Red Faction: Battlegrounds Review

Game: Red Faction: Battlegrounds
Publisher/Developer: THQ / Volition via Juice Games
Consoles: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3
Price: 800 Microsoft Points/ $10.00
Genre: Car Combat

There is nothing quite as endearing as destructible mayhem caused by none other than yourself.  And when that game is set on a distant planet, with carnivorous machines as your wrecking instruments, its tough not to get engaged with your inner bad ass.

Fortunately,  Red Faction: Battlegrounds aims to give you that experience, and it is a offered at a budget price.  Does it actually succeed though?  Is it possible that huge explosions could be overshadowed by anything?  Does everyone really have an inner bad ass?!

The first item of note in the game is the graphics.  Brimming with details, there are absolutely fantastic.  There are no jagged edges and no pop out. Plus, the frame rate seems to run smoothly as well.  Every environment that is available for play through is full of variety, although not necessarily originality.  For example, one map is a standard ice map, with icy peaks scattered among the mining machinery.  There is also a map that has been infected with a strange bacteria, and it is stained blood red.  In addition, there is a map with the colorings of a the Martian planet, and it is most likely the only one that has not been in countless other games. Most every map has had its day in another game.  Come on, every game has a “winter level.”  Nevertheless, each map is still drawn well and they are interesting to play in.  Its just too bad a more unique art direction was not chosen.

Of course, the Red Faction franchise is not especially known for their upstanding graphics, but rather for what happens when these graphics fall apart.  Yup, destructible environments are a definite part of Battlegrounds, and they can be crucial to your success in the gameplay area.  Literally every building, structure or man made creation can be blown apart.  This part of the game could have been really fun, if it wasn’t hampered by the other parts of the game.

Red Faction: Battlegrounds is a car combat game: get your vehicle, whether it be a tank, buggy, jeep or walker, and blow to bits anything attacking you. The game is set in a top down view, with you looking down on the action and having to control your car while looking at its roof.  The maps are basically different track designs, with some buildings and berms scattered around.  Your mission is to drive around the track over and over while avoiding missiles and dealing out  some pain of your own.  The worst part about the maps  though is that they are all the same basic size.  There may a hill here and a track there, and then the next map will have the hill over there and the track cutting through it, but every map design is still more or less the same size, so it feels very similar every time you play it, no matter how much different the art is in each map.  This means that strategic options are extremely limited and it is basically just ends up being a random driving and shooting type of game.  And those destructible environments talked about earlier?  Every time one of them falls, it causes a massive explosion, and since the environment is so tiny, your more often than not going to be caught up in this very explosion.  But avoiding shooting these buildings is also super difficult.  The only advantage is that you can take some of the enemy with you.  Plus, explosions are just  so darned pretty.

Nonetheless, when the game is not trying to kill you, it can actually be enjoyable.  There are quite a few pickups that you can use in addition to your regular guns that come standard on your vehicle.  One of my favorite to use was the black hole.  It is like a mine that you can set down, but when you press the detonate button, it sucks up any enemy vehicles in its path and then it also goes nova, taking even more of the AI attacking you.  Its just too bad that the game modes don’t match the awesomeness of this weapon.

When I first started up the game, I immediately went to the training mode, thinking I should get a handle on things before I started doing my thing in campaign mode. After an hour though, I figured I was ready.  I exited back to the main menu and then I found out why this tutorial seemed to be taking forever. The training mode was actually my campaign.  That was a let down, especially when I realized that I was about a ⅓ done with the training missions and it appeared that the next ⅔ would be repeats of the missions I had already completed, except that this time the AI would be tougher, and I would only be using the same weapons I had gotten to used too. The missions consisted of either trying to survive as long as possible against waves of enemies, or trying to shoot all the waves coming at you.  Yep, not too much variety, eh?  Oh yea, I guess there was that one mode where you could collect flags and run them to bases, but it was basically a glorified time trial.  I also  unlocked all of the weapons in this first ⅓ and it was not until the very last mission that I was “taught” about the final item I could use in my quest to rid the Martian planet of oppression.

In summary, once you get over the initial “cool factor” of, “OMG, I have a tank/buggy/walker with guns and I just shot up the environment with a black hole powerup and then laid down mines to take care of the rest of these people,” the game is actually pretty tepid, hard as that may be to believe.  Luckily, that “cool factor” will last fairly long, but not long enough to realize that your not having fun anymore.

I was really hoping that the multiplayer side of things would enliven the game.  But, I was only able to get into one match, and then my stint was over because nobody was playing online.  However, while playing the multiplayer, I do have to say that it is pretty wild, especially if you like so much chaos that you cannot see any order.  The ludicrously small maps strike once again, and with 4 people all trying to grab limited power ups and shoot continuously, it can be ridiculous.  It might provide some enjoyment to some, but I couldn’t’ find any due to the constant gunfire that wiped me out as soon I spawned in.

If all that was not enough, then lets talk about the camera and controls.  The camera would constantly swing to where I did not want it to go, and the overhead view did not help matters. Aerial views just don’t seem to work for intricately controlled games like this, and trying to control teeny cars was a nightmare.  Thankfully, when you did go under bridges and the like, there was an X-ray like shadow that showed up to let you know where your going, but that is the only positive feature of the camera.   Otherwise, the camera and controls was awful, although not impossible to use.  Note that it is possible, just annoying.

The final warning about the game is that the achievements/trophies could be troublesome.  There are a few that will require a lot of grinding and the online ones may be hard to come by depending on how many people stay online.  Check them out before you buy and make sure your up to the challenge.

In conclusion, there is very little to like about this game, and I can’t believe that a game based on around using a walking tank to destroy everything could be so tedious and frustrating. The gameplay has its moments.  The soundtrack is acceptable and the sound effects do their job well.  Graphics keep up with the best of the pack.  But it is just nothing to get super excited about.  I was grateful that the training mission only lasted 3 hours, because I was getting tired of the repetitive gameplay.  However, when I tried to test multiplayer, I was shot down again. Its a shame that this game could have been something new, like having you perform ACTUAL missions. However, it is not anything new and even what it does do, it doesn’t do well.  Because of that, you should save your money for a game that will test the limits.  Since the game is only 10 dollars, it may be worth a try, but Red Faction: Guerrilla is probably also 10 dollars by now, and that game will probably provide much more bang for your buck than this one.



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