The whole concept of VR gaming has been an interesting one since it made its way onto our home consoles. However, I for one have to admit, that it was a form of gaming that I simply could not get on with, as with many others, the feeling of motion sickness that it gave me was one that I could not overcome. There were one or two titles that I was able to endure, thank you dice for fulfilling my childhood dreams of piloting a star wars X-Wing fighter from within the cockpit, but for the rest, ten minutes gameplay and I was a goner. Despite this, I still admire its levels of immersion and a completely different way to play the games we love; it most definitely creates a style of playing that is worlds away from staring at a television screen all day. So, what happens when a VR game makes the transition from head-tracking movements and full-motioned controls to the conventional methods of playing games? Well, with the release of Rebellion’s Battlezone Gold Edition on the Nintendo Switch, we are about to find out.
In theory, this should be a transition that could work out well, after all the main premise of the gameplay is revolved around its inspirations of the eighties arcade original of the same title. It’s a game that I certainly have fond memories of playing with its distinct green wire-frames and dual-controls that were as original then, as VR is now. However, what Rebellion have done, is brought its concept bang up-to-date with a modernity that simply makes it shine, whether you play it with a headset or now, more conventionally.
For the uninitiated, Battlezone Gold Edition is a game that centres around tank warfare, but in a more modernised sci-fi setting. By remotely-controlling a variety of tanks, from heavy to light, you need to traverse across a grid of hexagonal tiles across a procedurally-generated map to reach an AI core and destroy it. Each of the tiles presents an area that is filled with all sorts of deadly enemy types, as well as checkpoints that can help your cause. Enemy tanks, missile platforms and drones all attempt to stop your progress as you clear each area to weaken the stronghold of the AI core.
You get to choose your path across the map from the start point to the where the core AI resides. However, the quickest path isn’t always the best route, as some tiles contain supply drops that can upgrade your weapons with credits, whilst others may have shield generators that need to be destroyed to weaken the defences of the core. You do have the ability to scout ahead as you send drones into unvisited areas to recon what their tiles contain, making your path an easier one to navigate through tactical decision-making. Once your chosen tile is selected, you then embark on clearing its area of designated enemy types or destroying any generators that may inhabit the area.
There’s also a tactical element to the combat; especially with its rogue-like elements. With only a limited number of lives at your disposal, it’s imperative to make full use of any cover within the landscape. Once your full quota of lives have been used up, then its game over and you need restart the game from a fresh grid. Although you have a variety of weaponry at hand, you’ll constantly come under attack from all manner of enemy types. In terms of this, the difficulty curve can be quite an unforgiving one at times; often with levels attempting to overwhelm you with enemy numbers. However, learning the mechanics of the game soon gives you an advantage as you figure out the best weapon types for certain enemies, which areas provide the best cover and when best to utilise your boost to get you out of any scrape.
This isn’t a simple all-out shooter, as a good deal of thought needs to be put into any action you undertake. This presents a nice level of depth to the gameplay as you begin to strategise over the best course of action you need to succeed; from route planning, weapon outfitting and combat efficiencies. However, you don’t need to take the battle on alone, as the game also caters for co-op play, both locally and online for up to four players. This makes the game significantly easier than if playing solo and more exciting as you as and your virtual buddies all take the fight to the enemy in a series of tactical skirmishes. Another advantage here, is the ability to heal when within the vicinity of a friendly tank; something that is often a life-saver. Another enjoyable aspect of playing co-operatively is the inclusion of a number of customisations that come with this Gold Edition of the game. Everything from cockpit designs, bobbleheads and exteriors can be given the personal touch to make you stand out from the crowd.
As well as this, the game also comes with the originality of its roots with a classic mode, perfectly recreating the arcade experience with its wire-framed graphics and twin-stick controls. With the title being a port of a VR game, this Switch version also incorporates some very clever mechanics in its use of gyroscopic movements to look around the interior of your cockpit. It mimics the actions of a VR headset quite well and creates quite an intuitive control scheme that is easy and effective to use. However, saying that, the motion controls rarely become an integral part of your gameplay, but are still a nice inclusion nonetheless and can in fact, help you in certain situations.
All in all, there are a lot of nice features incorporated into this game with strategic gameplay, co-operative missions, personalisations, control schemes and a retro revisiting to its roots. It all adds to create a neat package that sits very nicely upon the Switch. I didn’t come across any performance issues and the game runs super-smoothly; even with three other players online. In terms of transitioning from its VR origins, Battlezone Gold Edition plays superbly well. In fact, you could even say that outside of the VR environment, this is the best version of the game to date. It may have taken a while to get here, but believe me when I say that the wait has been well worth it. In short, this is a tank of a game that is sure to make the right tracks upon the Nintendo Switch.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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