It’s easy to make fun of 3DO for their extremely prevalent Army Men series, but that makes it easy to forget that the company was made up of some talented people. Mostly EA alumni who followed Tripp Hawkins to his new venture. Michael Mendheim was one such person. A veteran of the industry, he was responsible for creating the Mutant League games on the Genesis. He’d later direct Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes, my current favourite of the Army Men series, and later Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes 2, one of my least favourites. So, you can’t win them all.
Moving away from my obsession with Army Men, Battletanx for the N64 was his first order of business at 3DO.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
The plot of Battletanx reads a lot like an ‘80s action film. It takes place in the then near future of 2001 and involves a plague wiping out 99.9% of all human females, like Lysol for estrogen. Without womankind’s constant nagging, the males of the world erupt into war, bringing about an early apocalypse. Griffin Spade, a guy whose parents obviously knew what they were doing when naming him, finds himself fighting for survival in a brutal world, searching for his lost wife.
In tanks, did I mention tanks?
Yeah, apparently all the remaining gangs were able to get their hands on some M1A1 Abrams tanks, and are using it to assert themselves over patches of territory. This is obviously a world with a much higher population to tank ratio than our own, since these are things that people just, like, pick up. There are more tanks than abandoned cars on the road, these things are just hanging around everywhere, ready to be hotwired.
The game seems to have developed around one of its astoundingly fun multiplayer modes, a form of capture the flag called Battlelord that has you attempting to steal another team’s Queenlord (a surviving female), and return them to your own fortress. There are other levels that occasionally have you attempting to reach the other end of a tunnel or bridge, as well as some that just requires you to clear out the other tanks in a stage, but the bulk of the levels involve one of these games of capture the Queenlord.
There are a number of weapons and power-ups hidden around the game’s levels, ranging from simple swarmer missiles to a full-on tactical nuke. Levels feature a high level of destructibility, allowing you to blow through buildings in your search for additional
Other than that, there isn’t much to the game. It doesn’t try to simulate tanks in any significant way,
Otherwise, it mostly just pokes the part of the brain that loves explosions. Seeing buildings crumple and tanks turn into twisted hulks
And, oh golly, that nuke. One enormous blast that completely covers the entire level, crumpling buildings and wiping away enemies. There’s one hidden in almost every stage, and it never gets old seeing everything get wrecked in a yellow haze. It’s worth seeking out, not just for the assured destruction, but also because it provides breathing room and wipes out some of the smaller turrets that guard enemy bases. Knowing their locations doesn’t necessarily make the game easy, but it certainly helps getting over the rougher patches.
It’s a spectacle that appeals to the adolescent in all of us. The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s a gritty setup to the wonderful carnage that it bookends. The action is relentless, the destruction is satisfying, and it’s just one hell of a fun game. While it lasts, anyway. The main campaign can be completed in an afternoon, but at least the multiplayer is a fun time if you can get some chums gathered around the N64.
It’s a game I hold in high regard among N64 titles, and considering my familiarity with Nintendo’s early-3D entry, I feel that’s high praise. To spoil what will likely be a future review, its follow-up, Battletanx: Global Assault, is superior in every way, but the original title is worth checking out, if only for the introduction to its Attitude-era universe. After all, it’s always fun to blast everything to pieces from the safety of your armored crib.
This review was conducted on an N64 using a cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.