It's always frustrating to watch sequels make the same mistakes as their predecessors, but it happens often. Instances such as the weak camera from the original Croc showing up again in Croc 2 are surprisingly common. That said, 3DO's BattleTanx: Global Assault is remarkable because its developers clearly listened to all the complaints lodged against the first title and systematically corrected those problems in part two. While the end result isn't necessarily a flawless game, it's a title much improved over BattleTanx and far easier to recommend.
The premise of BattleTanx new and old was inspired by the plots from at least several apocalyptic '70s sci-fi films and novels. In this latest edition, you and your wife are safeguarding chieftains of a new civilization and have recently sired a child - a rarity in this future world, where most of the women have died due to a strange, if modestly generic plague. One of the other world leaders, a madwoman who controls most of Europe, has discovered that your son has telepathic powers (known as The Edge) similar to her own, and sets out to steal him from you before he develops fully. When her troops (they're all in tanks - everyone drives tanks in this game, just accept it) fail to kidnap him, she uses The Edge to take control of your forces, setting the three of you on the run. At that point, you pop into your trusty tank and fight the good fight once again.
OK, so obviously, unlike other aspects of the game, the original BattleTanx storyline wasn't criticized enough to warrant an upgrade, but enhancements do abound here. To begin with, not only are there almost twice as many levels, but they feel less cookie-cutter than before and offer more variety. You might play a few simple search-and-destroy missions back to back, but then they're followed up by one in which you have to guard a convoy or free allies from a prison. Your tank's turning ability has also been significantly upgraded. While it once took forever to bring your turret to bear on an enemy, it now shifts quickly with the treads following only shortly thereafter. The graphics? They're prettier too.There are also new secondary weapons and power-ups, such as grenades, which can be thrown into fortified areas or bounced around corners to destroy heavy-gun emplacements; a plasma pulse that zooms around the screen until it finds a target; and a cloaking effect that renders you invisible after a Predator-style shimmer. And you're not the only one who gets to pick them up; you'll find the enemy tanks using them frequently, perhaps to your chagrin, but it at least adds to the game's challenge. No doubt about it though, the best weapon you have in your arsenal is The Edge, which initially only stuns opponents within close range, but then later allies them with you once your abilities have improved.
The game's whole life system has changed as well. Instead of having a set number of lives, you acquire tank bucks, which are used to buy different tanks. The basic Abrams tanks cost a standard amount of money, with the beefy Goliaths running twice as much, and the small quick rides running about half the price. How you want to spend your cash is up to you. There are more tanks to choose from in the sequel as well - from the Inferno, which sports a flamethrower, to the Marksman, which equips a laser you can use to snipe from a distance.
The multiplayer modes were the main attraction in the first title, but they seem to have fallen behind a little bit in the sequel. With frame rates getting faster and faster in the multiplayer sections of consoles games, the slow-moving tanks no longer seem to get the thematic break they once used to get. Even the fastest vehicle in this game has nothing on a basic grunt from Quake II's multiplayer. The variety of tanks, weapons, and stages helps out a lot throughout BT2's multiplayer deathmatch variations, but you'll skip over many of them for the Battlelord stages, where you must steal your opponents' queens and return them to your base, all the while defending your own matriarch. The two-player co-op mission, where you and a friend play the main game through a split-screen perspective, is also worth noting, and serves as a great addition to the series.
It's true that the BattleTanx series' gameplay is essentially just a slower version of 989's Twisted Metal, yet it possesses a more strategic bent and a certain cheesy charm that, this time, is just enough to win you over. Playing BattleTanx: Global Assault will remind you of renting SNES and Genesis games that, while not scoring any high marks for technical merit, were simply fun to play. BT2's improvements over its forerunner, combined with its multiplayer options, nudge it out of the rental category and into that of a worthwhile buy.