The original Battletanx on the N64 is an absolute gem. Any game that rewards your exploration with a tactical nuke is okay by me, and Battletanx had them in spades. It wasn’t a perfect game, by any means, but it’s one that is absolutely worth playing for its breezy gameplay and fun multiplayer.
However, if there’s any reason not to consider it a top-shelf N64 title, it’s because there was a sequel that came out less than a year after called Battletanx: Global Assault, and it really feels like a do-over that returns to the original formula to attempt to fully realize the concept. How do you improve on the original formula? The answer is more nukes. But, unwisely, that’s not the approach that Global Assault took.
THE EDGE? LIKE FROM U2?
The plot somehow manages to be even more ridiculous than the first game’s ludicrous tale of feminine extinction. %99.9 of all females have been wiped from the earth because of a virus, and men, without the nagging guidance of the fairer sex, have devolved into their baser instincts, stolen a bunch of tanks, and have been slugging it out ever since.
Global Assault takes place a few years after the protagonist, Griffin Spade, crossed the U.S. to find his wife, who had survived the virus. They now have a child together, and
The story isn’t quite as interesting this time around and feels slightly watered down. The main hook has already been established, a Saturday morning cartoon style villain is introduced, but the rest feels like a re-tread of the previous game. “Your loved one has been taken, go get them,” is a phrase that sums up both titles. Not that it matters. This type of game doesn’t need a complex story, but it just feels less stylish this time around.
Also, spoiler alert, but the whole Global Assault really only constitutes the U.S. and Europe, and you turn around after getting to Berlin. So, really, it should be Battletanx: European Vacation.
BATTLETANX: EUROPEAN VACATION
While the core gameplay is largely the same as the first Battletanx, everything has been polished up for this new entry. The tanks have exaggerated physics, the explosions are more impactful, and the crumpling of buildings are far more satisfying. The attention to detail deserves to be commended, as well, as lots of chaotic particles go flying and the windows light up as though the interior has exploded. As a whole, the game just feels a lot better.
It also moves without much noticeable slowdown, another advantage it has over its predecessor. Even when things get busy or a nuke explodes in some far off corner, the framerate doesn’t seem to struggle too badly; a commendable feat on the N64. The AI hasn’t really improved, but then, it never really had to. As long as there is something to blast in your path, then it’s all good.
SOMETHING TO BLAST IN YOUR PATH
The original Battletanx leaned pretty heavily towards its Battlelord multiplayer mode for singleplayer. A lot of levels were just you vs. bots in a typical arena, and that worked well enough, but it’s nice to see that Global Assault makes moves towards diversity in its campaign. Sure, there’s still a few levels that follow the Battlelord formula, but for the most part, it makes better use of the “kill all enemies” or “get to a certain point in the level” style of stages.
The only downside to this is that a couple of levels are escort missions. To its credit, they’re short and not very difficult, but they’re still the most heinous examples of the outdated gaming cliche. You guard big trucks that trundle on, completely disinterested in their own preservation. Mines litter the roads in plain sight, but they absolutely refuse to alter their course in any way.
Likewise, the Global Assault has fewer nukes; at least from what I could find. They’re still there, but the previous Battletanx essentially had one in every level. I guess it makes it more exciting to finally trip over one, but it also makes me just want to enter a cheat code and nuke everything.
You’re essentially just getting more of the same with Battletanx: Global Assault, but it’s doubtlessly the superior version. Features like the ability to select from a growing suite of tanks at the beginning of each level help lift it head and shoulders above its predecessor. It feels better and it looks better. It features fewer nukes, but, I mean, they’re still there. What more could you ask for?
Battletanx: Global Assault is completely top shelf in the N64 library. It’s one of my favourite games on the system, easily. The only feature that would be on my wishlist would be a cooperative campaign.
Unfortunately we’ll probably never get that. This was the end of the series, as we know it. The closest we came to a sequel was World Destruction League which, well, I haven’t really played it, but it seems to be regarded as more of a spiritual sequel. It didn’t involve the help of creative director Michael Mendheim, but some of the other staff were involved so, you know, I’ll have to try it some time. However, with the demise of 3DO, it seems unlikely that we’ll see a true successor.
This review was conducted on an N64 with a cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.