Atari - 1980
Machine: Arcade, and many others
Genre: Simulator, Vehicle Shooter
I first played this game when I was nine during a school trip away from home. I was terribly home-sick, but the arcade provided me with some escape from my misery. One of the machines that they had was Battlezone. After watching the older kids play, I stepped up to the huge cabinet and had a go myself. It was a fabulous experience, with it's great graphics and deep and atmospheric sounds. Years ahead of it's time, Battlezone was a first person tank combat simulator. It featured a fully interactive 3D environment that consisted of wire-frame 3D graphics. There were objects that littered the landscape and these could be used as cover from the other enemy tanks that were prowling around. There was also the ubiquitous flying saucer (a cameo appearance from Asteroids?) that could be shot for bonus points. Many players became fascinated with just exploring the wireframe landscape, some promising themselves that they might even reach the distant volcano. Obviously Atari didn't really want people to spend ages on a machine unless they were spending money, so they introduced missiles that went after joyriders. If nothing else, this at least kept everyone on their toes.
The controls were typically quirky from Atari, with two joysticks that controlled both sets of treads on your tank. Each stick moved either forward or back and the tank would move according to the speed or direction of each tread... for example pushing one stick forward would cause you to turn, while pushing both sticks forward at once would cause your tank to move forward. It wasn't easy to get used to, but it became natural after a few goes. The most important thing about this control method was that it was hugely atmospheric. Couple this with the excitement of seeing an enemy tank, and Battlezone was a real winner. It was this first feeling of realism that makes Battlezone such a revolutionary game. Nowadays most games boast about their realism and I suppose they achieve it, at least to a certain extent. Battlezone attempted to produce a realistic experience with primitive technology in 1980! An extraordinary achievement.
Bubbaray 11 Jul '03
Play Online - At the official Atari arcade site.
Wikipedia's Battlezone page - Lots of great information.