Battlezone is a first-person shooter tank combat game first released for arcades in November 1980 by Atari. It was a huge success, approximately 15,000 units sold. Battlezone was ported to Atari 2600 only in 1983.
Battlezone uses wireframe vector graphics displayed on a black and white vector monitor. A colored overlay tints the display green for the bottom 4⁄5 where the action takes place, and red for the top 1⁄5 where the score and radar screen are displayed.
The player drives a tank using two joysticks, one controlling the right tread and the other the left. By moving the joysticks relative to each other, the tank can move forward or reverse (both moved in the same direction), turn on the spot to the left or right (one forward, one back) or move and turn at a slower rate (one forward or backward, one neutral). The right size stick also has a fire button on top, which fires the player’s gun in the direction the tank is currently facing.
Gameplay takes place on a flat plane with a mountainous horizon featuring an erupting volcano, distant crescent moon, and various geometric solids (in vector outline) like pyramids and blocks. The geometric solid obstacles are indestructible and can block the movement of a player’s tank, but also block shots and can be used as shields. The action surrounds the player in all directions, including off-screen locations, forcing the player to locate the enemy using the radar display at the top of the screen.
There are three types enemy craft that appear during play, one at a time. At the start of a game, the enemy is dominated by slow tanks that are not particularly difficult to hit even when moving. As the game continues, missiles begin to appear in place of the enemy tanks; these move much faster and are more difficult to hit. Finally, the much faster supertanks appear at higher levels, which are not only harder to hit but also attack more aggressively.
Periodically a saucer-shaped UFOs will appear while making a distinctive sound to announce their presence; these do not appear on the radar and do not attack the user, but can be shot for bonus points. This is the only object that may appear while other enemies are already present.
There is a gameplay modification at 100,000 points if the proper conditions are met. When executed properly, the next appearing supertank will not attack but will instead retreat. A tank icon will then appear at right on qualified high score listings.