Title: Battlezone: Combat Commander
Platform: PC
Developer: Big Boat Interactive
Publisher: Rebellion
Release date: Out now
Price: £15/$20
TL;DR: An RTS/FPS hybrid that struggles to do either well.
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Battlezone: Combat Commander is a hybrid of the RTS (real-time strategy) and FPS (first-person shooter) genres. While I’m very familiar with FPSs in general (though crap at them), I haven’t had a great deal of experience with the RTS genre; in fact, I’m fairly confident that the only one I’ve ever played is Warcraft 3, so I don’t have a lot to compare that aspect to.

The opening sequence is jarring – there’s no getting away from it. The graphics look grainy and the colours bleed, so much so that as soon as I got past it and had access to the game’s options, I checked my graphics settings to make sure it was all set as it should be. It turns out that the opening movie from the 1999 original – yes, this is a remaster – has been embedded in the opening sequence. While this is a cute idea, it feels very out of place and self-sabotaging, though it’s a nice touch for those that do remember the original.

Thankfully, everything looks much smoother once you get into the game. The planets on the Mission Briefing screen and areas that you explore during those missions are much more detailed, or at least, as detailed as a planet with sparse, devoid of life terrain can be. Other than a few hills and slopes, or the odd crater, there’s very little to look at, though you will find the occasional body of water (alien liquid substance?) which really shows off the crispness of the graphics.

The title screen gives you a few options: Single, Multi, Mods, and Instant Action. While the first three are self-explanatory, the latter allows you to create games against A.I., where you can choose your map as well as assigning difficulty and team sizes. It is also here that you can access the game options to change the difficulty if needed; the default difficulty is set to “Medium,” while “Easy,” and “Hard,” are also available.

Singleplayer puts you straight into the story mode, which sees the U.S. and Russia putting aside their differences to fight against alien forces. While there is probably a bit more to it than that, the story failed to grab my attention. It’s a shame because, perhaps if it hadn’t been laid out in fuzzy, barely readable text in the opening sequence, or if mission objectives weren’t voiced by cheesy, OTT voice acting, I might have felt more invested.

The first person viewpoint seems like a cool idea but in practice, it feels very fiddly and restrictive. You have your minimap, which shows friendly and hostile targets as well as a camera that lets you see what’s happening elsewhere, but (and perhaps this is just my inexperience with the genre) it feels like I didn’t know what was going on half the time because I couldn’t see the bigger picture.

The missions aren’t long – ten to fifteen minutes, give or take – but I found myself getting bored quickly. There seems to be an awful lot of standing around and waiting for things to happen. While I can appreciate that this may be due to the game’s RTS nature – it has been a few years since I played one – I just felt like I’d rather be doing something else. Perhaps it’s very true to the original, released back in 1999, but games have come a long way since then and this doesn’t feel like it belongs in 2018.

The controls are also an issue. While movement and shooting are what you’d expect, with the use of mouse buttons and WASD keys as the controls for interacting with your surroundings, whether it’s building and placing turrets or equipment to using the Satellite view, all feel very alien and not at all easy to do on the fly.

Movement feels sloppy and inaccurate, although, given that you are on some planet in space, the feeling of moving through syrup when manoeuvring your vehicle may account for that. Aside from the fact that the movement of the camera gave me motion sickness badly enough that I had to keep taking breaks, it really doesn’t lend itself to the FPS aspect of the gameplay. You can target enemy units by pressing “T,” but this seems to do little other than make your bullets (and other projectiles) hone in on them slightly, and given how far your camera sways when you move it, aiming is all but impossible.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t venture into multiplayer, mainly because I had so many issues with the controls that I felt like it would be unfair to inflict my inexperience (and downright noobiness) on some poor, unsuspecting stranger. I would imagine though, that if you like the game enough to consider going into multiplayer, there would be quite a bit of fun to be had.

Perhaps I’m being unfair; Battlezone: Combat Commander is far from the worst game I’ve ever played (though I would stay clear of it if you’re prone to motion sickness). It’s perhaps best left to those that have a love for the RTS genre and are looking for something a little bit different or those that enjoyed the original.

The Good

  • Clean graphics
  • Option to play against A.I.
  • Three difficulty options

The Bad

  • Controls for the RTS mechanics are fiddly
  • Dodgy voice acting
  • Camera movement can make you feel queasy

Family Focus

Rated: Not yet rated; animated violence with lots of shooting.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.