Review: Battletanx (N64)

By Drew Wilson

Battletanx is an action tank combat game released on the N64. We check out how this action game plays today.

In the first of it’s short-lived series, Battletanx was released in 1998.

The game follows protagonist Griffin Spade in his search for his loved one Madison after a plague had decimated the female population of the human race. Men had run rampant and world order had gone completely out the window. Gangs had formed throughout the world in an effort to survive and everyone drove around in tanks. The surviving women after the plague died out became “Queenlords”. In some instances, they were regarded as deities. Women were placed in makeshift palaces and heavily guarded – typically by a Goliath tank that can shift back and forth on a short set of tracks.

Griffin starts out in the nuclear ravaged city of New York where there is little left except twisted metal, blown out buildings and a few gang members ready to pick off unfortunate stragglers that make the mistake of wandering the streets again. From there, Griffin searches all across America to find Madison through the numerous Queenlords that sparsely populate the land.

The first few levels tend to be very straight forward. They mostly consist of eliminating all the enemies in the area, though one kind of level that makes a re-occurrence throughout the game is also simply getting from point A to point B.

Eventually, the player will find themselves in a level where the objective is to capture a Queenlord. This level is the only level where level completion occurs the second the Queenlord is captured. From there, the game is mostly a mixture of capture the flag and the levels that require you to go from point A to point B. While numerous levels are simply the standard square configuration, some levels are merely a two player capture the flag scenario.

Throughout the game, players can come across bonus levels. In these levels, players take up the controls of a Goliath tank on tracks and destroy waves upon waves of enemies until the player finally loses. The more waves the player completes, the more free lives a player can obtain to help support their campaign later on. Each progressive wave becomes more and more difficult. Earlier waves simply have more enemy tanks starting off, but in later waves, the number of tanks the player must kill to defeat the wave increases and those tanks spawn at the other end of the level. I am not aware of a wave level limit, but if one were to get really good at this, it isn’t unusual for a player to receive more than a dozen extra free lives. By that time, it’s simply a challenge to merely have the army screen glitch out and have tanks start bleeding out of the box and, eventually off the screen completely just for fun.

In each level, players can find pick-ups. One pick-up is a star that appears every time a player defeats a tank (friendly or foe). These starts give a small health boost as well as increase the amount of the main weapon ammo. Health boxes are interestingly designed. If a player already has maximum health, then the player can collect the health boxes as items for later re-use. There are also numerous other weapons in the game as well. There’s the not so useful landmines weapon that seem to be only useful if you are attempting to retreat and tanks are on your tail. The mines are placed behind the tank and show up as a short little pyramid with a flashing light on top. There are grenades which seem to be only useful for either attacking something behind a wall or clearing out landmines. There is cloaking which hides your tank visibly from other tanks and you only become visible if you fire a weapon (with the exception of laying mines or using a health box), or if you manage to still get hit with something. There’s the guided missile which is extremely useful when you want to take out enemies at a distance (i.e. Goliath tanks parked at the end of a bridge you need to get across). Swarmers are three dumb rockets you fire all at once that spread horizontally. I found these incredibly useful when fired at point blank range. Between that and firing your main weapon, you can hit an enemy four times all at once. This makes it possible to dispatch most of the regular enemies in one quick motion. There’s a shield that makes you immune to weapon fire for a limited period of time (useful for when you find a particularly harry situation like an area where you are surrounded by large enemy gun buddies). There are gun buddies that are placed behind your tank. Useful when you find yourself on a level and your friendly tanks follow a particular path. There’s the ever useful, but very rare nuke which is like an oversized grenade. One can throw it into an enemy base to heavily damage everything in the surrounding area. The only downside to this weapon is that you need to basically run as fast as you can from the area or else you’ll kill yourself in the process of nuking your enemies. I have very rarely escaped unscathed after using a nuke. There are extra ammo item pickup’s which I found kind of useless since I found it rare that I ever need more ammo between the starting amount and the stars I pick up from killed enemies. There’s the extra 1000 point items which adds to your overall score. Finally, in our sampling of item pick-ups, is the free life which adds to the total of tanks you get in “your army”.

There is also several other modes – many of which have multiplayer support, that adds to the gameplay experience.

the graphics, I found, were fairly well done. There is a reliance on 2D sprites (namely the queenlords), but sprites are few and far between. The textures had that blurry pixelation going for it and even the heads up display was pixelated. So, I think the graphics, for the most part, isn’t this game’s strongest suit. Still, considering when it was made, you can realize that there are games with worse graphic detailing. It didn’t bother me a whole lot in this area, but it wasn’t exactly spectacular.

The audio, I found, was one of the strongest points of the game next to the overall gameplay. The music was very memorable and, in fact, the baseline for levels like Times Square, was used in a Deadmau5 track or two. Overall, the music was very well done and I have no particular favourite songs in the game. They were all well composed. The sound effects were also very nicely done.

Overall, I thought that this was a very fun game. It kind of felt a little short after you completed it, but it does take a few hours to work your way through each level. Still, you can get a lot of mileage out of this game in the general fun department, so I would definitely recommend this game.


Furthest point in game: Rescued Madison.

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 10/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 90%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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