It's three, three, three games in one!
Many a great science fiction author could have been right about so many things, and yet totally missed the mark about when the human race would really begin to utilize the resources available to us in space. Why have we failed to establish a base (much less a colony) on the moon, and only barely managed to orbit a long-term space station? Why we have never visited the other planets, except remotely? Well, Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs is here to tell us that all these things have happened...and more!
The details are somewhat sketchy, but it seems that a covert war for the possession of alien artifacts and technologies has been going on in space for decades. And now, it's time for you to join the battle.
For those of you who remember the original arcade favorite Battlezone, this is a whole different beast. Yes, you're still driving a tank around a barren landscape trying to blow up other tanks. However, the tank is often not an actual tank (there are quite a few different vehicle types, from fighters to tanks to enormous mobile walkers and actual flying saucers) and the barren landscapes, though still desolate, are actually quite nice to look at (rather than green vector graphics).
Beyond that, there are three modes of play. There's Arcade mode, which pits you and your vehicle against a bunch of tanks on a bunch of different levels. This is the mode closest to the original game. There are a limited number of levels, however, and you play on the exact same map order used in Pilot mode.
Pilot mode is a bit more involved. In this style of game, you are still a tank pilot, but you get to participate in an actual story. Mission goals, changing orders, ambushes, enemies that attack intelligently... a vast improvement, really.
Finally, you can play in Commander mode, which is a cross between Pilot mode and a strategy game. Not only do you go out and fight against enemy pilots, but you control the entire base, assigning pilots to combat, defensive, and support duties, allocating resources, etc.
In all three modes you are given the option to play as one of three teams: American, Russian, and "Black Dog." The Black Dogs are mercenaries who sell their services to either side (so by playing them you'll get to fight both American and Russian vehicles). In a stroke of nationalism on the part of the game's programmers, American doubles as easy mode and the mercenaries have the hardest time of it. Each team runs through its own set of levels (with intertwined plot), so it's worth your time to play at each level of difficulty.
One other difference in this version is that the destruction of your tank doesn't necessarily mean the end of the game. Rather, your pilot ejects out to the surface, and if you're good enough with your two weapons, you can not only finish the level but also get another vehicle. In addition to your standard plasma rifle, you are equipped with a sniper rifle. If you are careful, you can even steal an enemy's ride!
There are also three multiplayer games for 2 to 4 players each -- Deathmatch, Racing, and a multi-player Strategy mode.
I really enjoyed Battlezone, but it isn't without its share of problems. To begin with, the controls have a pretty steep learning curve. Could be worse, I suppose - like being in the cockpit of a real hover tank - but it still takes a while to get the hang of things.
The sound effects present more of a problem. While the explosions and gunfire are decent, occasional bugs mar the overall experience. Every once in a while it sounds like a train wreck. Sounds become garbled or missing, and once the bug starts, it stays for at least the rest of the scene.
There are also a couple of graphical problems. Most notably, there are certain situations where you wind up seeing through the scenery. Also, when viewing planets between scenes, it's obvious that the planets are anything but round.
Overall, though, this game is well worth the purchase price. With three modes of play for the single player and several levels of play within each of them, it should keep your interest for a good long time.