The year is 1969, and humankind has landed on the moon. In a startling development, US astronauts stumble across a cache of alien weaponry, leading to the largest cover-up in human history. While people at home are led to believe that the trip was uneventful, joint Soviet and US forces amass for military occupation of the moon. Thus follows the plot of Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs, the N64 port of a PC game that only vaguely resembles the Battlezone of yore.
At the outset, you must decide how you want to play, choosing arcade, pilot, or commander modes. From there, you choose from three factions: American, Soviet, or The Black Dogs, each faction offering 21 separate missions. Then you hop into one of eleven tanks and begin your quest to harness the alien technology. While no side plays much differently than the others, those seeking a truly involving battle simulation will enjoy the game's commander mode, which puts you in total control over unit deployment, strategy, and objectives. If you're just into blatant destruction, the arcade or pilot modes will fulfill any need for catharsis.
Battlezone: RotBD plays like a cross between San Francisco Rush, Battletanx, and Quake. Multiton tanks zoom along like souped-up Nissans, while weapons and ammunition expend themselves in amounts reminiscent of WW2. While that might not sound too realistic for a tank game, Battlezone: RotBD actually benefits from these nuances. There are a few slow and dumpy tanks for realism, while faster, more arcade-like models exist for those desiring a less frustrating experience. Though each tank is limited to a small selection of ammo and power-ups, the game's sniper mode offers you the ability to change/steal tanks often - letting gamers experience a greater number of weapons and tanks than were initially available.
Unlike the single-player missions, the multiplayer modes will leave you with a bad taste. The four-player deathmatch and race modes are bland and boring, offering little more than brief periods of excitement before depleting the attention span of all involved. The two-player strategy mode offers the potential for multivehicle battle, but it comes out as an even less-varied version of regular deathmatch, minus two other players. It's safe to say that gamers who complete all of the game's single-player missions will have no reason to pick the game up again. Of course, with more than 60 unique missions, this could be a long time coming.
Visually, Battlezone: RotBD impresses with diverse vehicles, lens flares, and a healthy dose of particle effects. The backgrounds, albeit spartan, are decently rendered and lack the oft-maligned fog that the Nintendo 64 is known for. The game isn't as pretty as its PC counterpart, and the sniper-mode visuals are laughable in comparison, but the game's graphical quality is definitely a cut above the rest. This doesn't hold true for the multiplayer modes though, as the fog and slowdown rush back in, almost as if to further deter any chance that you will try out the game's multiplayer offerings.
Now that those aspects are out of the way, it's time to talk about sound. Actually, it's time to discuss the lack thereof. Single-player background music is repetitive, poor-quality MIDI, and in-game sound effects barely do the job of expressing the action. In addition, the multiplayer levels are so bereft of musical variety that one continues to wonder why they were included at all. In fact, for a 64-bit game, the audio is barely above 8-bit in quality.
Suffice it to say, Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs is a fun game with good looks that fails to deliver in terms of multiplayer support and audio quality. Anyone who enjoys the thought of space-tank combat coupled with an engaging plot will want to give this title a try, but those hoping to bring their friends in on the action will want to remain far, far away.