Red Faction: Battlegrounds is weird. It shares its name with games that feature destruction as a driving force behind your actions. If a building or enemy emplacement was in your way, you could run, engage in a frontal assault or just blow right on through. Previous Red Faction titles made you rethink how you could approach situations. Battlegrounds carries those thoughts away and replaces them with Super Off Road, guns and explosions. Emphasis on explosions.
Battlegrounds tries to substitute open-ended destruction with explosive objects littered throughout various combat arenas. Anywhere that you guide your tank or walking mech, you can probably get hit by an explosion. These substituted explosions are a step backward for Red Faction. In previous entries, blasting away and creating your own path while chiseling through a building changed how you tackled combat. Using explosions to destroy enemies provides a different strategy, but it is shallow compared to what Red Faction has done before. These explosions cannot replace meaningful destruction.
It’s good that Battlegrounds takes the form of a twin-stick shooter. Sometimes a change in location and aesthetics is all you need to make arcade shooting fresh again. While it's difficult to move fast through such dinky arenas, moving and shooting is as fun as any other twin-stick shooter. Most matches depend on map and power-up memorization. Dashing for a last second repair or a joyful singularity bomb is more important than keeping the firing stick in the right direction. When planted and launched, the singularity bomb sucks in enemies (and your own vehicle if close) while fading background noise out. After it gets quiet, everything goes boom and turns purple. It's so good.
The never-ending explosions shake the screen and before long chaos and confusion take over. Battlegrounds is hectic given the small maps and spawning becomes silly as you come back from death straight into another death. It's annoying, yet not as annoying as waiting for an online match to start thanks to a nonexistent community. It doesn't matter whether you enjoy King of the Hill or Capture the Flag, you'll take whatever mode you can get. Local multiplayer fills the void that spending an hour waiting for a game (like we did) creates, but don't expect the same fulfillment from the boring and brief training missions. But hey, the training missions level up your online ranking. Someone probably cares about that.
Battlegrounds is fun for a bit, but that fun depends on so many things coming together (mainly the ability to find other people to play with). Even then, expectations of something resembling a Red Faction experience are thrown away as explosions and confusion fill the tiny arenas. Creatively carving your own path through a level is not a part of this Red Faction. Battlegrounds feels like a lazy attempt to exploit synergy with Red Faction: Armageddon's upcoming release. You know, like those giant Incredible Hulk foam hands.
Apr 15, 2011