Battlezone Hands-On Preview
I've played Battlezone a fair bit in the run-up to launch. I've attended multiple press events and previews, playing it at events around the world. Let's be real: it's the game that convinced me to buy a PlayStation VR.
It means I've been able to watch it grow from my first playthrough: it was, and still is, an incredibly compelling arena blaster. You play a giant robot tank and bring the beatdown to a host of robotic enemies. I once said it plays like the original Doom, and it really does capture that pace, the frenetic speed of the slaughter. If you like shoot-'em-ups, if you like arena blasters… you'll like this. Battlezone is fun in the way a lot of other VR titles haven't quite managed yet.
But what I've been able to see with my most recent playthrough is how the game unfolds around that blasting. Rebellion are throwing around words like roguelite and procedurally generated and, honestly, that's the campaign. There's a procedurally generated hex-map that makes up the campaign, with events and encounters littered throughout that is reminiscent of indie darling FTL.
Levels on the map have a variety of different goals: perhaps you'll need to protect a structure from waves of assault, or take out all of a certain enemy type. Maybe you'll need to attack and defend at the same time. It's hard work sometimes, but to help there's drop-in cooperative play for up to four people, letting you get reinforcements at any time. Sure, the enemies will get harder too, but a problem shared is a problem halved, right?
Another option to even the odds is upgrades - this is the real meat of the game. Certain actions and missions will reward you with access to certain technologies. Those you've unlocked provide the pool from which the upgrades you acquire in game are pulled from, and this pool persists, even though you lose all your individual progress at the end of each campaign.
There are several different types of tanks that you can get in to start off, so when you've got four players together, there's plenty of variance. While I was playing with the team at Rebellion, lead designer Steve Bristow selflessly took it on himself to be the 'heal tank', projecting an aura that healed nearby allies nearly as fast as we could take damage. Brilliantly, this aura is quite narrow, meaning we had to crowd around Bristow's tank desperately, surging across the battlefield in Roman Tortoise formation.
The different enemies are another thing that'll mix things up. In something I'm told has never happened before, we spent three encounters in a row being encircled by mine-layers; having to slowly crawl through the map and avoid hidden explosives feels totally different to a fast-paced blast-'em-up as you try to hold off an assault by flying units and light tanks.
This'll be the last time I play Battlezone before it comes out, but it looks great, it plays great, and as this is the release version, I can safely say it's the best reason to pick up a PlayStation VR right now.