Release Date: 1983
Publisher: Atari
Controller: Joystick
Players: 1
Genre: Shoot’em Up – 3D
Alternate Title: N/A
Model #: CX2681
Rarity: 3
Programmer: Michael Feinstein

This is one of the more technically impressive games in the 2600 catalog.

The year is 1999 and the nations of the world have created a world wide peace plan. Unfortunately there is a cabal of military commanders who don’t take too kindly to peace, so they have unleashed a hoard of unmanned tanks and aircraft upon the now peaceful masses. The only hope to preserve the peace is you and your museum quality tank (seriously, you found the tank in a museum). And I know what you are thinking, and no you aren’t controlling John Connor. I mean sure, you are one man standing up and fighting against an army of robotic military weaponry to protect the human race, but you are in a tank so it’s totally different. Plus Judgement Day was in 1997, so totally different thing here. Anyway, once you have your giant metal death machine up and rolling, it’s time to hit the open plains and hunt down some automated instruments of war.

The field of play is a complete 360 degrees, which means you are going to have to rely on your radar if you have any hope of surviving the day. Whenever an enemy appears you will get an audio notification and a white dot will show up representing where it is. If you aren’t currently blowing up an enemy tank it is vital that you turn your attention to the new threat since it can shoot and kill you even if you never see it. This also means that you should never stop moving your tank, unless you have your heart set on seeing the nifty scrambled digital screen that represents your tank going up in flames.

Early on you will only be facing off against slow blue tanks and the occasional non-firing flying saucer, but it isn’t long until deadlier enemies show up. The deadliest of these are the fighters, which dart across the landscape in a zig zag pattern and shoot you from point blank range. Unlike the other enemies you encounter, you can’t dodge the bullets, so unless you have an itchy trigger finger (and haven’t fired a shot recently since you can’t fire again until there is a bullet impact) start mentally preparing yourself for the afterlife.

Despite being released a full decade before Doom, Battlezone does an amazing job at capturing the first person shooter experience. The game moves with a fast paced smoothness not found with many games of the era, and since death can come from any angle at any time, it is incredibly tense gameplay. So if you want to look deep into the future/past of 1999 and be the only thing standing between a peaceful world and complete destruction at the hands of robotic killing machines, and get a glimpse at a fantastic example of an early FPS, this is the game for you.


More in the Atari 2600 Encyclopedia on great games like this!  Plus subscribe to Old School Gamer for FREE by clicking here!

Derek Slaton Derek Slaton (61 Posts)

Derek began playing video games in the early 80s, cutting his teeth on every Atari 2600 game he could get his hands on. This kickstarted a lifelong love of games, which continues to this day. No matter how advanced the systems and games become, the love for Atari remains supreme, which is why the Atari 2600 Encyclopedia project was done. With this massive project completed, Derek looks to begin work on another system encyclopedia, hoping to pay tribute to the games that shaped his childhood.