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The Antstream Arcade Archive: Battlezone

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive series, we take a look at another specific game from the Antstream Arcade retro vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot, gameplay and tips, as well as what to expect when you play the game on our service. This month we proudly present Battlezone, the arcade legend that is celebrating its 40 th year anniversary in 2020.

So what it’s all about?

It’s an armoured battle – to the death! Taking place within a barren vector graphic valley, in Battlezone the player controls a twin-track tank, slowly manoeuvring around the landscape as enemy tanks and missiles close in. Obstacles provide tactical cover, while the occasional UFO pops down from outer space, offering the chance of a high-score bonus.

Wow! – that looks clean…and beautiful!

Yes, Battlezone’s fantastic graphics are impressive, even today. Forged at Atari in the late Seventies, the game’s designers took their cue from the space shooting classic, Asteroids, before transplanting those marvellously smooth vectors into an immersive 3D engine.

Doesn’t sound too tricky to play though…dodge, shoot, rinse and repeat?

You must be joking! As with most arcade games of the era, Battlezone is an intensely difficult game, designed as a pure coin-munching machine. After easing the innocent tank commander in with some slow ponderous tanks, the valley is soon teeming with ultra-fast Super Tanks and deadly homing missiles that must either be dodged or shot – quickly!

Okay, so this is one tough scrap – any tips?

Use the numerous obstacles to your advantage as they cannot be destroyed by either the player or the enemies. Keep one nearby so that should a tank spawn close to you, you can nip behind it and wait for the enemy to poke around one of the corners. Missiles can also be tackled this way, but beware: they will continue to plague the player until destroyed – better keep your finger on that trigger!

UFOs are harmless but worth valuable points, and should you manage to gather 15 thousand points, there’s an extra tank added to the roster of spare lives in the top right hand part of the screen. It’s also worth keeping an eye on that central radar display and the updates to its left – enemy positions and movements are all recorded here.

Apart from the iconic visuals and gameplay, Battlezone struck an impressive look in arcades thanks to its twin joysticks and periscope-style viewfinder that created a level of immersion often compared to modern virtual reality games. And as a high-score attack experience based within an elegant 3D setting, it had few, if any, peers in Eighties arcades.

What are my chances of getting a good placement on the leader board?

It’ll take some practise, but it’s eminently possible. TheDigitalOrphanage sits atop the Battlezone high score table, with Tnderstruck and Antstream Arcade’s own BKLounge in second and third place. With 1000 points for each tank, 2000 for a missile and 3000 for a Super Tank, BKLounge’s 21,000 score looks vulnerable – can you best these expert tank drivers?

Hang on. Is that…a volcano?

Indeed it is. Battlezone’s action is overlooked by an active volcano and crystal clear crescent moon. There was even an urban myth back in the Eighties that if you drove for long enough without getting destroyed, you could reach the churning mountain, drive up its steep side and discover a hidden castle within!


And that’s not all! Another rumour insisted that if you drove in a straight line for an hour, you reached the mountain range and encountered a factory, busy churning out enemy tanks. There were also several myths associated with the UFOs, including the supposed eventual appearance of a huge mothership that would descend from above and attack the player. Alas, none of them are true.

I won’t try them then! But someone should make a real VR Battlezone!

Someone has! Retro fans Rebellion Developments purchased the Battlezone IP in 2013, and has kept the cannon firing with updates of its sequels and a very real virtual reality simulation of Battlezone on the PSVR. Featuring a multiplayer option and brand new graphics, this update takes the volcano myth from the original and turns it into the player’s objective. The heat is on!

Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon!


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