Codex Gamicus

Battlezone is a critically acclaimed[1] remake (for Microsoft Windows) of an arcade game of the same name. It was released by Activision in 1998. Aside from the name and presence of tanks, this game bears little resemblance to the original. Activision remade it into a hybrid of a tank simulation game, a first-person shooter and a real-time strategy game. Battlezone is played like any other real time strategy, but the main difference is that in Battlezone the player is controlling everything on the battlefield from the first person view.[2]

The one and only resource in Battlezone is bio-metal scrap which is used to produce new units and construct new buildings. Building and directing units is done via interface either by selecting onscreen object with mouse or by using number keys on keyboard.[3] Starting with a bio-metal recycler (the most basic construction unit), the player constructs vehicles to scavenge scraps of bio-metal, build base defenses, and construct new base vehicles capable of building more advanced structures and vehicles.


The game has two campaigns, the American NSDF campaign (National Space Defense Force) and the Russian CCA campaign (Cosmo Communist Army).[4] The game takes place in an alternate version of the 1960s in which the United States and the Soviet Union use alien technology to wage a secret war across the solar system, fighting for control of the rare resource bio-metal.

The game starts in 1952 when a group of meteorites falls near the Bering Strait, which both the Americans and the Russians are able to recover. In these meteorites they find "bio-metal", and discover that with it they can build vehicles with amazing features, such as the ability to hover. Both the Soviets and Americans send forces to the Moon; the Apollo program is revealed to be a cover-up for the massive American military operation there.[5] The American space military force is called the NSDF, for National Space Defense Force, and the Soviets' is named the CCA, for Cosmos Colonist Army (However, manuals for the earlier version of the game call the CCA the 'Communist Cosmonaut Army'). The Soviets force the Americans off the Moon by destroying the main American outpost there, called Eagle's Nest 1. The NSDF relocates to Mars, only to discover that the CCA is already there. An alien artifact is discovered there by both sides, presumably by the same race who created the bio-metal. A weapons factory built by this civilization is also found on Mars. It is revealed that the race in question called themselves the Cthonians, and lived on a planet called Icarus that occupied the orbit of what is now the asteroid belt. According to the game, Greek myths were based on visitations of Earth by the Cthonians.

The Americans learn that the Cthonians were divided into two warring parties who battled throughout the solar system. Each side apparently pursued an ultimate weapon that would destroy the other. To follow the trail of this weapon, called a Fury, the Americans travel to Venus. Another artifact from a Cthonian city is recovered, pointing the way to a weapons research facility built by the Cthonians on Io. When the Americans arrive at Io, they find a relic from the facility and begin to bring it back to their base. However, one of the tugs carrying the artifacts is piloted by a Soviet defector, named Dr. Wilhelm Arkin, who steals the Fury relic and brings it to the Soviets. Enraged, the Americans conduct a secret operation on Europa to steal a Soviet Flanker and tap into the Soviet communications network to discover the whereabouts of the Fury relic. It is found that the relic has been moved to the main CCA base on Saturn's moon Titan.

At this point, the stories of the American and Soviet campaigns diverge.

  • In the American campaign:

After eliminating the Soviet presence on Europa, the American forces, led by a commander only known as Grizzly One (named so because of the NSDF MBT, the "Grizzly"), reach Titan only to find that the advance force has been devastated. The Soviets were able to build the Furies and unleash them against the American units. However, it is quickly learned that the Furies seem to have a "mind" of their own, and the Soviets quickly lose control of them as the Furies destroy the main Soviet base and then escape. The Soviets unconditionally surrender to the Americans, and they pledge to work together to destroy the Furies. After fighting jointly to destroy a Fury production facility on Titan, the Furies escape to a fictional moon of Uranus called Achilles. The Americans destroy the Fury base on Achilles and find that the base had tapped the moon's molten planetary core for power; destroying it had set off a chain reaction that would shortly cause the moon to explode. The Americans leave a small force, and Grizzly 1 in charge of it, to finish the Furies by taking their transport out, which may have escaped the destruction of the moon, however this isn't made totally clear in the game's ending. The ending shows the fiery end of Achilles, and a piece of it, presumably containing some Fury relic, drifting across the solar system to reach Earth.

