Part 12: Black Dog #5 - Nuclear Launch Detected
BD-13 Frustrate Their Knavish Tricks A mostly well thought out mission!
An interesting mission with a lot of frustratingly stupid restrictions. You have to recycle a bunch of Chinese silos in the mission. If you try to attack the Chinese base, they magically get all they need in an instant to win the war, if a single silo falls then you get relieved of command because...we needed that I guess? But it presents a challenging take on a mission where you need to be out and looking for resources while taking care of your base. There are geysers everywhere as if to interest you in bringing your production units along with you but that'd be a mistake in my opinion. Your starting location is just fine and my armory was fine where it was with them too. You get so much scrap that knocking out the Chinese Recycler is a cinch too. It's a breath of fresh air, it's ultimately a simple mission, the only thing that will probably annoy you is how in the Redux version turrets have a problem showing up on radar. The reason that happened in the mission is because there was a turret on the other side of the second to last silo that was not showing up for no legitimate reason, but my tanks could see it and they shot at it and well you get the idea
BD-14 Lifeline I see the Chinese mission designer sneaked a mission in
I don't think I beat this mission fairly thanks to the extra ammo in my sniper rifle. I would guess the most "true" way to beat the mission is a combination of sniping and rushing a barracks to commandeer all Chinese vehicles. But that would still involve a shitload of save scumming to get the right vehicles for your own use. I don't know. It's pretty unfair. Starting you with 4 scrap after having enough to build an army of walkers & drop several day wreckers in the last mission is bullshit, especially for a mission we just have to win when we could also just nuke them as established again the last mission. You barely get any time to breathe between the doomwaves that bear down on your base from the word go, I just don't see how it's possible to survive any of the amount of crap that's coming your way. A veritable army of Light Tanks, several bombers, then the last one which caught me off guard: a posse of walkers & tanks. Fortunately I had just enough scrap to throw up a depot and get a bomber out to launch comets.
The actual attack on the base would have been simpler had I thought to just target the Chinese recycler with comets I think. All that needs to happen is that recycler goes up in flames. As soon as you enter the base, a doomstack spawns in the base to kill your army off then an even bigger death squad spawns from the western canyon to go attack your base. I had initially failed in my first take of the mission (it's all the same run just lost a lot of time) because I didn't know I was going to be attacked. I lost my army then I saw my base, under pretty strict guard at that, going down and you can envision the rest from there.
BD-15 The Best Laid Plans... Finally, The Red Odyssey is over
A massively welcome breath of fresh air in 2 campaigns designed to kick your ass up and down the field. Just take a squad of units out into a field, rush around the map, and blow up a lot of guys trying to escape. It's almost criminally easy by the standards of TRO all up to this point but it still hits hard, yet, if you play the Black Dog campaign from start to finish, it feels just right, it's the final push and you get that awesome moment at the end when you can finally breathe when the ending comes up. The strategy is to make sure my bombers are unequipped of their Comet missiles at the start, getting the 2nd SP-Stabber and a Thumper, and just hurling ammo and health powerups as I move about the map. Simple and fulfilling
So ends Battlezone. I grew up on this game, I love it, but maybe it was not worth the LP?
MOVING ON: I will not be playing Battlezone 2, but I'll sum up the sequel it got at any rate.
Game intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oewk8TX6KSs#t=184s
A couple decades later, in the 90s, Battlezone 2 takes place. The NSDF, the CCA, and presumably the CRA are disbanded and a new Star Trek-esque force has formed, the ISDF (International Space Defense Force), the military arm of the AAN (Alliance of Allied Nations). No character from the previous 3 games (Battlezone 98, The Red Odyssey, and the N64 'Rise of the Black Dogs) appears in this game, although the Black Dogs are still a name used and recognized here. The player assumes the role of a country boy named John Cooke who, bored with fixing up trucks, decided to head into space. Having worked his way through the ranks, the game starts on Pluto where an ISDF satellite was shot down and a supposed research outpost is annihilated by unknown aggressors. The big man in charge of the ISDF is a former NSDF Scientist named Armond Braddock.
