Introducing Battlezone for Project Morpheus

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Introducing Battlezone for Project Morpheus
Introducing Battlezone for Project Morpheus

Well, what can I say? Rebellion may have been formed in 1992, but this will easily go down as one of the most exciting weeks in our history. After all it’s not every day that you have your new (and top secret) project debut at E3, let alone seeing it running on something as exciting as Project Morpheus.


But, before I get into all that, let’s start with a little history quiz!

I know, that’s probably not what you were expecting — it’s E3 after all, I should be asking you to coo at our very first screenshots, right?

Well, yes and no!

For a lot of you, Project Morpheus and virtual reality gaming marks a new and exciting shift in gaming tech. E3 is a celebration of incredible artistry and creativity so it’s only natural that VR plays an important part at this year’s show.

But E3 is also mainly about the future of games, and sometimes we just need to take stock and look at gaming’s past. The industry may not be as old as film, theatre, and other arts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect our cultural heritage!


The truth is, VR is not really new, it’s just been continually evolving — breaking in waves and troughs, until 2015 where it finally sits on the cusp of launching into the mainstream.

But anyway, back to that history quiz!

So when was the first virtual reality game?

Early 2000s? Nope. The ’90s? Guess again. Well it has to be the ’80s then? Well, yes but only just — it was 1980, in fact. 35 years ago.

Like hundreds of thousands of gamers in 1980, my brother Chris (Kingsley, Rebellion co-founder and CTO to this day) and I went to our local arcade to be transported to another world — a virtual one.

That world was a video game made by Atari called Battlezone.

Its famous green and black vectors and tactical tank combat weren’t what made it so special though — it was the arcade housing itself. Players looked into the game world from the perspective of a tank commander by using a periscope viewfinder built into the unit. Combined with the game’s pseudo 3D graphics, Battlezone is now considered by many as the first ever virtual reality game.

It was both rudimentary and revolutionary. The isolation from the world around you, the perception of depth and “being” in that world — even a simple one — was like nothing else at the time. And without Battlezone and that sense of wonder and unlimited possibility, Chris and I might never have started making our own games, or formed Rebellion.


Skip forward to 2013 and Atari announced that it would sell off much of its household IP at auction, and Chris and I were there. When it finished, Battlezone was ours. We couldn’t believe it! Here was our chance to work on one of our most beloved games of all time, and play our part in a new era of VR gaming.

Earlier this year we tasked a team at our Oxford studio to reboot one of gaming’s seminal titles for a new generation of virtual reality games. VR of course, is an exciting challenge — you have to throw so many traditional game design rules out the window and start afresh. In this respect PlayStation gave us some fantastic support — providing us with plenty of Morpheus development kits and chatting with our coders and designers on a regular basis to help us develop on this new platform.

If we can capture the same revolutionary thrill of the original Battlezone for a whole new generation of gamers, then we’ll have done gaming history proud. It really is impossible to truly describe a VR gaming experience with words — or even video — so I encourage you to go “heads on” with Morpheus at E3 or other upcoming events, and jump into Battlezone’s Cobra cockpit and test drive the galaxy’s most powerful vehicle for yourself!

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8 Author Replies

  • I loved playing Battlezone while I waited for my parents to finish washing their clothes at the local laundromat. Wow, I almost forgot about that! It’ll be great to see in action just how much the world of videogames has evolved since then :-)

  • Sooooo freakin awesome. My need for Morpheus grows.

    • And the great thing is the team have got to play loads of Morpheus demos by other developers at E3, we can tell you now there are plenty of games to get excited about!

  • Battlezone was one of the very first coin-op games I ever played! I am so glad to see it reborn not just on the amazing PS4, but in VR using the Morpheus. I believe that technology has finally caught up with the original vision of the game. Congrats and I cannot wait to play Battlezone once more and share it with my kids!

    PS: I would love to see the original green and black vector game put into the new game!

    • Oh yeah, the original vector style has to be a special map / unlockable mode :-)

    • Well your wish may come true! The head tracking allows the player to lean right into the cockpit and view the monitors from up close, so we’re joked about running the original game in one of the monitors (like the beginning of the trailer)!

