In the early days of arcade games, truly immersive experiences were few and far between. Battlezone was a welcome exception. Thanks to realistic controls, which made up somewhat for the simple, green wire-frame vector graphics of the day, and a viewing scope that kept the surrounding real world from view, players of Battlezone enjoyed a unique experience that made this a must-play arcade game.
A predecessor to the virtual world that video games would offer in the decades to come, Battlezone put the player smack-dab in the center of the action as the commander of a military tank. As the player wandered through simplistic scenery, they would engage in battle against an array of enemy tanks, guided missiles and even a flying saucer or two. The upper portion of the screen featured a red-colored display (thanks to a piece of colored cellophane) that provided radar, number of lives left, current score and plenty of dire warnings of impending attacks. Players looked through a realistic viewing scope and manned controls similar to those found on a real tank. These two joystick devices allowed the tank to move in every direction, make defensive maneuvers, and fire its weapons.
While this all might seem a bit primitive by today’s standards, it provided an experience so engaging that it could, at times, be difficult to get players to relinquish control of the machine, as they drove around aimlessly and explored their virtual world. Not only were there plenty of cubes and pyramids to drive around; there was also that elusive volcano off in the distance that proved compelling to more than a few players. To combat this joy-riding tendency among players, game programmers eventually implemented a formidable missile that would spell doom for anyone who decided to explore for too long.
That Battlezone needed to employ such drastic measures to discourage players from exploring their environment is a testament to the overwhelming popularity of the game in its day. And today, there are still millions who fondly recall their experiences playing this one-of-a-kind, and highly addictive, arcade offering. If you are one of those people, we welcome your memories of playing Battlezone in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this 80s arcade classic.