Battlezone: Combat Commander Review

Publisher Rebellion is no stranger to the current trend of redux, remasters, and reboots. After developing Battlezone VR, and publishing Battlezone 98 Redux from developer Big Boat Interactive, I wasn’t surprised when the duo announced they would join forces once again to bring us a remaster of Battlezone: Combat Commander, available now on Steam and GOG.

I’ve been playing games for a long time so whenever game from the past is getting a remaster or remake, it definitely peaks my interest. I’ll throw on rose-colored glasses and take a trip down nostalgia lane, sometimes only to be reminded that the good old days aren’t always good. Other times playing a remake reminds me why I liked the game in the first place and gives me a chance to get up on my soapbox and shout about how things were better back in the day. How did my time with BZCC go? You’re about to find out. This is our Battlezone: Combat Commander review.

For those unfamiliar with the 1999 RTS/FPS hybrid, Battlezone 2: Combat Commander (the 2 is dropped for the remaster) is the sequel to Battlezone, itself being a reboot of the original 1980 Battlezone (which gobbled up more than its fair share of my allowance at the arcade). BZCC takes place in a future where former enemies America and Russia have teamed up to battle a new nemesis, the alien forces of the Scion. As a member of the International Space Defense Force (ISDF), you won’t manage the base building, resource gathering, and army building from the top down view of the typical strategy game. Instead, you command your forces from the front lines, manning one of your tanks (or other vehicles) in first person view.

The story itself is decent enough, with plenty of twists and turns. It starts out simple enough – kill the horrible aliens before they destroy Earth, but you will quickly find other, darker forces at play. Ultimately, the choices you make will have you finishing the 24 missions of the campaign with one of two alternate endings. Along with the single-player campaign, you can try out the instant action option, or partake in several multiplayer choices.

Beyond improving the graphics, very little else has changed, meaning all of the flaws of the original game still exist. Much of the single-player campaign is slow paced and has limited base and army building. The first few missions will have you following your commander to various objectives and feels like an overly drawn out tutorial. Later in the campaign when base building finally ramps up, you find the unit AI, already sub-par back in 1999, has not improved. Unit pathing is horrible with vehicles getting stuck on obstacles or, even worse, navigating directly through enemy forces. Enemy units don’t function any better, often times ignoring everything but their primary objective, allowing you to destroy them with little to no resistance.

Being a mere remaster, and not a full reboot, one could easily dismiss all of the flaws with an “I knew what I was getting into” attitude. That would be true if the graphics improvement was worth it. The vehicle and building models are vastly improved over their original counterparts, as are the explosions and overall lighting and shading. Unfortunately, the landscape didn’t receive much of an upgrade. The ground textures themselves are much better, but I expected there to be more ground cover. Most planets are void of any grass, rocks, or plants, just like the original. Even with 4k support, the barren wasteland is still a barren wasteland, no matter how crisp the graphics are.

Fortunately, most of these flaws are minimized in multiplayer matches. With up to 14 player support, you will find all the staple modes you would expect to find in a shooter such deathmatch, CTF, and King of the Hill. Strategy mode adds in base building, giving even more variety, and having human opponents adds that random element missing in the single-player campaign. Although the maps don’t offer anything you can’t find elsewhere, the vehicle-based combat is enjoyable. The fighting is fast paced, and each vehicle has unique characteristics, allowing the speed and maneuverability of a scout ship to contend against the heavily armed and armored yet sluggish control of a tank. There is even a race mode for those wanting to get their Mario Kart fix.

Overall, I was disappointed with this remaster, but it’s my own fault. There were plenty of reasons why the original Battlezone 2 didn’t fare well, and like many other gamers out there I allowed the almost 20 years since its release to wash away my memory of the flaws. The remastered graphics still aren’t up to current standards, and the gang at Big Boat Interactive could easily have done better. Perhaps a complete reboot would have been a better choice but, given the lackluster performance of the original, I can understand their hesitance to go in that direction.

Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.

Final Battlezone Review Score:  6/10

  • PROS:
  • Vehicle and building graphics are much improved over the original version
  • Fast-paced and enjoyable multiplayer
  • Engaging storyline

CONS:
  • Improved graphics still don’t meet current day standards
  • All the flaws of the original title still detract from the game
Written by
Playing (and sucking at) games since the 70s. Novice writer and expert Seahawks fan.

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