Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Red Faction: Battlegrounds Review

Red Faction: Battlegrounds is a top-down arena combat game with very few noticeable links to the Red Faction franchise. I was excited to take a trip back to Mars, detonate some heavy explosives, and admire the new man-made craters dotting the landscape. I was surprised when I booted up Battlegrounds and found it to be a car combat game. It’s set on Mars, and some of the vehicles are somewhat familiar, but here the similarities end. Of course, distance from a set formula isn’t enough to make a game bad, and indeed, Battlegrounds isn’t awful. It is, however, rather mediocre, and it gets dull very quickly. The single player campaign is short and is basically bare of any story plot and multiplayer is a bit of fun but has absolutely nothing to keep you coming back after more than a game or two. The quality of content you are paying for isn't justified by this Red Faction spin-off.


While my initials impressions of Red Faction: Battlegrounds was that it looked like a nice game, the bland and mostly repetitive visuals began to grow old on me. The colour palette used in the game is just slammed full of orange, most likely inspired by being on Mars. Sadly the game doesn't pull this off though as there isn't enough variation between the landscape and the vehicles, explosions or even the menu screens. The visuals provide additional frustration as the overhead camera occasionally makes it difficult to tell where ramps are to higher levels or even if you are on an elevated platform. Worse, when the camera pulls back it becomes extremely difficult to discern where your vehicle is. The most enjoyable visuals in the game come during large explosions, most often caused by the detonation of environmental objects. These explosions had potential to make for spectacular explosions as you destroyed enemies. Sadly though you couldn't even tell if your enemy was destroyed until the smoke from the explosion cleared, making the game slightly frustrating. Between that odd font/color choice and the on-screen chaos, it’s often hard to tell what’s going on.

The soundtrack is mostly made up of a series of drumbeats, which may have been intended to fit the alien setting of the game. The tracks do complement the action quite nicely, until a few minutes in, when you stop noticing them and actually can't hear them over the new range of explosions which constantly couple the aciton in the game. The explosions accompanying the visuals do sound pretty cool but it does follow the same formula of repetition as the rest of the game. There is only so long that you can go around hearing the same car and explosion sounds without music before it gets irritating.


As there is no story to get you invested into this Red Faction story, Battlegrounds throws you into a set of training exercises, which make up the entire single-player segment of the game. Across different levels, and using different vehicles, you play four different game modes: Speed Trial, Survival, Annihilate and Shooting Range. These modes involve collecting flags, surviving an enemy assault, killing enemies in a set amount of time, and destroying targets that spawn around the level. The aim of these excercises is to complete the modes in a set amount of time or score to gain medals and in turn earning XP which lets you unlock vehicles for the multiplayer mode in this title. Bizarrely, the training missions in the single player mode are completely different to the multiplayer modes, which is the only other section of this game. I can't see why they would be called training excercises when you aren't using the skills you are specificaly training for.

There are 9 maps which are used in both the single player and multi player. Apart from two of the maps which I felt were well balanced and set out for the game style, the rest seemed clogged up with items and ramps that just confused the whole experience. When you enter a game you should be able to know whats going on, but the confusing nature of the maps meant that you would struggle to understand where stuff is. The camera doesn't allow for an accurate look at what is on one level and what is raised off the ground, adding more frustration. The multiplayer mode is pretty fun and the ability to play again other people is certainly better than against the computer opponents in the single player. The game controls are simple, working like a dual stick shooter but the grinding nature of XP coupled with a lack of content keeps it from being fun.


Sadly Red Faction: Battlegrounds doesn't do the Red Faction brand justice. It is confusing why they didn't just release this title an a new small IP which probably would have reflected better on the game. There just isn't enough content in the single player and a multiplayer mode that has little correlation to the whole 'Training Missions' set-up you need to play before it. While it isn't a bad looking or sounding game, it falls into the category of having too much of the same and nothing to stand out of the pack in an area where dual stick games are common place. Unless you are craving an arcade car deathmatch style game, there isn't much reason to invest your time or money in this.

Graphics - 5.5/10
Sound - 5/10
Gameplay - 4/10
Overall - 5/10