Atari 5200

Review by Matt Reichert



Graphics: 5

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 6

Overall: 5

It looks like Battlezone, it sounds like Battlezone, it plays like… did I mention it looks like Battlezone?

After playing Battlezone for only a few seconds I can see why Atari abandoned it.  The game starts with a nice 3D lettered title screen and a really cool rendition of "Ride of the Valkyries", so far so good.   The first thing I noticed is that the mountain range in the background has been replaced with some solid blue mountains, not a big loss but I do miss the vector volcano.  After getting over my initial disappointment I heard the familiar beep that told me a enemy tank was in range (the text warnings also appear in your status bar), so I moved my tank to intercept and that's when then things began to fall apart…

At first I thought I must have imagined it, but then it happened again.  Instead of the objects on the screen slowly scaling (growing larger or smaller) to simulate the appearance of movement they just seem to jump from one size to the next.  What you basically see is the object go from small (far away) to large (right next to you) in only a second or two instead of over a period of a few seconds.  Not only does this make the graphics look bad (the objects really don't look good when they jump), it gives the game a very choppy feeling. 

I could over look the scaling problem since this is a work in progress prototype, but when it comes to the vital part of the game, killing tanks, Battlezone just falls flat.  For some reason your shots don't seem to hit the enemy tank about 50% of the time, this could be due to a error in the collision detection or be caused by the afore mentioned scaling problem.  I've been nose to nose with a enemy tank and had my shots go right through it and drift off to the left or right (which I think has something to do with the scaling), although they don't seem to have a problem hitting you.  Assuming your shot actually hits the enemy, you're treated to nice explosion of parts and then get to do it all over again.  The other enemy in this game, the flying saucer, appears to be impossible to hit.  In the arcade hitting the flying saucer was quite a feat but most definitely possible, here the shots never seem to get anywhere near it.  The saucer also seems to appear way too often accompanied by it's annoying sound, and since you can't kill it you've got to avoid it. 

Gameplay problems aside, the sounds and graphics are top notch (for the 5200 anyway).  The sounds appear to be all there (including a neat little sound when you hit an obstacle).  They seem to be a little sparse but that's how they were in the arcade game as well.  The graphics are very nice vectors, which other than the scaling problems, seem to mirror the arcade fairly well.  One minor gripe is that when you get shot your screen doesn't crack down the middle like it does in the arcade, instead you're treated to a weird little starburst pattern that has a line connecting them.  It's interesting to see the computer draw them (it draws one starburst, sends out a line then draws another, sends out a line, etc.) but it's nothing like the arcade.  I have no idea why they went with it, maybe the programmer thought it was more interesting?  Another gripe is that you can see some glitches in the vector shapes on the screen when you force them to scale at a rapid rate, I think the 5200 has problems pushing that many vectors at once. 

One interesting thing I should point out is that Battlezone gives you the option of using two joysticks to simulate the way movement is done in the arcade version.  Since I was never good with two joysticks I haven't fully explored this option, but I imagine it would improve the gameplay slightly.  I assume Battlezone would have been packaged with a joystick coupler the way Space Dungeon and Robotron were. 

Overall Battlezone shows promise but it still needs some major tweaking before being a finished product, I'd estimate that the version I played was about 85% complete.  Since Battlezone was scheduled for a November release and the version I played was dated late September, Atari may have realized that they weren't going to be able to get all the needed changes finished in time to meet the released date and scrapped it.  It's a shame since this prototype shows promise, and the 5200 could have used some vector games.  If you're willing to put up with Battlezones' glaring flaws you'll find that this home version will satisfy your vector tank shooting needs. 


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:16 PM