Battlezone II: It’s Alive! Er, Still.

Tanks! Like... oh, y'know.

This took me by gentle surprise: ongoing fan patching of Pandemic’s seminal but rarely namedropped 1999 RTS/FPS/tank ’em up Battlezone II. While it’s admittedly an acquired taste, it’s one of those games I regularly bust out whenever I feel a spot of joystick nostalgia, alongside Crimson Skies and Mechwarrior 4. The unofficial 1.3 patch for what was once an infamously buggy affair was originally created by two Pandemic chaps, and they’ve continued to update it even as they spend their day working on other games. Ten years on from the game’s release, patch 1.3 beta 5.1 (crivens) has just hit

I’m not quite sure which frighteningly wobbly tower of CDs in my bedroom contains BZ2, so I can’t attest the efficacy of the changes myself, but the key points of 1.3 in general (beta 5.1 specifically brings performance improvements are bugfixes) an updated graphics engine that supports DIrectX9, hardware transform and lighting and anti-aliasing – in other words, a better-looking game and one that barely troubles CPUs.

Also, a shedload of new multiplayer maps and tweaks – which is an aspect of the game I confess I’ve never dabbled in. I’m too much of a coward to go up against guys who’ve been playing the game solidly for ten years.

Here’s what it looks like:

Apologies if BZ2’s continued support is old news to you, but I was surprised and pleased to hear the old man still has so much blood in him. There are more details about the unofficial patch here, but the main points are summarised below for your endless convenience:

* Updated graphics engine that uses (and requires) DirectX 9.0c for the best balance of compatibility and speed. Hardware transform & lighting is now supported, allowing a lot of work to be offloaded from your CPU and onto your graphics card. New DirectX features like fullscreen antialiasing (or multisample antialiasing) are supported to improve visual quality. DXT Textures are supported to more efficiently use graphics card memory.
* Music from the BZ2 CD is now distributed with this patch, in ogg vorbis format, allowing for better performance. You can also set up a random playlist of music to be played ingame, if you copy in .ogg files to the right place and the right name. (Note: other music needs to be user-supplied.)
* Much greater MOD (game modification) support, allowing up to 26 total races to be active at once. Many MODders have been among 1.3 beta testers, and have been working to take advantage of the new features. [Their participation or nonparticipation is their own business; no support for 1.3 is implied or MODs promised by us.]
* Developed/Tested on Windows 2000/XP/Vista, for much better compatibility out of the box. Should work on Vista without requiring Administrator access. Limited WINE testing has been done as well. For Vista/Win7, should fully support being installed to paths with unicode, has high-resolution icon for Windows Explorer
* Redone audio system that supports far more channels (up to 64) and DirectSound3D for a far more immersive experience. Note: not all sound cards on the market support that many channels; if the driver on your system notes a limit under 64, BZ2 will use that instead.
* Support for Ogg Vorbis compressed sounds – similar to mp3 files, but with higher quality.
* Various lagout bugs in network games should be drastically reduced. Resyncs should be reduced in general, units (human & AI) should warp less online
* Many crashes/freezes fixed.
* Enhancements to many parts of the game, including AI, craft handling, etc.
* Many more pregame options for IA, DM, Strat & MPI games (feature available to MODs to define custom options pages on a per-map basis)
* Bots in DM, and some additional DM gameplay modes.
* Strategy-CTF game mode — capture a goal, tug it back to your recycler to win, on 6 classic maps. Finally a good use for tugs in MP!
* Over 50 additional Instant Action & Multiplayer maps by several mapmakers within the BZ2 community, and tweaks to some existing maps to reduce bugs. As of 1.3TechAlpha5, there are 20 classic & additional IA maps, and over 100 classic & additional MP maps installed.
* Several additional security measures to make cheating in multiplayer much more difficult; deliberate remote crashing of games should be fixed.
* New BZ2 editor screen layout files contributed by testers to expose more functionality that was already there.
* Ability to rotate buildings (on 90-degree increments) for even more base-building fun
* Updates to the manual (located in the Extras folder where BZ2 is installed to) to give updated and more accurate information
* Includes over 1.1MB of text files listing changes made since 1.2. This changelog contains our (minimalist) notes as to what changed for each version, and isn’t guaranteed to be easily understood. But, it may be useful reading.
* More features, including weapon linking, thumpers, and variable gravity DM maps
* Many more modder features, such as 60-char ODF names, inheritance, tons of new tuning values, etc
* Easier to host games w/ automatic UPNP, Windows Firewall support(*)

Which leaves the question: is anyone here still playing BZ2? If so, please do sing its praises below.