  • This is so chocked full of win, my head is spinning!! I love that Morpheus already has a wide variety of titles spanning genres, and I’m glad to see a handful of genuine action games in the mix. I’m going all in on Morpheus so I can’t wait to play some of these great games.

    Oh, and VR works surprisingly well for 3rd person games, where the camera doesn’t move too much and is far-enough back from the player. Hopefully we will see more traditional games that have VR support built in!

  • Played the heck out of Battlezone 2. This is going to be a perfect fit for Morpheus!

    • Well to be fair, Battlezone 1 and 2 were great RTS games in their own right, but this is very much based on the very first Battlezone (1980) so our reboot is going to be a more arcade-like experience, but we hope to build some nice tactical touches with enemy, map and weapon design.

    • Hey I would also love to see a virtual reality game of virtual on, cyber sled, and commando (like virtual on with tanks), and t-Mek maybe the best vehicular arcade combat game ever aside from virtual on want to see t-Mek you can download it on mame for advise you might need two joysticks for t-Mek in order to emulate twin sticks

  • YES! Even more greatness coming to Project Morpheus

  • I played this at my local Aladdin’s Castle. Great memories!

  • That old Atari arcade unit, isbone of my early childhood memories. Looking forward to new revision on Morpheus.

  • Keep it coming! More games for Project Morpheus! Greatness awaits!

  • This is pretty cool! Keep that vector feel and don’t be afraid to move the action forward in new ways, looking forward to hear more about this!

  • I will most certainly buy a morpheus. I just really hope I see mirror’s edge and no man’s sky work with it.

    • Mirror’s Edge could be VERY intense, perhaps too intense – but No Man’s Sky would be exciting. Our team shared a room with the Eve: Valkyrie team at E3 and space exploration is great in VR

  • This is a pleasant surprise!

    I’ve played Battlezone in many incarnations over the years–the original arcade game, the Atari 2600 version at home, and some of the later remakes as well. When I had heard that you’d acquired the Battlezone IP from Atari, I didn’t know what you had planned. Now that you’ve revealed this bit of news, I’m certainly excited. Battlezone seems like an excellent fit for VR gaming. I’m looking forward to the game, and I hope it turns out awesome!

    • Thanks! Yes with a new wave of VR coming we thought Battlezone would be a PERFECT fit – we’re just lucky to have won that auction and out our own stamp on the IP

  • Its great to see some new IP for the hardware, but I cant understand why Morpheus didnt get more air time at E3? Maybe PlayStation will do an out of character event dedicated to the hardware? Also…. Australia feels so far away at the moment, wish i could go and get my hands on a Morpheus. :-(

  • I hope there’s multiplayer for this! Would be great to play against other human opponents.

    • We haven’t nailed down features yet but we will definitely be looking into MP. If you think back to our most recent games – Sniper Elite 3, Zombie Army Trilogy, AvP – we love to make games with plenty of single and multiplayer content. We just have to see what suits the platform, design best.

  • I brought this game up at work tonight, and it had everyone recalling their childhood. I had never heard of it before today, but it seems like it will be a huge success with the older crowd if done right.

    Looking forward to trying this out, and seeing what all of the old guys thought was so cool. Thanks for supporting Morpheus, this is by far the most exciting thing going on in gaming right now.

    • Thank you! We just hope to make a game that appeals to both the ‘old guard’ of Battlezone fans (not sure how many of them still game!), and anyone else bit who wants to experience something completely new on their PS4. VR is so hard to describe, even in trailers, so please do try it out at events if you get the chance. We know Sony are planning to get on lots of show floors in the coming months!

  • Where are the PS Vita games? :(

  • Morpheus or no, I want this game. Love the Tron-inspired art style. So appropriate for a Battlezone game.

  • This is the type of game that has me ecstatic for the Morpheus. Great implementation! I can’t wait to try it! Great work!

  • This is the type of game that has me ecstatic for the Morpheus. Great implementation! I can’t wait to try it!

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