Battlezone (1998 video game)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Let them have their ticker tape parades, their 'space races,' and their commemorative packets of dehydrated ice cream. While Von Braun takes credit for his Redstone bottle rockets, I am finalizing plans for an inter-planetary fleet that could plant an American flag on every rock and pebble in this solar system by the end of the next decade. I will be watching the sunrise from atop the Olympus Mons long before NASA takes their first steps on the moon."
Dr. Wilhelm Arkin, in his response to the offer of a position at NASA.

Battlezone, released by Activision in 1998, is set up as a revival of the earlier games. It is a hybrid vehicle combat, FPS, and RTS. The Space Race was a lie. After a meteor shower hits the Arctic circle in 1952, American and Soviet scientists simultaneously discover an amazing new metallic compound capable of being molded into vehicles and equipment at fantastic speeds and possessed of unique organic properties. Just as quickly, both sides begin to think about how this new material could further their efforts in the Cold War. The US forms the National Space Defense Force. The Soviet Union in turn forms the Cosmo Colonist Army. Both nations sneak their armies into space under the guise of the "Space Race".

Thus begins a new, hidden chapter of the Cold War, the one too brutal to televise. The player's character, American tank pilot and battlefield commander Grizzly One, attempts to lead his forces to victory against the Soviets whilst unraveling the mysteries of the bio-metal his superiors command him to kill in order to obtain.

An expansion was released later that same year, developed by Team Evolve, dubbed The Red Odyssey. It takes place largely on Ganymede and is contemporaneous with the events on the other Galilean moons of the original game. The NSDF's Black Dogs, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who get all the worst missions, have been assigned to Ganymede, a relative backwater in the scope of the conflict going on. Suddenly, a new enemy in Red China attacks, sparking a conflict that eventually takes the player to a distant planet called "Elysium". The CCA are also tangentially involved.

A Nintendo 64 port also exists: Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs, the only narration is in the opening of the American campaign and the plot is hard to glean, all communications besides the pre-recorded responses to orders are sent via squint-o-vision text messages in the corner of the screen. It added a third campaign staring the Black Dogs squadron. They use modified American equipment, and the bomber pilot is a Hippy.

A sequel developed by Pandemic Studios and set in the 1990s of this alternate history followed later. It was less well-received for abandoning the highly original Cold War plot in favor of a more standard UN vs. Aliens setup, though it had its fair share of twists. The player this time is John Cooke, a private in the new International Space Defense Force, ostensibly intended to safeguard humankind from extrasolar threats. Cue the arrival of a mysterious alien foe, The Scions. A first-person shooter/real-time strategy game experience similar to the original ensues.

A fan made expansion dubbed "Forgotten Enemies" takes place after The Scion ending, in which forces of the Hadean Crown actually have survived and are not what humanity expected. Later, the Fleshstorm mods (1 and 2) were released, taking place after Forgotten Enemies. The mods introduces two new playable races:The Swarm, and the Phaer Ran.

