Red Faction: Battlegrounds [Xbox 360]

Videogame trends tend to ebb and flow; usually passing by quicker than those of other mediums, though while they last bombarding us with a never-ending stream of whatever the industry has decided to latch on to at the time. One of the latest areas to which developers are tying their horse and cart are pre-release tie-ins – from Dead Rising 2‘s Case Zero, through to Dead Space 2‘s cross-genre Ignition.

Red Faction: Battlegrounds looks to be jumping on this steadily growing bandwagon, though unlike those before it, holds little interest for those invested in the Red Faction series. Containing none of the hooks which make these spin-off titles interesting, Battlegrounds is a strange product, made even stranger by its excessive pricing and limited content.

To be completely honest Battlegrounds is a deceptively hard game to write about, as while there’s nothing abhorrent or offensive about the core game at play here, there’s not exactly much to like either. For a series based firmly in the shooter genre (even given the latest entries focus on a third-person perspective and a love of destruction), Battlegrounds feels like a weird direction for the franchise, even for a spin-off title.

[img_big]center,4703,2010-11-20/King_of_the_Hill.jpg,The most violent game of “Piggy In The Middle” ever played.[/img_big]

Battlegrounds, of all things, is a vehicular combat game, taking its armoury of vehicles for a spin in encapsulated arenas. Jumping straight in to the game’s singe-player content I was originally bemused as to its “Training” title, though I’d later come to the realisation as to why this was so. Battlegrounds single-player missions follow the fairly rigid and pre-defined template of other games in its genre, progressing through arena based maps and completing objectives along the way.

These modes aren’t anything to write home about – with your regular time-trial, survival and annihilation mission types all present, and they’re about as exciting as they sound. It’s not attempting to sail uncharted waters, though there’s something inherently enjoyable about the way its range of vehicles feel and control which cant help but keep your attention.

[img_big]center,4703,2010-11-20/outbreak.JPG,Battleground’s arenas are fairly stock-standard,
though they have inherited Red Faction’s typical red/brown colour scheme – nice![/img_big]

Once you’re in an arena proper it’s not long before things start to become hectic and chaotic, especially when you’ve got a number of enemy vehicles all converging on you in an annihilation or survival mission. The vehicles themselves all handle surprisingly well, doing a good job of differentiating themselves from each other, making each one a worth-while ride.

It’s a pity then that each mission comes with a pre-set vehicle, leaving any of the level gains or unlocks from your time with the game solely for the multiplayer portion, making the incentive to replay missions for more reward such a shallow experience.

As I slowly worked my way through the sixteen missions featured on the campaign’s menu I’ll admit I was beginning to enjoy myself. Sure, nothing revolutionary was transpiring before my eyes, but as a diversion from more serious gaming endeavours, Battlegrounds was doing its job.

And then it ended.

Yes, it ended, and herein lies Battlegrounds‘ biggest failure; a gaping hole blown straight through the section labelled “Content” – doing its best job at trying to cover it up with a pretty picture or two. I really do pity those who unknowingly pick up Battlegrounds expecting a more fully featured campaign, as the sixteen short missions ate up a measly hour or two on a lasy Saturday afternoon.

Unless you’re looking for some multiplayer fun (and whether or not anyone else is) will be deciding just how much play-time you’ll ultimately end up milking out of the dry-husk that is Battlegrounds, but as a single-player game it’s severely lacking.

[img_big]center,4703,2010-11-20/Faceoff.JPG,Hey, maybe if we don’t shoot each other, the game will last longer?[/img_big]

For a pre-order bonus or a freebie, Battlegrounds is a neat distraction; a solid vehicular combat game with a penchant for big explosions. For a $10 downloadable title however it has a hard case to argue.

Unless you’ve got a group of friends who’ve all contractually agreed (with their own blood, for safety’s sake) that they’ll pick it up too, it’s ultimately forgettable, especially when compared to the plethora of stellar $10 experiences that are sitting alongside it on the virtual shelves.

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