  • In the Soviet campaign:

The Soviets evacuate Venus after destroying an American Platoon and their base and proceed to Io and capture 1 of the 3 Fury Relics. They then take this technology to Titan to try to recreate the Furies. The Soviets reach Titan but find that the Black Dogs have destroyed their main base. They recover important units and re-establish a foothold there. Finally, they are able to build controllable Furies with which they overwhelm and annihilate the Black Dogs and the Americans, completely destroying their presence on Titan - little do they suspect that the Furies have minds of their own. These missions branch into the American campaign directly preceding "The Three Beacons", wherein the controllable Furies turn on their Soviet creators.

The American campaign is significantly longer and better orchestrated and is intended as the main game, with the Soviet missions serving as a more challenging diversion for those players who manage to beat the American game (although for advanced players, the Soviet campaign was easier to win due to jumping directly into the full technology tree.)

An add-on, called The Red Odyssey, was later released which featured a Chinese campaign contemporaneous with the events described above. It took place on Jupiter's moon Ganymede and a planet in another solar system (called Elysium, it was reached with a Cthonian interstellar travel device). This game is much harder than the original Battlezone, and the missions are only for very experienced players. The American campaign is much longer than the Chinese campaign (ala Battlezone) and there is no CCA campaign at all, even though they appear very often in the Chinese campaign, while all three factions never appear on-screen at the same time in any campaign.


In 1998 MacMillan Publishing released "Battlegrounds", an authorized Level Pack for Battlezone, after conducting a contest in which players submitted their own creations. The Pack contains 45 Instant Action missions, and 52 multiplayer maps, provided with a new utility for launching and managing maps.[6]

Also in 1998 Macmillan Publishing released the Team Evolve-made addon pack for Battlezone, The Red Odyssey. This expansion contains an entirely new Single Player story arc pitting the Chinese Red Army forces against both their allies, the CCA, and their enemies the "Black Dogs".[7] The "Black Dogs" were a roughed-up, beaten-up offshoot of the NSDF with the reputation of ending up with the toughest missions. The Chinese forces introduced both Portal technology that allowed travel outside the Solar System and a 'Cloak', which hid their ships while disabling weapons.

In 1999 Battlezone Gold Pack was released to commemorate the launch of Battlezone II: Combat Commander. It includes Battlezone, two authorized add-on packs: The Red Odyssey and Battlegrounds, and official strategy guide.[8]

Activision released a sequel in December 1999, Battlezone II: Combat Commander, which involved a war resulting from the incursion of a new faction known as the Scions. Battlezone II introduced a split Single Player campaign, allowing the player to switch sides at one point and join the enemy. Battlezone II received mixed reviews[9] and it is considered inferior to Battlezone - GameSpot's Stephen Poole wrote that "Battlezone II is just a dumbed-down version of its predecessor.[10]

The game was ported to other systems by Crave Entertainment. In 2000, Crave ported the game to the Nintendo 64 under the name Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs.


Reception of Battlezone was overwhelmingly positive. The game scored 89 out of 100 on GameRankings,[1] 3.5 out of 4 on TopTenReviews[11] and 93 out of 100 on MobyGames.[12]

Most reviewers were impressed with the way Battlezone combined two genres, real time strategy and first person shooter.[2] GameSpot said that "what really makes Battlezone so special is the way it blends the adrenaline rush of first-person action games with the strategy and resource management of Red Alert".[10] Reviewers were also impressed with the game's interface calling it innovative and simple to use.[13] Game Revolution praised graphics and addictive gameplay.[2] Ted Smith from Allgame was disappointed with introductory voiceovers,[13] while Stephen Pool from GameSpot noted that "the AI for friendly units can be a little dicey and that Control can be a bit of a problem for mousers" but concluded that Ninety percent of the reason he mentioned any game flaws in his review is because that is his job not because they bothered him much when he was playing.[10]

Battlezone was nominated for GameSpot's 1998 Strategy Game of the Year award.[14]


Battlezone also has a unique multiplayer engine that consists of two modes: Strategy and DeathMatch. Strategy involves two or more players who compete in teams or against one another for scrap and map domination, and offers same type of control as in the single-player game. In DeathMatch two or more players battle until the opposing vehicle is destroyed. Once destroyed, the pilot is ejected and floats back to the ground with the user's vehicle being respawned for continued play.

Online gaming used to be available at Activision's servers through Anet, a peer-to-peer networking system which features a chat lobby and a list of games in progress. A player can select a game to join and then connect to the host's computer. From there the main game server is no longer involved. Activision shut down its servers in 2002 but released the source code for Anet[15] under GNU Lesser Public License.

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