  1. Seth says:

    Wish they’d do this with bz1.

    There’s is a patch of sorts but last time I checked it didn’t do much other than optimize multi and you can’t play single with it.

  2. Walsh says:

    Battlezone 2 is an abomination compared to the killing space rooskies gloriousness that was Battlezone. To this day, I have no idea why they tried to fix what wasn’t broke, the theme and gameplay.

  3. Dominic White says:

    While you boring gits refuse to play BZ2, I’d just like to point out that there are several full-length fanmade expansions. Like, the kind of stuff that would get sold in a box, and not just a level pack.

    Yeah, you lose the ‘Future cold war’ angle, but pretty much everything else is hugely improved.

  4. Eplekongen says:

    @Dominic White
    Yeah, even though I soundly agree with Battlezone being better than BZ2, that doesn’t change the fact that BZ2 is still awsome.

    Would you recommend any mods in particular?

    Also, are there any other games out there with the same style at BZ? If not, shame!

  5. Stromko says:

    Wasn’t Battlezone 1 just a pure arcade game where you shot a bunch of tanks that kept coming at you?

    Battlezone 2 was a completely different game because there was absolutely no reason to make BZ1 again — as in, no matter what graphics you slap on that, few people are going to bother playing a game that’s so simple, and if they wanted to they could just get an emulator and play BZ1.

    I remember Battlezone 2 was really damned good, but I’m too busy to get back into it right now. As far as Multiplayer goes, I think I’d rather play Source: Empires. Of course BZ2 offers a full singleplayer campaign, and possibly even good AI skirmishing aside from that, so it’d be a good choice for that kind of shooty- basebuilding -RTSyness when you don’t have the time or patience to devote to a multiplayer game.

  6. NoRCoN says:

    I remember playing countless hours in Battlezone 2 multiplayer. It was so much fun. May have to bust out the old disc.

  7. Stromko says:

    I’m probably completely wrong and Battlezone 1 was another shooty- basebuilding -RTSer, just different (and supposedly superior, or so I’m told). I just remember the first Battlezone being all wireframe graphics and blowing up constant waves of tanks that appeared all around you. There’s a zillion flash games that offer similar, nowadays.

  8. Seth says:


  9. Othelios says:

    This is my Dad’s favourite game.

  10. Dominic White says:

    The expansions for BZ2 are Forgotten Enemies and Fleshstorm.

    link to
    link to

    The latter is due a sequel not too far off, apparently.

  11. Alistair says:

    That’s a pretty awful video to show. Both the first and demo settings were much more atmostpheric than blocky ice citadels of alien doom…

  12. Novotny says:

    Good lord, I had this once. Fat chance of me finding the original cd though :(

  13. Walsh says:

    Stromko, the original Battlezone ‘remake’ was a better game with more flavor and character than the space UN force fights generic alien race sequel.

  14. Tim James says:

    What the hell is a crivens? Is that some sort of cracker or cookie?

    Also, it alarms me that I am more organized than a games journalist when it comes to being able to quickly reinstall an old game in order to comment on it. I’d better dial down that geekery.

  15. Serondal says:

    There actually WAS a battlezone game that was wireframed and had basic shooting ect but that isn’t the one they’re talking about. (obviously)

  16. Blather Bob says:

    @Stromko: Yes, that is what Battlezone was in the coin-op days, but then the BZ name was used again and it was like this one except different. It certainly had a better singleplayer experience, but I didn’t really do enough of multiplayer in BZ1 to know if it was better at multiplayer also. All I remember about BZ1 multiplayer was having my scavenger pilots sniped over and over again. At any rate, BZ2 was pretty fun multiplayer.

    I always become more interested in a game when I learn that it is special enough to have convinced someone to spend their personal time making these sorts of unofficial patches. Codename Eagle is another game that had a couple of unofficial patches from some former devs while they worked away on other games, and that was one of my favourite multiplayer games. And I first became interested in VTMB (prior to seeing all the RPS love) as a result of the near-monthly unofficial patches, which are still being released for it.

  17. Serondal says:

    I liked the second one better, I found fighting on the moon to be pretty boring and I liked the added vehicle types/abilites/story line of the second one more.

  18. Dominic White says:

    The first game had better atmosphere – the whole ‘Deep space secret cold war’ dealie was excellent. I think that pretty much everything except for that was improved for the sequel, including the plot. The big ‘twist’ mission really took me by surprise when I realised that I could go back and do it the other way round.