The mods, all the patches, maps, and so on, are available on BZScrap

Tropes used in Battlezone include:
  • Abnormal Ammo: All of your weapons utilize the same pool of ammunition, courtesy of Nanomachines. What they actually fire varies greatly, from bog-standard bullets and cannon shells to lasers and microwave beams.
  • A Commander Is You
  • All There in the Manual: A considerable amount of Backstory information can be found in the manual, framed as the field operations manual for the NSDF. There are many letters, from and to then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, General George Collins, and other commanders, scientists and such. There are also analysis of potential planets to visit, in-depth technical specifications on NSDF weapons and vehicles, plus "field intelligence" on CCA ones, including their Reporting Names.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The alien ships and structures are all named after Greek gods, and it is outright stated that the race which created them, the Cthonians, visited and did experiments on the Greeks in the ancient world.
  • And I Must Scream: Arguably, the Furies themselves, being living tissue fused directly into the hulls of bio-metal war machines. Though whether they are sentient is not really clear, as their favorite pastime seems to be blind rage and destruction. They also may be a rather twisted example of The Undead.
  • Backstory: Any exposition about the Chthonians.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Grizzly One wishes the best to those who find a fallen meteor...
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: The NSDF and CCA destroy the Furies, but at the cost of the technology they fought the war over. The Cthonians, meanwhile, sacrificed their entire species to destroy them.
  • Character Customization: Each vehicle has a number of modular weapon hardpoints. You can upgrade from the weapons you begin a level with by ordering an Armory to build you new ones.
  • Cold War: Gone hot in secret, with the US NSDF versus the Soviet Union's CCA.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: NSDF vehicles and buildings tend to be black with white and blue detailing, while CCA ones are red-on-white.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: NSDF and CCA units are roughly equivalent to each other. NSDF units on the whole are faster, CCA ones better armored.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover for the 1998 game features a tank that doesn't exist in the game which has red flaming exhaust and an independently aimed turret - neither of which are in the first game.
  • Death From Above: Various mortar weapons can be equipped on vehicles that can use them. Each side also has a mobile, deployable artillery unit: The NSDF "Longbow" and the CCA "Cannoneer". At least two missions require you to ascend plateaus to take out artillery units.
    • Given a conveniently placed nearby cliff, it's often possible to drop directly into an enemy base, bypassing perimeter defenses. This is even a mission objective in one Venus level in the NSDF campaign.
    • The Armory has no direct-damage weapons, but nonetheless has one of the nastiest attacks in the game: the Day Wrecker bomb, which you can order it to catapult to a location of your choosing, as with any Power-Up.
  • Difficulty Spike: After the Furies are introduced, losing your tank changes from a minor inconvenience into a death sentence.
  • Dying Alone: Grizzly One's deepest fear.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: Happens in the Backstory to Icarus, the Cthonian homeworld, which once occupied an orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Occurs again at the end of the game on Achilles, a moon of Uranus that curiously resembled Earth, in a tragic case of History Repeats.
  • Elite Mooks: The Black Dogs, an elite, hardened NSDF squadron fought in the Soviet campaign. Their vehicles are armed with more powerful weapons then their base NSDF counterparts. Then of course, there are the Furies.
  • Enemy Mine: All but decimated by the Furies, the surviving forces of the NSDF and CCA must team up to stand against them. It is now better to be Red then dead.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Every vehicle is equipped with this, and also gives off a signature that can be detected by everybody else. The Comet Cruise missile uses this to track targets. The RED-Field Generator, or Radar Echo Dampening Field Generator, can fool said missile as it completely masks the radar signature of the vehicle using it.
  • The Faceless: No character's face is ever shown, with one exception; at the end of the final Europa level, you get a closeup of a dead CCA soldier, his faceplate shattered and his face frozen.
  • First-Person Shooter: Your perspective in-game, whether operating a tank or on-foot with a rifle and sniper scope.
  • Forbidden Zone: During the scrap-gathering mission on Titan, it's possible to come across the remains of a Hadean prison complex, Tartarus. Inspecting it reveals that it was used by Nexus V to conduct experiments on Olympian prisoners. Your CO analyzes the situation and advises you to stay away.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The Blast Cannon and the Flash Cannon (Also known as the Hot Foot), though the latter is actually a microwave beam.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Hoo boy. Just look through the rest of this page, they're everywhere.
  • Genre Busting
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: At first, this was because Eisenhower wished to keep at least one project a secret from the Soviets. Included in his memo is the mention that the NSDF would report to no-one, not even him, and that future administrations would have no knowledge of the organization. This Masquerade would eventually be broken by events leading up to the sequel.
