Sometimes an Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network title comes along that blows you away. It’s innovative like Castle Crashers, revolutionary like Aegis Wing or just plain fun like Trials HD. You spend hours toiling away at the little gem, often losing track of time–kind of like your first experience with Angry Birds on your iOS or Android device. Ah, yes–those great little games. Unfortunately, none of this applies to Red Faction: Battlegrounds.
Let me first start off by saying that I’m a fan of the Red Faction series. I purchased the original one on the Playstation 2 back in the seventh grade and played it with my next door neighbor. We would blast huge caverns and camp out in there until the other one came into find us. Great fun. Then again we also laughed it up whenever our biker got hit by a train in Dave Mirra BMX but that’s neither here nor there (seriously, ragdoll physics are hilarious). The sequels Red Faction II and Red Faction: Guerilla are also excellent titles in the series, receiving for the most part outstanding reviews. Battlegrounds unfortunately, slightly tarnishes the Red Faction image.
Battlegrounds reminds me of top-down Grand Theft Auto 1&2 visually. That’s where the comparison ends. Players fight in a variety of vehicles, from the EDF Heavy Tank to the speedy ATV all the way down to the agile light walker (fancy name for Mech), and shoot at their opponents with the analog stick. Players are thrown into numerous environments with a variety of health pick-ups, vehicle repair pick-ups and the occasional weapons upgrades.
Controls are for the most part limited to both analog sticks, making the gameplay feel, for lack of better words, like a 4.99 iOS or Android title. Controlling the vehicles feels a little bit delayed, and vehicles will often over exaggerate its turns, making for some frustrating gameplay when trying to beat the clock during some missions. Shooting is quite haphazard with the “targeting” system appearing to be a combination of sloppy aiming and hidden auto-targeting. At times I felt like I was playing Ikaruga with the amount of spamming I was doing using my tank. Perhaps what also hinders the poor gameplay is the camera. At random, the camera will zoom out ,making it impossible to tell not only who you are on the board, but where exactly you are on the board. While THQ was aiming for this game to be a pick-up and play, the dualstick controls make for a tedious gameplay experience.
There are a plethora of game modes available; capture the flag, annhilation, survival–the typical fare you would find in online multiplayer. Players can earn points to increase their rank online and earn bonuses to use when they purchase Red Faction: Armageddon. Playing online was a mixed bag. While I was able to find a game pretty quickly, there were moments of significant lag during match-ups. As I said before, it makes for some confusion as even on 46″ LCD TV, it was often a bit difficult to tell who I was on the screen or where I was. There was so much going on visually (hence my Ikaruga reference)–explosions, smoke, fire and the text that shows your Gamertag or PSN username is much too small.
It’s not all bad for Red Faction: Battlegrounds though. THQ opted to put a tutorial in the game that runs through each of the vehicle’s functionality, which was much appreciated. Even though the gameplay is simplistic, it was nice to have that there to get a feel for how each of the vehicles control before I threw myself into the throws of Xbox Live. The fact that players are awarded for their efforts on Battlegrounds when they purchase Red Faction: Armageddon is a nice addition, since most of the individuals who will be playing Battlegrounds will likely be those who received it as a pre-order bonus through GameStop or Amazon or as a reward for ordering PlaystationNetwork Plus. Buying it for the 9.99 price on PSN or 800 Points on Xbox Live? It’s a hard sell.
Battlegrounds feels like it would be a fun little iOS or Android title (I would imagine it being great on an iPad 2 or Xoom) that I would love to play on the Metro. Since THQ partnered with SyFy on the Red Faction films, it would’ve been a nice little promotion tie-in to get people over to watch the film on Syfy. Regardless, it is a pre-order bonus for loyal fans of the series and will generate some excitement by being able to unlock items in Armageddon, but is hard to justify shelling out the points or dollars to purchase as a stand alone title. We are looking forward to doing a review of the tie-in title, Red Faction: Armageddon.