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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.

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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