You can see the war crimes a mile away.
Now this guy is a real piece of work according to his history. During the last stages of the Bio-metal wars of the main game between the NSDF and the CCA, he led an experiment called Project Pedigree which involved infusing human bodies with Biometal, which will make them better in every way: almost immune to disease, greater bodily functions, you name it. The most 90s sci-fi theme you can think of, making super-soldiers who can win the war, at its finest. This is 100% a retcon made up entirely in Battlezone 2's timeline because none of this was ever a thing in these games period. Back to Pluto, Lt. Cooke, under Commander Yelena Shabayev, drops down with another squad to investigate area and move towards the base. They find few survivors, chief among them being Braddock's second-in-command, Major Henry Manson.
That fucking chin
They learn about the alien force that had attacked the base and they set about defending what's left and trying to prevent the capture of certain items from a nearby warehouse. As Braddock himself arrives in orbit with his fleet to take command of the situation, the alien force eventually retreats to a previously undiscovered planet in the Sol System dubbed the 'Dark Planet' for lack of any better designation. It is actually the planet the Satellite seen in the game's intro is monitoring. It's an artificial planet by all accounts laden with ancient structures and whatnot, very eerie and cool place in fact. While Cooke & Shabayev try to gain a foothold against the aliens, now called the Scions, the Lieutenant is eventually pulled away by Manson unbeknownst to his commander to participate in the sabotage of an obvious ISDF archaeology site. It's a bit difficult to fully cover everything but there are a lot of transmissions you can listen in to between missions, voice logs of the characters in the game and the briefings & debriefings also explain a lot, but up to this point they have just drowned you in a morass of obvious conspiracies and bullshitting from the two higher ups, Manson & Braddock. In the next stage of the operation, after getting chewed out for 'getting lost', Cooke helps oust the Scions from the Dark Planet and the fleet follows them through a wormhole to an uncharted system, called the Core System later, where three planets, Mire, Bane, and Rend are located, and this begins the Scion War in earnest. At this point, transmissions from a certain Padishah Burns are being relayed directly to Braddock, welcoming the challenge as if he was an old friend.
Starting out on the jungle world Mire, you get to see a couple Cthonian ruins in reference to the last games but the plot of the game is that Braddock tells the ISDF that the Scions have access to a strange weapon they plan to use to wipe out the Earth and all of humanity, detecting three distinct signals from the planets. There's another mission where you are forced to go on foot but it's a lot more tolerable than anything in TRO I assure you . Anyway, the ISDF does succeed in taking control of the power source on Mire but nothing overwhelmingly important happens. The ISDF then turns its attention towards the arctic world of Bane, where the plot thickens. Cooke's immediate task is to destroy a Scion recycler that is moving into his area, afterwards Braddock tasks him to investigate a strange radio signal in some ruins on the other side of an unstable tunnel. The transmitter in question bears the insignia of the old Black Dog squadron and Braddock immediately orders a bomber to fly in and erase it, trapping Cooke from his base. The mission ends with the Lieutenant escaping in a dropship and then getting promoted to Commander. Shabayev warns him to be wary of such promotions in the heat of battle.
At the start of the next mission, the dropship carrying you into battle is shot down. All contact with the ISDF is lost and Shabayev is MIA, her's being downed as well. Despite starting off at a serious disadvantage, Cooke gathers the survivors of the failed assault, escapes, and the next mission has him launching a counter-attack that steals away the second of the power sources to the proposed weapon that would crush humanity.