  • Gundamjack: You can steal enemy vehicles by sniping out the pilot. You can then enter the vehicle yourself, or catapult a friendly pilot all the way from your base to take it over.
  • Hand Wave: Quite a few, among them the concept of Equal Damage Distribution, or EDD, armor plating, which serves to handwave the lack of location-based damage in the game. However, the fact that the tanks hover is never even handwaved.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Steve Blum as the excitable Corporal Buzz, as well as the pilots of NSDF "Bobcat" Light Tanks, and General Romeski, your commanding officer in the Soviet campaign.
  • Historical In-Joke: The famous photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon was taken by General Collins, commander of the NSDF moon base located scant meters from Neil's landing site. NSA thought it was a major mistake to release the picture.
  • History Repeats: A particularly poignant case. Grizzly One, the protagonist, speaks this trope verbatim in the introduction and his thoughts echo the concept throughout the story. In the end, he was completely right. And it wouldn't be the last time, either.
  • Hover Tank: All of the in-game vehicles save the mechs, one of the more obvious benefits of Cthnonian technology.
  • Homing Projectile: Several kinds. The ILS (Image Locking Shadower) missile locks onto the visual signature of a target but can be spoofed by the Phantom VIR device or simply ducking behind cover. The "TAG Cannon" fires a homing tag, followed by a swarm of missiles. The "Thermal Hornet" tracks heat signatures but can be diverted by "Solar Flare" mines. The "Comet" Cruise Missile locks onto radar signatures but can be shaken off by the RED-Field Generator. There's also the slow-moving, massively damaging missiles used by the Furies, which cannot be fooled but can be destroyed in-flight.
  • Humongous Mecha: The NSDF "Sasquatch" and CCA "Golem" walker units, courtesy of Cthonian war tech.
  • In Name Only: It has almost nothing in common with the earlier game, except one shot in the intro that shows a vector-based radar screen on the panel of a hovertank. Then again, the earlier game didn't have a plot.
  • It Can Think: It's never made clear of the Furies have any semblance of free thought. If they do, it makes their unflinching sadism that much more unsettling.
  • Land Mine Goes Click: In addition to various specialist mine types, there are standard proximity mines. These have the ability to distinguish friend from foe and will not harm friendly units. Used en-masse by NSDF "Unabomber" and CCA "Molotov" minelayers.
  • Lightning Gun: Fury saucers and tanks are armed with these. Their mines also function as such, zapping nearby enemies as opposed to detonating.
  • Lethal Joke Weapon: the hard-to find Rave Gun, available in the tutorial mission, slots in for a cannon. It's extremely lethal, and uses minimal ammo. When fired, it plays techno music and shoots balls of flashing multicolored light.
  • Masquerade: The opening text and cinematics tell the story of the US cover-up. NASA is a front, and the Apollo landing is used to hide the launches of the military bio-metal expeditions. The most brilliant shot in the whole game is right at the beginning; a camera rotates around Apollo 11, to show an entire army base on the other side.
  • Losing Your Tank Is A Slap On The Wrist: Losing a tank is never that big a deal; it's not that hard to blast a CCA pilot and hijack his tank. Averted once the Furies appear; you can't hijack them and the tremendous blast radius of their missiles will most likely kill anyone on foot.
  • Lost Technology: The whole reason the Americans and Soviets are fighting it out on other planets in the first place.
  • Narrator: Grizzly One himself, who speaks in the introduction and over the loading screen for each mission. His tone and mood are always dour, and he often laments his situation and that of his comrades who get left to die in the dust on hostile, distant planets. He also regrets that no one on Earth will ever know who he was or why he did what he did.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The TAG (Automated Targeting Gun) Cannon, standard on the CCA "Stoli" Light Tank (which occasionally makes them Demonic Spiders). It first tires a harmless "Tag" projectile. If this makes contact with a valid target, the weapon then fires a storm of seeking missiles.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The "MAG Cannon", or Magnetic Acceleration Gun. It fires a Charged magnetic blast. Depending on how long the weapon is charged, it can fire a string of weaker projectiles, a shorter burst of larger ones, or a single very large blast.
    • There's also defensively-oriented Magnetic Weapons in the M-Curtain and MITS mines. The M-Curtain, or Magnetic Curtain, deploys a mine that projects a magnetic field around it, reflecting all incoming projectiles. A clever pilot may park his tank within the field, firing out of the field without fear of counterfire. The MITS (Magnetic Inversion Tethering Snare) Mine just does the opposite, pulling all projectiles inward towards it.
  • Mobile Factory: The Recycler, Factory, and Armory.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The Chthonians, though considering what happened to them, it probably could not be helped.
  • Nintendo Hard: The Red Odyssey expansion pack, especially the Chinese campaign.
  • No Canon for the Wicked: Notably, averted. The CCA campaign is contemporaneous with the events of the NSDF one, taking place between the Soviets escaping Mars to Venus with the Cthonian Flight Log Database and Furies turning against them on Titan. It's unknown if the Chinese campaign in Red Odyssey is canon (or indeed the Black Dog one), as it is not touched on in the sequel.
