Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Battlezone was unlike anything the arcade had seen before. Designed to bring players into a realistic tank battle, the game succeeded so well that the U.S. Army commissioned its own customized version for "training purposes" (translation: "I bet we can get Congress to pay for our arcade"). With its unique controls and revolutionary graphics, Battlezone became one of the most unforgettable gaming experiences of the early 1980’s.

Playing Battlezone was an intensely personal affair. The game cabinet actually had a tank-inspired viewing scope, a window into the first truly interactive 3-D video game environment. Inside the Battlezone world was an assortment of scenery and enemies built from green wire-frame vector graphics. At the top of the screen was a red-colored band that held your enemy-detecting radar, score, lives and flashing warning messages (the red actually came from the low-tech solution of laying a strip of red cellophane over the top of the screen).

Riding into this world from a first-person tank perspective, your vehicle faced off against enemy tanks, missiles and flying saucers. The controls were patterned after those of a real tank. Using two joysticks with parallel up-and-down movement, you could move your left and right treads either separately or together, allowing multiple directions and types of movement. It was a tricky conversion for gamers used to buttons, joysticks and trackballs, but once mastered, the controls only added to the illusion of realism that made Battlezone such a hit.

The Battlezone world was so captivating that many players simply wanted to drive around exploring the terrain of cubes, pyramids and other polygons, including an active volcano in the background. The programmers actually had to design a joyrider-seeking missile to keep the machines from being tied up for hours. That was the kind of pull that Battlezone had in its heyday, and it remains one of the finest moments of early arcade gaming today.

Arcade Machine Release History

1980 - Battlezone

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