A striking example of just how far games have come in 30 years, and just how much more forgiving they are in this modern era.

Battlezone (1980)
Source // Giant Bomb

Battlefield 3 (2011)
Source // YouTube

Battlezone sounds like a great little game. A few years prior, Combat was all that was available, with its top down tank gameplay and all the strategy that came with trying to outthink Player 2. Enter Vector graphics and a change in perspective and you've got Battlezone, a first person tank combat challenge that, once I remembered a certain Battlefield 3 mission, I was eager to play in order to see how far we had come.


But you might have twigged by now that Vector graphic games don't play too well with my current set up, so we're not going to enjoy the futuristic green outlines of tanks and blocks and mountain ranges. No, we're going to enjoy the full colour, not quite so first person Atari 2600 port.

Except that it's pretty darn unforgiving.

Get used to this effect - which is really nice, but it means you've been shot and destroyed
Tank combat isn't meant to be pretty, and you aren't meant to get into the kinds of situations you find yourself plonked into in Battlezone. If you see your radar blip with tanks on your flanks, you're stuffed if you don't act, and stuffed only slightly less if you do.

That tank behind you will get you. It just will.

You can take a few tanks out, of course you can, so long as you're constantly moving in order to avoid being hit and have a fair amount of luck in navigating the battlefield.

Not as nice an effect as when you get hit

Fun Times

I don't quite know what the full appeal of this version is, maybe because I'm not terribly good at it and so aren't making much progression. Perhaps it is that simple owing to hardware restrictions, perhaps there's no cover because that's too difficult, I don't know.

What I do know though is that Battlezone does bring out the same kind of response as I've had in Battlefield games, that sense of 'I need to take a shot but shouldn't rush to do so'.

My reticle changes from black to yellow when I'm aiming on target, so I know not to shoot wildly. My radar pings positions of enemy tanks, so I know roughly what my situation is.

It doesn't show direction of course, so I'm still going to end up dead without knowing where the fatal shot came from.

Fond Memories

The comparisons between Battlezone and the mission 'Thunder Run' in Battlefield 3 are quite obvious. It's like a 'What If' that wonders if a remake is in the works (so far as I know, no, but the rights to Battlezone were sold to Rebellion in 2013).

It may not be popular to have fond memories of Battlefield 3, but isn't that how we discover or rediscover video games? Each title borrows and steals from those that come before it, imprinting their own take onto the idea. World of Tanks has done so with success.

Final Word

With more options for strategy available, a slower pace, an option of how to approach the battlefield, rather than to be dumped into the middle of it, then Battlezone could have kept my attention for longer. It would also have been a different game, perhaps entirely, and would therefore defeat the purpose of going through this list.

It is a game that looked back to what came before, improved upon the idea and took a step or two forward so that the net wave of titles could look back at it, take inspiration, and make yet another leap forward in gaming.

Even as nothing more than a comparison between past and present, it's worth a quick game or two, especially with those vector graphics that I still haven't managed to see first hand...

Fun Facts

A version of Battlezone was created in order to train gunners of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, though many of the developers available refused to work on the project. Aside from one copy in private hands, this Army version is assumed to be lost.

Battlezone, developed by Atari, first released in 1980.
Version played: Atari 2600, 1983, via emulation.