    • As for the expansion itself, the Chinese campaign is a prequel to the Black Dog's campaign.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: The Furies.
  • Precursors: The Chthonians, Sufficiently Advanced Aliens whom created the Bio-metal. A Cthonian Mad Scientist named Nexus V attempted to Take Over the World, deposing the ruling Olympian Council and enslaving ancient humanity. A superweapon one-up war ensued, with Nexus topping all by creating The Furies (out of humans, by the way), who turned on him and forced the Olympians to deploy a Doomsday Device that destroyed their homeworld and their entire race along with the Furies but spared humankind.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The protagonist of the main story, referred to as Grizzly One. The same for the character of the Soviet "expert difficulty" campaign, called simply "comrade".
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The remnants of the NSDF and CCA succeed in defeating the Furies, but likely at the cost of their own lives.
  • Real Time Strategy: The player can command any other units he has built either from his perspective or the satellite view.
  • Reporting Names: All of the CCA vehicles have these, given to them by the NSDF analysts. Their actual designations are never revealed.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Furies, not-so-mindlessly violent Attack Animals.]]
  • Sentry Gun: The NSDF "Badger" and CCA "Pak" mobile, deployable turrets, as well has hardened gun towers built by each side's constructors.
  • Shockwave Stomp: The "Thumper" special weapon sends a seismic pulse through the ground in front of your tank, damaging structures and upending enemy vehicles. The manual mentions that the NSDF eggheads aren't quite sure how it works.
  • Shown Their Work: Hand Waves due to alien tech aside, the manual details how the NSDF intended to support it's various field bases, including power concerns and oxygen supplies. For example, plans are laid out for an irrigation system on Io, to prevent bases from getting buried in sulfur dust. This is just common sense stuff though, see You Fail Physics Forever below for the work they don't show.
  • Spiritual Successor: Sacrifice, and Brutal Legend further down the line.
  • Standard Status Effects: The "Sandbag" non-locking missile inflicts "Slow" on targets by way of sticking any target hit with a magnetic anchoring device.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Frequently. Everything that can be destroyed, blows up in a suitably graphic fashion, leaving behind bits of scrap for later scavenging. Many of the weapons are designed with this in mind, specifically the aptly-named Rocket Bomb: A Hornet heat-seeking missile with the "heat-seeking" part taken out and extra boom added in. Standard issue on the NSDF "Thunderbolt" and CCA "Grendel" bombers.
  • Unobtainium: The Bio-Metal, which is used to build all vehicles, buildings, and weapons in the game. It has the ability to remember shapes it has previously assumed, which is what allowed US and Soviet scientists to recreate Cthnonian-styled vehicles and weapons in the first place. It is commonly found as bits of scrap in great fields anywhere the Cthonians have been, and can also be salvaged from destroyed enemy units. Also a Mineral MacGuffin - they don't refer to the events of this game as "The Bio-Metal Wars" in the sequel for nothing. Serves as a Plot Coupon in some missions.
  • Take Your Time: No matter how urgent the mission briefing sounds, there are only two timed missions.
  • Timed Mission: Subverted: an early Mars NSDF mission tasks you with attacking a CCA base, but the time limit barely gives you enough time to assemble a base that can run itself. However, just when it seems time is going to run out, an MIA squad attacks the CCA base to buy you time, which ends the timer. Played straight in the Europa mission where you must intercept a transmission, and in the final mission: if you can't get off Achilles in time, you will be left behind.
  • Trope Maker/Trope Codifier: Of RTS games played from the POV of a central 'general' instead of an 'all-knowing eye in the sky', which would be used in later games such as Sacrifice and Brutal Legend, and also through the possession mode in Dungeon Keeper.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Furies, due to an "aggression factor" designed into the type of Bio-Metal they are built of. They are so driven by raw hate that they will abandon whatever they are doing to chase down an enemy. This can prove a weakness: Your superiors advise baiting them into traps.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Completely averted. Any enemy vehicle can be hijacked. The Furies play this straight... except in the last mission of the Soviet campaign, where the basic saucer Fury is not only buildable, but pilotable.
  • Weak Turret Gun: The NSDF Badger turret and the equivalent CCA Pak, which can hover around and then anchor themselves in the ground virtually anywhere to fire. They are mostly intended to provide point defense in conjunction with your tanks until you can build the much stronger static defenses. However, they can be equipped with better guns, thanks to the game's modular weapon system...
  • X-Ray Vision: The SITE (Sensory Image Terrain Exposing) Camera allows you to see through terrain features to visually locate enemy targets beyond them. Bonus points for explicitly being an "X-Ray device".
  • You Fail Physics Forever: The mobile structures have to be set up on steam geysers for power. The Moon is geologically dead and has no (liquid) water, and Europa is an iceball, yet they are still easy to find. Tanks handle the same on planets like Venus (Earth-like gravity, dense atmosphere) and planetoids like the Moon (0.2g, airless).