  19. MacBeth says:

    Mad props for the quote. Shame no-one else will get it…

  20. Simon says:

    BZ1 > BZ2. But that was mostly because of the 2nd game’s bugs. I’ll give BZ2 another shot now! :D

  21. Sajmn says:

    Let’s clear a few things up:

    1. The Battlezone franchise *needs* a proper sequel.
    2.The first game called Battlezone was indeed a wireframe arcade shooter.
    3.Another game was made which was also called Battlezone, but featured 3D combat and strategic gameplay in a USA vs commies setting.
    4.A sequel was made called Battlezone 2: Combat Commander. It kept the same unique gameplay while changing some things including the setting which made it feel somewhat more generic with it’s humans vs funky aliens theme. The more colorful and un-militaristic design didn’t help either though it was still a great game to play.
    5.Many people don’t like it since you need to enjoy both action and strategy games (though the strategy element is less advanced compared to pure RTS’). Those of us who do like appear to be a minority as no developer will make a similar game (damn Tiberum getting cancelled!)

  22. moyogo says:

    Just wondering from the video… is aiming just a huge hassle in this game? Or is this person making it hard on themselves?

  23. moyogo says:

    MacBeth says:
    Mad props for the quote. Shame no-one else will get it…


  24. MacBeth says:

    Why thankyou

  25. Gap Gen says:

    Was Battlezone one of the first games where you could jump in and out of vehicles? If so, it lives on in spirit, if not in name.

    I liked BZ2. It may not have been as purist as BZ, but it was a good game. I quite liked the orange aesthetic, and the slow build-up worked quite well, at least at first. As a youngster I found the whole “explore the ruined base that is still crawling with unknown enemies” thing quite atmospheric.

  26. Serondal says:

    I think it was /the/ first game where you could do that. It also allowed you to command other units in real time in first person and I believe there was a base building and resource gathering aspect to it as well. Online it was easy to tell who was the other player out of all the other units because the computer units didn’t strafe left :P

  27. rocketman71 says:

    BattleZone was way WAY better than BZ2.

    Still, BZ2 was a very nice game, certainly better than much of the consolized crap Pandemic released since then.

  28. Roadkill says:

    Man, I used to play the original Battlezone endlessly online.

    It was a great community because only a few hundred people total played. You really got to know all the people online. In more popular games you have to coordinate in order to play the same person twice.

  29. PHeMoX says:

    “Wish they’d do this with bz1.”

    Amen to that! I loved their Cold War themed Battlezone 1 a WHOLE LOT MORE. I still play that game sometimes. It rocks, despite the graphics being too old.

    It’s a bit like HardWar, you’ll end up grabbing the box out of the closet quite a few years and a whole lot of times after you’ve first bought the game.

  30. ColdCoffee says:

    Battlezone was a amazing a game, I would say one of my first great online experiences! Used my old Sidewinder Precision Pro and nearly disintegrated it from the amount of hours I burned away on that game. I have yet to see anything that compares today sadly. I wish some modder would bring the BZ universe to a new engine., Dual Mag Cannons, Dial Up ooo… the memories.

  31. madned says:

    BZ didn’t do the pilot ejecting and hijacking new hardware first, G-Nome was released a year earlier. course no one remembers that because BZ was a Lot better.

  32. Railick says:

    Hardwar was freaking awesome.

  33. Thiefsie says:

    The original remade BZ is one of my favourite games of all time. Absolutely adored it. I still have the fold out box and everything. I’ll give this a shot when I have some time.

  34. Thiefsie says:

    Just remembered that there was a similar game made… I think it was called Uprising. I had lots of fun times playing that co-op with friends back in the day too…

  35. LittleAlex says:

    I played BZ1 death match games for hundreds of hours. It is still my favorite death match game of all time.

    BZ2 was ok, but compared to BZ 1 it was an abortion.

  36. Gabe says:

    Oh I wish the fans patched up the first “PC” Battlezone (as opposed to “arcade” BZ)

    An RTS that plays like an FPS/Flight sim should NOT have worked. But it did.

    I’ll never forget hitting a sequence of number keys to “launch this, create that” whilst simultaneously hovering around to shoot something else.

    Brilliant game, and if someone is smart enough to update it & whack it on Steam for a low price, there’ll be moneys to be made.

