I would ask you to close your eyes and use your imagination, but then you can’t read. So do the best you can with your eyes open. Imagine it’s 1998 and you’ve just been handed a copy of a game called Battlezone. After inserting the disk into your PC running windows 95, a splash screen opens up to guide you through the game’s installation wizard and for now you ignore the offer to play a demo of another game called “Dark Reign”. You hit the install button, expecting that you can simply walk away and come back when it’s done, but instead you’re hit with this:
If you’re anything like me, by now you’re pupils are dilating as you become one with this installation screen. The voice over coupled with the haunting background music overpowers your every will and if you were planning on using the installation period as a bathroom break, you’ve now soiled the carpet, the chair, and yourself. As the installation nears 100%, your trance is broken by the launch countdown that follows. You’ve never heard of this game, you’ve yet to even play a single second of it, but you are already convinced that this is going to be an experience unlike any other. The installation screen alone brought this feeling, what wonders await me inside? You launch the game and what follows conjures the realization that this game simply will not let up. The wafting stench of piss is nullified, as you experience the following on the main menu:
Battlezone is my favorite game of all time. It is not a perfect game, and I would even say that it is not even the best game that I’ve ever played. But it is my favorite game to play. Even though no game can ever achieve perfection, aspects of one can. In the case of Battlezone, it was it’s music.
I cannot imagine any soundtrack that would have been more complimentary. Because let’s face it, video game soundtracks don’t exist to be outstanding compositions on their own. Good video game soundtracks enhance the the player’s experience. Great video game soundtracks are both; they augment the gameplay and are extraordinary compositions on their own. That requires a genius.
The video game industry possess a few composers of such caliber. Some of which even have a pretty high level of fame within the gaming community, like Jesper Kyd (Hitman), Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls), and Inon Zur (Fallout). You also have your lesser known geniuses like Duane Decker (Rise of Nations), Jack Wall (Mass Effect), and Jeehun Hwang. That final one was the genius behind Battlezone’s soundtrack. He mainly composes for film now and hasn’t done any work for a video game since 1999.
My pleas to IO Interactive to simply give Jesper Kyd a call and hangout seem to have fallen on deaf ears. I enjoyed Hitman Absolution, it was a good game. No disrespect to the composers of Absolution, but Jesper Kyd understands Hitman so well, that I may just write another piece just for his work on the Hitman series. If after Battlezone 98 Redux and the new Battlezone for PSVR, Rebellion Developments decide to completely reboot the 1998 style Battlezone, I would hope that they please pick up the phone and ask Jeehun what’s up.
But back our imagination. As you play, the putrid stench of dried up urine on carpeting remains unnoticed. Many times you start a mission having to gather resources, while knowing that the enemy is out there somewhere. They will most likely find you before you find them. To build the tension from not knowing when or where you will be attacked from, you may hear this.
By now you’ve been discovered and you know that more waves of enemies are coming. You set up what defenses you can while also building some offensive units. With 1 or 2 wingmen by your side you leave your base to secure the objective that lies a little over a kilometer away. The nav beacon camera shows that the enemy is already there, so you better hurry before they secure it first. You take the offensive.
You clear the area of hostiles as quickly as you can, order a cargo vessel built, order it to pick up the object that is your objective, have 2 tanks escort it and hightail it back to base before it’s attacked again. You storm into your base as an attack is already underway, and help defeat the remaining attackers. The cargo’s been picked up and you order it returned to base.
What happened? You hear nothing. The game has fallen almost completely silent. There’s no music playing. There’s not even the “beep….. beep…… beep” of your motion sensor, and there are no hostile contacts on it. The cargo is still enroute. I guess once it gets here i w- *beep!* “Look out commander! CCA attack squadron approaching from the rear!”
You’re lack of defensive units there is problematic. You quickly issue a command to all spare offensive units to follow you into the engagement. They’re targeting your unit factory and the recycler unit you have can’t build a new one. After a hard fought battle, you may have lost a wingman and took quite a few hits. But you repair and rearm. The package arrives at base and after all those attacks, the enemy can’t have much fight left in them. You hold this line and protect that object.
The enemy launches one last, desperate attack run with everything they have left. The fighting begins and things start getting confusing in the heat of battle. Your onboard computer blares in your ear: “Defensive unit lost”, “Offensive unit lost”, “Damage critical”. Yet you fight on, hoping and praying to whatever deity you may or may not worship that you don’t hear the dreaded “ammo depleted.”
You don’t and you fight them off. You’re commanding officer informs you that the CCA contingent is feeling their losses and are being ordered to stand down. “Area secured. Prepare for landing the full force.”
I love Battlezone. I love its soundtrack and the way they use the soundtrack in the game. This may sound weird but i also love how they don’t use the soundtrack. Like i described, sometimes the game would just fall silent as you wait for whatever’s out there to show itself. A simply outstanding piece of interactive software, in a genre that hasn’t been done so well before or since. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up on either GOG or Steam. I bought it on steam for the steam workshop, but if you’re not into that, get it on GOG and share it with friends and family. The more people playing the better and more likely to have Rebellion invest into Battlezone 2 redux and beyond!