place, although after an hour at a time of that, I was feeling absolutely hammered in the head.

Battlezone VR – Classic Mode Gameplay (Ultra settings) (1080p HD) – PC – DVDfeverGames

What VR gaming has shown me is that you really don’t need a seat that throws you around, or a 360-degree unit like that in The Lawnmower Man, since just the effect of a well-programmed game within the VR environment is enough to disorientate you properly and give you that perfect feeling of being there.

Battlezone VR is exactly the sort of VR gaming experience I’ve been looking for. It’s a massive assault on your senses and while I’ve given this full marks, I know that with time to grow, VR gaming will be even better as it progresses. I look forward to seeing what comes, but in the meantime… for the next 30 mins at least, I’m off to steady my nerves with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

This release also contains the Classic Mode with wireframe graphics, which you’ll remember from the original arcade game. If you use the original controls, it’s quite a dog to move your tank about as they’re counter-intuitive to what you’d expect as they end up going in the opposite direction. Then I switched to the modern controls of the left stick to move and the right to arm, and I scored over 100,000 points.

The only problem I found with the Classic Mode was that, for no apaprent reason, I couldn’t use my Logitech Gamepad for no apparent reason, and had to hook up my Xbox One controller. This is annoying since since the former is wireless whereas the latter has to be wired to my PC and the cable isn’t a long one.

If you have a PS4 and don’t fancy giving Sony another £350 of your money for their headset, how much will it cost to get stuck into this game on PC? Well, you’ll need a machine that’s beefy enough to run VR games. My rig is below, but for the specs, Steam states a minimum graphics card of nVidia GTX 970/AMD 290, with a recommended of nVidia GeForce GTX 1060. I have a GTX980 and it runs like a dream.

For a headset, I bought a brand new Oculus Rift DK2 Developers Kit device for £185 on Ebay, being sure to pay with a credit card just in case, but it’s the genuine article, and equivalent units are around £180 at the moment.

Yes, the visuals aren’t quite as sharp as the retail version, CV1 (Consumer Version), but those are around £550, and for the price difference, I’ll take the hit in visuals – it’s still the best gaming experience I’ve had in a long time. Also, you can use a gamepad, as described, so DO NOT need the £100 Oculus Touch controllers.

An alternative for this game is the HTC Vive.

Check out more gaming footage on loads of games on my DVDfeverGames Youtube channel.

Battlezone VR is out now on PC/Steam and PS4, and click on the top image for the full-size version.

Battlezone VR – Gameplay #2 (Ultra settings) (1080p HD) – PC – DVDfeverGames

Battlezone VR – Gameplay #2 16:9 Version (Ultra settings) (1080p HD) – PC – DVDfeverGames

Important info:

  • Publisher: Rebellion
  • Developer: Rebellion
  • Players: single player: 1; multiplayer: 1-4
  • HDTV options: 1080p
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 sound: Yes

My rig:

  • Intel i7 Six Core Processor i7-5820K (3.3GHz) 15MB Cache
  • ASUS® X99-A: ATX, HSW-E CPU, USB 3.0, SATA 6 GB/s Motherboard
  • 16Gb Kingston Hyper-X Fury DDR4 2133MHz (2 x 8GB)
  • 4GB nVidia GeForce GTX 980
  • 250Gb Samsung 850 EVO SSD, SATA 6Gb/s (upto 540Mb/sR | 520Mb/sW)
  • 3Tb 3.5″ SATA-III 6GB/s HDD 7200rpm 64Mb cache
  • CORSAIR 750W CS Series Modular 80 Plus ® Gold, Ultra Quiet
  • Creative Sound Blaster Z 5.1 PCI-E Soundcard – OEM
  • WIRELESS 802.11N 300Mbps/2.4GHz PCI-E CARD
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit w/SP1
  • Zalman Z11 Plus Black Mid Tower Case