Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
You feel that tingling in your mind? That feeling that you forgotten something, yet this sense of nostalgia tingles inside you and never goes away? That is the feeling of games from your past, games that are now obscure from the public eye. Some are herald classics, others are better left in the landfill, but while they are no longer in the public eye, they still live on in some way. Each week, I plan on embracing that nostalgia, so to speak, and review one of these forgotten games in a series I like to call “From The Well.” This week, we look at Battle Tanx.
What better way to bring in the New Year than a post- apocalyptic game? Battle Tanx was a small game that was released on the Nintendo 64 by 3DO, the company responsible for those crappy Army Men games. And apparently that team who designed those games carried over to make this one.
Battle Tanxs starts off with a long and actually interesting plot. A nuclear holocaust has occurred thanks to a virus that has killed off 99% of the female population, leading to violence in the streets and eventually, nuclear missiles being fired onto the towns. You star as Griffin Spade, as you embark on a quest to find your loving girlfriend Madison in California, the last haven from the holocaust. But along the way, gangs have formed, mostly the destructing kind we see in Mad Max. These gangs essentially stand in the way of Griffin and his goal.
Ok, so maybe the storyline is really cliché ridden and taken from about every post apocalyptic movie out there. But it is one of the best parts of the game thanks to everything else being linear and kind of sucking. The controls are fine fortunately, and they carry the game to later levels thanks to tight designs and an abundance of control schemes that you can use, but everything else is kind of weak.
Take the level designs, for example. Each level consists of two major designs, one long, narrow pathway where you need to fight from point A to point B, or a giant square where you need to kill X amount of tanks, capture X amount of bases, or defend your own base for X amount of time. It gets old fairly quickly, and it doesn’t help that the gameplay is rather weak, thanks to slowdown and framerate dipping. To help you achieve your lofty goals, powerups are strewn in true arcade fashion all over the maps, giving you health, armor, a gun turret, homing missiles, or even a nuke if you can find it.The powerups are pretty cool, and add some flavor to an otherwise boring campaign.
The games story is told through poor text only screens that look like they were rejected storyboards for a SNES game, with high-resolution pictures and in game cutscenes explaining the action as you go along. The game really has little going for it, except for the tight controls on the tanks themselves, which give you a few options when playing, depending on your play style. The tank varieties are actually pretty cool too, although the smallest one, the fast moving gatling gun tank, is pretty much underpowered when fighting the bigger two kinds.
The game also has a multi-player mode that is essentially deathmatch, capture the flag, and elimination on small varieties of the levels. It gets frantic in multiplayer mode, and is more fun than the single player game, but not by much. Unfortunately.
Graphically, the game is real weak. The framerate dips a lot and there is a lot of popup thanks to poor distance sight in the game. You also have bland textures for pretty much everything in the game, which looks like a polygon model with wallpaper on it. The destruction and carnage that is carried out is basically done by having buildings, tanks, trees, and other obstacles collapse in a neat pile to the ground, in the same fashion no less, which is laughably bad. It also doesn’t help that your tanks turn into a black shell once there destroyed, and break up into a million polygons when they are treaded over. A lot of weird graphical problems that is kind of funny to watch.
The sound is even worse. You got weird techno music in the background, poor sound effects for running your tank and shooting the guns, sappy yet crappy MIDI sounds for the cutscenes, and that’s about it. No dialogue, no death screams, just BOOM, BANG and SCREECH. It’s like the audio version of the old school Batman show, minimal and over embellished.
So Battle Tanx is a bad game, left in the dust of the N64 because of poor gameplay designs and weak graphics. I should note that all of this was improved on heavily in the sequel to the game, which is not only a better game visually, but an actually fun game to play for the 64. In the end, Battle Tanx is probably a game you would forget about thanks to its sub-standard quality in just about every aspect of its design; so leave it in the dust of the armageddon.