Activision – BattleZone II: Combat Commander review

Photo of Activision – BattleZone II: Combat Commander

There are always games that are over-hyped and over-sell, but what about the games that should have sold a bundle but somehow get ‘under-hyped’ and end up at the bottom of the bargain bins? Truly great games like the original System Shock, which just never sold that well.

The reason for this is normally that the product is considered niche gaming in one way or another. So how was it then that the original* BattleZone just didn’t do very well? It was a marriage of two well-established genres, real-time strategy and 3D action, and it wasn’t some scowling, flea-bitten mongrel as a result either, but a very well crafted game.

Whatever we may think, it’s a moot point with the sequel, as for reasons best known to itself Activision has decided to put the emphasis on the action elements rather than the strategy.

The developers have done nothing so crass as to do away with the base building elements and the RTS side of the game, but the strategic importance of it all has been noticeably downgraded. As has the plot, which seems to have degenerated from a complex political iron curtain style affair, into a “Waaa! The aliens are landing” scenario.

Moaning about the change of direction the game seems to have taken aside, it is still a solid effort. Improvements have been most noticeably made to the visual aspects; they weren’t shabby in the original, and they’re quite breathtaking now. Beautiful terrain, fantastic explosions, wondrous looking alien craft, it’s all fantastic stuff providing you have a decent (400MHz+) Pentium II to run it on. Otherwise you’ll be turning that detail down.

The campaign game is well constructed if a little linear, with the missions boasting enough variety to keep it compelling to play. Besides this the new multi-player mode is pretty smart too, with plenty of options on offer.

Fans of the original who are looking for more of the complex (and admittedly tricky at times) strategy gaming the original sported will probably be quite disappointed. However, BattleZone II still is a superb-looking blast with added RTS spice on a basic level. If you found the original a confounding affair then you’ll probably love it, and it would seem Activision are hoping to capture the hearts of a potentially larger audience this time round.

Company: Activision

Lacking the truly complex strategic elements and challenge of the original game, BattleZone II is nevertheless a decent fast paced blast, and gorgeous looking too. At its heart, though, it's sadly nothing too outstanding, and it will no doubt disappoint the hardcore gamers out there.