By this point, the AAN has caught wind of Braddock's little war and, now having found out about the whole thing (I believe it was Manson who let this information slip too but I forget) are now moving quickly to end it. Braddock, warning that the Scions will betray the ISDF and accusing the AAN of collusion with the enemy, is suspended pending court-martial and a delegation of peace arrives in the Core system. Ambassador Pax Kossieh is sent to Rend to meet with the Padishah, a man named Frank Burns, to discuss peace between the Scions and the ISDF. Commander Cooke oversees the arrival and boarding of a dropship by the Scion leader and its departure to the Ambassador's craft. However, as soon as the dropship attempts to dock with its ship, it explodes. The carrier suffers catastrophic damage and falls to the planet, all aboard including Kossieh are killed and the Padishah is unaccounted for, having fallen back to the planet on the same dropship he boarded in fact. As all hell breaks loose on the planet's surface, Braddock pipes in to suggest that the Scions booby-trapped the dropship somehow and urges Cooke to not only retreat and gear up for an offensive, but to take the last power supply here on Rend and crush the Scions. When this is accomplished, the next mission is where all things come together finally. The court-martial is put on hold and Braddock is reinstated as nobody else is in position to lead in this confusion, and contact with Manson is lost as he is presumed killed by Scions when the carrier was destroyed and Cooke is promoted to Major as a result.
The mission is to capture the Scion Leader for good as he is left wounded near the crashed dropship across a field of lava. Fighting through a massive Scion base, Cooke is able to collect the fallen Padishah, but on his return trip, a familiar voice comes over the radio and the fighting stops. He's then reunited with an old friend. Yelena Shabayev, who reappears in a Scion vehicle and reveals that Braddock is a traitor and has been orchestrating all of the backstabbing up to this point, that the Scions were not in fact trying to destroy the Earth, that he sabotaged their dropships on Bane and had her killed and was also responsible for the death of Kossieh, and that Manson was trying to stop Braddock, I believe that last part is true anyway. She begs Cooke to bring Burns back with her and to join the Scion Collective. This is the big choice of the game, where you can then decide to join the Scions, be infused with Biometal and take advantage of a lot of cool hardware and transforming tanks and whatnot, or stick with Space Hitler and kill Shabayev on the spot, remaining with the ISDF.
Now we need to back up a bit and talk about the Scions themselves. On Pluto, during the earliest parts of the game, there is talk of how many Scion bodies were being found dead of seemingly natural causes, that they as a race are somehow dying out. This is because of Braddock. Remember that Project Pedigree? The test subjects for that were the battered survivors of the Black Dog squadron that was deployed to Titan in Battlezone 98's CCA campaign, which was crushed by the development of the Fury technology. In his earliest days, Braddock was scouted by the NSDF for his genius and he went to obsessive levels to achieve his dream of a race better than humans. It was also Braddock who discovered the weakness of the Furies on Achilles, though this is another retcon, and that's why he was given the promotion to General. The Scion Collective, once the best troops in the NSDF's Black Dog squadron, were nothing but pawns and pets under Braddock during the late stages of the Biometal war. The infusion of Biometal into the human body made them greater killers without costing them sentience or morality. After a series of devastating assaults on Europa against the CCA, the Black Dogs banded under Frank Burns, rebelled, and broke free from their confinement, destroyed everything in their path, and disappeared into space. It was after discovering the wormhole generator on the Dark Planet and exploring the Cthonian ruins and cultural elements on Mire that the enlightened Black Dogs renamed themselves the Scion Collective in honor of the precursor race.
Frank Burns, the Scion Padishah, Braddock's protege
The ISDF itself was in fact formed by Braddock's insistence to the NSDF and CCA that the 'things' that escaped from his lab were Furies and that they needed the ISDF if they were to have any hope of stopping a future incursion. After what happened in the Cold War, everyone was understandably cowed into this. The base on Pluto was put there in secrecy, without even the AAN's knowledge, to monitor the area if the Black Dogs tried to return, a mess that Braddock was keen to clean up. The reason the Scions were dying out on Pluto seemingly at random was because the planet 'Core' in that uncharted system was stabilizing an inherent weakness in their bodies, keeping them from breaking down, and it was starting to fail. The power sources that Braddock had labeled a weapon up to this point were in fact Alchemators hooked into the core of the three planets that would revitalize the Dark Planet in Sol and allow the Scions to return home and remain among the living, as being away from the Core System was killing them. By shutting down the Alchemators in the Core System, he would genocide the entire Scion race.
Back to the choice that Cooke can make, there remain only a handful of missions no matter what you do from there.
