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Battlezone 98 Redux Review — Not Quite Good, Not Quite Bad

Back in 1998, Activision released Battlezone, a game that successfully managed to blend real-time strategy elements with a first-person camera mode. The easy-to-master learning curve coupled with an intriguing anti-communist story-line, made this game a popular title back in the day.

The formula was very simple: harvest the bio-metal scraps in order to produce new units and buildings. Battlezone revolved around you fending off a constant Soviet threat hell-bent on your utter demise. The ability to control any vehicle made the game popular with the ever-growing PC crowd.

Most media reviews were overwhelmingly positive, in fact, Battlezone was nominated for the Strategy Game of the Year award in 1998. If any game deserves an updated version, Battlezone was it. But did the updated version live up to the series' standards? 

You could say Battlezone pioneered the RTS/FPS hybrid genre.

Fast forward to 2016 and we're met with hundreds of clamoring Battlezone fans begging for a remaster. Rebellion responds and decides to bring the original game up-to-date. Unfortunately, this is where things go wrong.

Since the game's original release in 1998, there have been scores of innovative additions to the hybrid RTS/FPS genre; most of which, have become a common standard. Graphics, gameplay, terrain, controls, musical scores, sounds — I can go on and on about all these elements that have evolved since the original game's initial release. But Battlezone 98 Redux seems to have left many of these core components back in time, because they're completely nonexistent in this version.

The graphics are serviceable, but lack the effects and lighting we're so accustomed to seeing in modern games. Everything looks so blocky and uninspired. I know that this is an updated version of an old game, and I know graphics should never be the sole reason to knock a game down, but come on, they're pretty crucial.

At least sniping enemy tanks and stealing their vehicles is still in the game.

The terrain is overused. It feels as though they have been passed on from one mission to the next.

The AI's pathing still feels as wonky as it did many, many years ago. Scavengers still find themselves stuck on the terrain, as do many of the enemies you encounter. It's hard to believe that a game considered a "remastered edition," would still suffer from the same abysmal pathing that plagued it decades ago.

Battlezone 98 Redux supports both the traditional mouse and keyboard combo, as well as a controller. Unfortunately, using the controller is a hit and miss. Why they refused to give me the option to rebind my controls is simply perplexing, and the traditional set-up is no better. The mouse gives you better aim and control, but still feels agonizingly jittery even when the sensitivity is turned way down.

Mind you, the controls would not be much of an issue if they felt differently from vehicle to vehicle. Sadly, the floaty feel you'll experience affects every vehicle you commandeer — making driving and shooting more of a burden than a task.

Changing the controls was harder than the controls themselves.

Gameplay wise, it's well balanced, with the usual allotment of light, medium, and heavy tanks scattered across the battlefield. Artillery units feel somewhat overpowered, but never so much that you feel overwhelmed. And when the enemy AI is not stuck between rocks and rubble, they do a very good job flanking your six — making each battle a thrilling and memorable experience.

There are even some small nifty details that add a positive ambiance to the gameplay. When you destroy an enemy unit for example, the driver of that unit ejects and lives to fight on foot as a lowly infantry soldier. Infantry in this game are fairly useless by themselves, but can pack quite a punch in large numbers.

It still surprises me that a company managed to make a FPS/RTS so seamless.

Another positive about this game is the HUD. The HUD makes it really easy to access your units and structures. Aim your cursor at a unit and press the "spacebar." Bam! You now have access to that unit and a whole array of keyboard commands. In no time you'll have them at your beck and call ready to do your dirty work. It's simple, intuitive, and effortless.

Battlezone 98 Redux has also been updated to accommodate Steam Workshop mods. This is perhaps one of the better features, as it will allow the game to grow and evolve with the help of the community. I'm excited to play the maps and whacky scenarios other players create. With enough support, maybe this game could become more like the game we were all expecting. 

I gotta hand it to them, they really nailed the difficulty this time around.

The chaotic battles, cut scenes, graphics, and cheap 90s sound effects, still warp you right back to the good ol' glory days.

However, If nostalgia hasn't sunk its teeth too deeply into you, then you might want to pass on this title. It's a good game for those wanting to walk down memory lane, but for those who have never played the original Battlezone before, I would advise you to keep on walking.

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