Some may grumble about the recent glut of HD updates and remasters that have been bulking out release schedules the past few years, but when it means that a new generation can experience joys like 1999’s RTS/tank-combat hybrid Battlezone 2: Combat Commander, then I’m all for it.
Following up from the slightly wonky re-release that was Battlezone 98 Redux, Big Boat Interactive (under Rebellion’s publishing banner) have poured a lot more time and effort into the sequel’s enhancement, which launched via both Steam and GOG today.
Were it not for some dated looking particle effects and slightly over-compressed audio hiding behind the reasonable pretense of radio distortion, Battlezone: Combat Commander (for some reason, they dropped the 2 from this release’s name) could pass for a decently pretty-looking modern indie title, though some of the original game’s quirks remain, such as aiming and shooting on foot having a heavy, semi-vehicular feel to it.
Under the gloss and polish lies the exact same game that I played and loved all those years ago, and have occasionally dusted off every couple years to see just what the fan-patching and modding community have been doing with it. While a little clunky in places, Battlezone 2’s first-person command interface still holds up well, largely, and the hovertank combat feels weighty and satisfying still. Multiplayer and all its modes are present and correct (even supporting LAN play and cross-play between Steam and GOG owners), and the branching single-player campaign is fully intact.
From the I’ve played of this enhanced edition, it feels like a significant improvement, and seems very scaleable. I’ve admittedly got a fairly beefy GPU (A laptop Geforce 1070) but I’m able to consistently run this at 1080p, maximum settings at a locked 100fps (my monitor’s limit). Hardly surprising, but nice anyway. Visually speaking I would have liked the view distance extended, with fog effects purely cosmetic, but it would admittedly throw a spanner into the works in some scenarios; just climb the nearest hill, spot the enemy base and go from there.
So far the only technical issue I’ve encountered is a brief stutter when playing any sound for the first time on a mission that seems greatly reduced if I move the game over to my SSD. A caching issue, then, and perhaps later patches can pre-cache the audio to reduce this problem. Ironic, considering that the audio seems untouched since 1999.
Battlezone: Combat Commander may be closing in on two decades old, but it’s as compelling a game now as it was back in the day, and we’re still waiting to see what the old modding crew can do with this polished-up version of the engine. If they’ve managed to lift some of the old limits holding back development, there might yet be a bright future for this one.