  37. Diji says:

    I love both the Battlezone games, of course, BZ2 has the advantage of being more recently updated. I really wish a sequel was made. :(

  38. Gap Gen says:

    Did anyone play that ridiculously hard add-on for BZ1 where you fought the Chinese? I played the demo and it was really, really difficult (although that might just be because I was young and less skilled at games).

  39. Gap Gen says:

    Also, I’m convinced that BZ2 has held up better than BZ1, if you play them both in succession recently. I don’t think there’s a massive difference in quality, other than BZ1 getting there first (and being truer to the original story idea, perhaps).

  40. Ed says:

    Battlezone plain outright rocks, although BZ2 has cooler toys (such as buildings the player can go into and do things like reprogramming the factory settings, controlling guard towers etc) , it lacks the strength of its convictions.

    Plus, what’s not to love about killing Russians on Mars?

  41. Grey_Ghost says:

    BZ1 was a great game. I played the BZ2 demo way back when, but I was extremely disappointed with it (I don’t recall any specifics however).

    I think the expansion for BZ1 was called “The Red Odyssey”.

  42. bbot says:

    Gosh this looks a lot like Halo. Endlessly copy and pasted futurery corridors, the same enemy over and over…

    It was also nice of Cylons Cyons to provide a respawning ammo pack in the core room.

  43. Wassup says:

    I never played BZ1 so I can’t speak to the discussion people are having w.r.t. BZ1 vs. BZ2.

    But I did play BZ2 a lot and I really enjoyed it. The blend between action / strategy was very novel, interesting, and compelling. For example, when playing against other players, I would often use simultaneous attacks with a computer controlled force on one end and myself leading an attack on the other. The clunky AI really made you think whether it was worth leading an attack yourself vs. getting the clunky AI to attack for you.

    I would like to see an modernized & multiplayer-orientated version of this (something a la battlefield) but I’m not sure how to include a commander role in a massive multiplayer game.

  44. JamesOf83 says:

    I loved BZ2. Brilliant, brilliant game. Nothing beats being blown up, ejecting out of your tank, running up a hill, sniping an enemy tank driver, taking his tank and soldiering on!

  45. Seth says:

    Dear Alec,

    If you’d like to cover fan patches of classic old games, would you mind taking a peek at the FreeSpace 2 Source Code Project? Check out

    The amount of fan-generated content in terms of new campaigns, graphical upgrades, and so on is quite impressive. It’s on version 3.6.10 now, with an accompanying set of graphical upgrades called MediaVPs.

  46. Thiefsie says:

    Gosh this looks a lot like Halo. Endlessly copy and pasted futurery corridors, the same enemy over and over…

    It was also nice of Cylons Cyons to provide a respawning ammo pack in the core room.

    Bear in mind that is from the last level of the game and vastly different to the normal world/conditions of the game.

    Bit of a poor choice of video to put up to show BZ2 because it really only shows a bit of combat (boring parts of it too) and little else. Look for some other vids.

    BZ1/2 were amazing immersive mixes of rps/fps but BZ1 was superior imo.

    This is going to make me try out BZ2 again though

  47. Thiefsie says:

    Ugh… tag n00bness

  48. Dave L. says:

    The biggest let down of BZ2 for me was the simplification of the resource system, not the setting. BZ1 told all the story there was to tell about the top secret space war between the U.S. and the Russians. But in BZ1 scrap was a genuinely limited resource in every map, and one that would actually dwindle in multiplayer, as the scrap harvested from a blown up tank was actually less than the scrap it took to build it in the first place. Add in that pilots were also a limited resource, and it led to actually having to be really careful in how you attacked your enemy. A poorly planned assault against a well defended position could cost you most of your scrap and all of your pilots, while carefully griefing the enemy’s harvesters could either lure out an unprepared strike force to the slaughter, or just gradually wear down their pilots. BZII’s infinite scrap pools and unlimited pilots reduced the strategic game to a more standard map control and rush RTS, and if I remember correctly, harvesters didn’t even have pilots you could murder.

    They made up for it a bit with the environmental variety, wider range of infantry weapons, the backpack system, and the previously mentioned ability to enter every structure to access the satellite view and its more traditional overhead RTS control.

    Looks like I’m going to have to add another game into the nostalgia binge play queue. Dammit.

  49. badoli says:

    BZ1 had actually a reference to the even older vector battlezone in its intro movie.
    Oh, and i second the BZ1>BZ2. BZ1 had such a great atmosphere. The start of the first mission, when the camera pans out from a left NASA lunar lander on the moon to a whole moon settling, is burned into my brain for ever!