IF YOU CHOOSE THE ISDF
Cooke will destroy Shabayev for good and bring Frank Burns back to Braddock, who is then taken to a hidden base where all medical files and interrogation logs are strictly confidential. Braddock is cleared of all charges against him, probably because there's not a soul left to testify against him, and Braddock welcomes Cooke into his inner circle and reveals the details on Project Pedigree and his designs for Earth. Once the Scions are destroyed, Braddock wants to disband the AAN, whose purpose has been solely to divide up the biometal equally for all nations on Earth, and take control of it all for himself so as to best defend humanity against all future threats, which means he would also take control of Earth. Holding the Biometal supply would be like holding hostage the world's entire food supply, essentially. The first mission back with the ISDF sees Cooke being sent to kill Manson, who is alive, well, and heading up a resistance in the AAN Loyalists. In the aftermath of the battle, Manson is confirmed KIA, and the survivors either retreat to Earth or join Braddock's regime.
Between that mission and the next, Frank Burns is able to escape albeit with grievous injury from Braddock's lab. His final fate in this scenario is unknown, but it can be presumed he will eventually die. With their final goal ahead of them, Braddock sends Cooke to the Core planet, in the hopes that destroying it will kill off the entire Scion race. A major battle is fought upon the surface of the planet, with Cooke entering the underground workings of the planet, which is now revealed to be a massive supercomputer, containing all of the data and technology necessary for the Scions' survival, preventing the biometal within them from overwhelming the human element of their biology. Braddock, meanwhile, has agreed to ensure the truth is reported in history, including the birth of the Scions as part of Project Pedigree. He insists that the destruction of Core will complete his assigned task of ending the Biometal War.
Navigating the tunnel network under the planet's surface and battles the traps and security systems inside. Burns makes one final plea to Braddock but is of course ignored. Without their Core planet, the Scions will go extinct. The ending for this scenario is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuTMdTVyWi0
IF YOU CHOOSE THE SCIONS
Cooke brings Burns back with Shabayev and undergoes the same procedure that they all did: his body is infused with Biometal so that he may better use the vehicles and tools available to them, and he is told everything that you would be told if you remained loyal to Braddock as well, that the Black Dogs were test subjects for Project Pedigree and escaped. She tells him that the Scion's ultimate goal is to colonize the Dark Planet in Sol not only to save their own race, but to bring all they have learned about the Cthonian's culture and technology to humanity in the hopes of elevating their species to those same levels as only briefly touched upon in BZ98. Your missions as a Scion commander revolve around taking back the power sources for the Alchemators from the ISDF mainly, and dealing with rogue elements within the Collective who do not want to return to Sol and would rather have their race die out than face the people who they hold responsible for their transformation.
The next important mission sees Cooke rescuing Henry Manson from Braddock, working together to stop the ISDF Regime forces, and securing a valuable ally when in the AAN when they return to Earth. The rebellious Scion elements are also revealed to be the ones who've been working with Braddock all along, providing the missiles needed to shoot down Shabayev's dropship so long ago and to destroy Kossieh's carrier as of recent. After retaking the final power source from the traitors, they also discover that Braddock had destroyed the satellite seen in the game's opening himself to prevent the AAN from catching on to anything at the time as well.
The final Scion mission sees the Collective on the verge of activating the Alchemators and colonizing the Dark Planet. The final obstacle is Braddock himself, who Cooke kills at the end of a long battle, thus securing a future not just for the Scions but for the people of Earth. The ending for this scenario is here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v9ZfjKBnn4
WELL that was a boatload of and more . Battlezone 2's plot is legitimately OK as far as I'm concerned, I've got no problems with it. What I do have problem with is that the game plays very badly. Even if I were to discount the gameplay issues, of which there are many, the game's audio is another. Transmission and radio dialogue in mission comes through extremely quiet, certain sounds and some music plays too loudly no matter what options I set, and it freezes during loading when in windowed mode for some reason. Maybe if Rebellion decides to do a BZ2 Redux, I'll do it, but the original is not an experience I want to endure for an LP, that's for certain. Thanks for watching Battlzone, I hope you all enjoyed it despite the insipid sound mods